Painting, Miniature portrait of a Member of the Fauquier Family, probably William Fauquier

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  • Artist: John Smart
  • London, England
  • 1761
  • Watercolor on paper or cardstock with a glass cover in a gold case set with rubies, paste stones backed with silver foil, and, in at least one case, a garnet.
  • Gift of Gilbert Fauquier in memory of his father, Gilbert Emilius Fauquier
  • 1973-246

This miniature was long held in the Fauquier family, whose more recent members invariably identified the sitter as Francis Fauquier (1703-1768), Virginia's well-liked Lieutenant Governor during 1758-1768. But two basic conflicts preclude such an identification. First, Francis is not known to have undertaken military service. Secondly, the subject's uniform and hairstyle accord with the 1760s (even if the painting's barely discernable inscribed date of "1761" has been misinterpreted), when Francis Fauquier would have been 57-67 years; clearly, the miniature shows a younger man. The portrait's lengthy Fauquier ownership does suggest that the subject was a family member, however. Who?

While absolute proof may continue to elude researchers, the younger of the Lieutenant Governor's two sons is a likely candidate. Francis's older son, also named Francis, had no military career, but his younger son, William (1733-1805), served in the First Regiment of Foot Guards from 1753 to 1771. That would make William's age a good match, and military historians cite convincing evidence that the likeness's uniform is credible for William's unit. William joined the First Regiment of Foot Guards as an ensign on December 22, 1753, was promoted to the dual rank of lieutenant and captain May 7, 1758, and retired on May 13, 1771. In fact, records indicate that he was the only man with the Fauquier surname to have served in Britain's regular army in the period 1720-1793.

Style, technique, and a "J S" inscription reveal the likeness as the work of John Smart, one of eighteenth-century England's best known miniaturists. In 1761, Smart would have been only about twenty and five years into his apprenticeship with William Shipley (1714-1803), master of a popular London drawing school. The precocious young artist had begun winning awards for his draftsmanship as early as 1754, however. The goldsmith who encased the image remains unidentified. The setting's borders of rubies (some of them later replaced with substitutes) emphasize the work's dual role as portraiture and fine jewelry.

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