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oil on copper, inscribed in gold 'T. Sheridon.1722.I.O.Fe', set in the original gold locket frame with scroll top

This highly unusual miniature owes much to the traditional English Watercolour miniature on vellum. Small paintings on copper were relatively rare in England in the late 17th century and they were largely painted by itinerant artists from the Low Countries. This finely painted example is intriguing as it closely emulates the pose and proportions of portrait miniatures by artists working in watercolour, particularly the work of Thomas Flatman (1635-1688) and Matthew Snelling (1621-1678). Both artists employed a distinctive half-sky (or landscape) and half drapery background. The original gold locket with its scrolling hanger, is also far more closely associated with watercolour portrait miniatures than with small oils on copper.

Similarly intriguings is the gold inscription, which follows the curve of the painting in an imitation of Nicholas Hilliard's calligraphy. It has not been possible to ascertain whether the name 'T.Sheridon' refers to the sitter or artist. Given that the costume of the sitter dates the early 1660's, it is perhaps more likely a reference to the sitter, who may have died in the year 1722. The inscription ends with the Latin abbreviation for 'Fecit', which can be translated literally as 'he made'. Usually employed by the artist, this may, in this case refer to a family member who added a later inscription to the painting. It has not been possible to find an artist working with the name Sheridon and it ma be assumed, given the quality of the painting that the work is by a professional hand.

The 'I.O' in the gold inscription is rather more complicated to translate. The miniatures has previously, and erroneously, been attributed to 'John Oliver', who was in fact the artist Isaac Oliver (c.1560-1617). Although far too early in date to be connected to this miniature, the later inscriber may have wanted to suggest that the work was the product of one of the most famous 17th century miniaturists. If the abbreviation is Latin, there are other possibly translations - for example, io as 'exclamation of joy' (although the 'i' is more usually written over the 'o'). Similarly, 'io' is a Latin interjection meaning 'happy'.

Despite the mystery surrounding the inscription, sitter and artist this small portrait remains a very fine example of work on copper. The superior painting, scale and composition show a native artist well aware of the British limning tradition.
More Information
Year                 Circa 1660
Medium                 oil on copper
Signed                 inscribed in gold 'T. Sheridon.1722.I.O.Fe'
Provenance                 The Collection of Mr and Mrs. Tom Southern
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