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The mysterious Mr Betts – a miniature artist ‘signature piece’ discovered.

Samuel-Betts-Miniature-Artist's Signature Piece
Samuel Betts Artist oil miniature 1847
Samuel Betts Artist oil miniature 1847 at Moorabool Antiques, Geelong

The miniature portrait-painter of the 18th & 19th centuries was the equivalent of the portrait photographer today. His skills provided a memory of a person by re-creating their likeness – the personalities that smile or scowl from their frames to this day are testimonial to their skills.

There were a large number of them in the Georgian & Victorian eras, some famous and therefore expensive, others unknown and inexpensive. It seems a large number were not signed on the front: however, just occasionally there is an inscription on the back of the work.

A piece purchased recently here in Geelong was just an anonymous gent of the earlier 19th century – until we took the backing off. A large inscription in cursive pinwork met our eye, reading:

Samuel-Betts-Miniature-Artist's Signature Piece at Moorabool Antiques, Geelong
Samuel Betts portrait miniature – the inscription on this Artist’s ‘Signature Piece’ at Moorabool Antiques, Geelong

“This likeness taken
by Mr Betts Artist
of Shipston-on-Stour
aug 1847
Died Oct 8th 1856
Aged 97 years”

There’s a portion missing – very faintly visible is the trace of an initial and a surname, which unfortunately seems to have been written on the copper fastenings and has not survived. However, it’s the artist in this case that is extremely interesting.


There’s a go-to source for all who love portrait miniatures: the massive online resource of ‘‘. This is a superb study site funded by the UK’s ‘National Lottery Heritage Fund’, and for a decade has been accumulating work on miniature artists. They build on the various works on the subject published in the 20th century – but with the wonder of the internet, are able to update further discoveries / research, with the active encouragement for visitors to upload their own miniatures.

I’ve gone ahead and uploaded this example, as it can now stand as a ‘signature piece’ – meaning other unidentified portrait miniatures could potentially be linked to the mysterious Mr Samuel Betts by comparing them to this piece.

We’re always amazed at what turns up in Geelong!


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