Oil portrait miniature of a gentleman, by ‘Mr Betts’, dated 1847


Early Victorian portrait miniature,
oil on card, of an unknown Gentleman in black coat, seated against a red curtain.

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

Set in original black lacquered paper cache frame.

Dated 1847


12x10cm framed

Condition: flaws to frame, glass with a chip, painting with minor blemishes.

The inscription on the back is both frustrating, in that the name of the sitter is lost, and very important as it records the artist with a place & date.
There is a very faint trace of the sitters name, the surname probably beginning with ‘Tr’, the rest lost, (born 1759, died 1856).

The rest of the inscription is well preserved and quite important.
Shipston-on-Stour is a small town a short distance from Stratford-on-Avon. Mr Samuel Betts appears in church baptism records in Shipston from 1836 in tho the 1840’s.  Born in London in 1801, he spent his early life as an itinerant actor, first appearing as an ‘artist’ in an 1833 baptism record. He had married into a ‘travelling’ family, the Middletons, who are known for their marionette theatre work, typical of the travelling ‘Fair’ entertainers of the period. A paper-cutting profile miniaturist would have been a common sight at these events.

His works are rare, with only cut paper profiles being recorded. However, this example is a well detailed oil on card. Cut-paper profile artists often did both, with the paper being the quicker & cheaper option. A advertising handbill provides us with the original prices of Mr Bett’s work:

“1 shilling for plain silhouettes, framed and glazed, 2s.6d. for bronze decorated works, coloured profiles on card 5s., and miniatures on ivory 1 to 2 guineas”.

It seems this example with the period dedication on the back is a ‘signature piece’ of his style in oil paints – on card & ivory.

“With so few works to compare, assessing Betts’ stylistic attributes can only be tentative.”



ref: http://www.profilesofthepast.org.uk/artist/betts-mr-and-mrs

The miniaturist scholar McKechnie wrote in 1978 “…..Mr Betts ‘engages in every instance to give an acknowledged beautifully Coloured Miniature Profile, highly finished for 5s.’ No examples are known to me. It is possible that it was Mr Betts’s daughter who produced coloured profiles; a coloured miniature ‘by Miss S. Betts, artist from Shipton’ is recorded by Foskett.” .    It is now certain this was a mis-reading of ‘MR S BETTS , ie Samuel Betts. (ref. profilesofthepnst.org entry for this clarification).

Undated handbill (see profilesofthepnst.org)




Previous to his return to London, begs to inform the Nobility, Gentry and Inhabitants in general that he intends practising his profession at the above place, for a limited number of days, and solicits the favor of their support.

Striking Likeness’

taken by Mr. Betts’s newly invented and unerring front Faced Machine the



Bronzed and Decorated for 2s. 6d. and the Artist engages in every instance to give an acknowledged Beautifully Coloured Miniature Profile, highly finished for 5s. to such persons as feel desirous of obtaining a correct resemblance of themselves or friends, this must be a desideratum.

Miniatures on Ivory from one to two Guineas.

Families attended at their Houses, without any extra charge: Children of every size taken in Bust or represented at their favourite pursuits or diversions.




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