Jeremiah Meyer (1735-1789)
5.2 x 4.4 cm
Probably George III; certainly identifiable in the Royal Collection, 1877
Meyer was the miniaturist most closely associated with George III and Queen Charlotte. Born in Tübingen in Germany, he arrived in London c.1749, where he was trained (1757-8) by C.F. Zincke, the leading enamellist of the first half of the eighteenth century. Two years after becoming a British citizen, in 1764 Meyer was appointed both Miniature and Enamel Painter to the King and Miniature Painter to the Queen. He was a founder-member of the Royal Academy in 1768 and is included in Zoffanys group portrait(Royal Collection).
Meyers association with the royal family dates from earlier than the appointment to his official posts suggests. Indeed, the present miniature is an enlarged and later variant of the one, set in an oval of diamonds within a pearl bracelet, sent by the King in 1761 as an engagement present to Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Queen Charlotte is subsequently shown wearing this bracelet in several of her more important portraits - by Reynolds, Zoffany, West, Lawrence, and Beechey. Queen Victoria inherited the bracelet and is shown wearing it in The First of May by F.X. Winterhalter. A reduced version of the profile head was included in the ring (Royal Collection) given by George III to Queen Charlotte on their wedding day.
Meyers profile portraits of the King have been associated with the coinage, although none appears to have been used on coins produced by the London mint. Meyers profile of the King, drawn from memory, was awarded a gold medal by the Society of Artists in 1761. The profile of George III used on a pistole of 1767 for the Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg was based on Meyers portrait.
Soon after the Kings recovery from illness in 1789, Meyer died of a chill caught at Kew while waiting in a newly decorated damp room. Mrs Papendiek recorded that the artists widow sent all his miniatures, both finished and unfinished, to the sitters without making a charge; the Queen was so delighted that she liberally rewarded Mrs Meyer for her honourable conduct. In addition to these miniatures, a group of Meyers enamels was recorded at Buckingham House by Horace Walpole in 1783. His description is sufficiently detailed to be worth quoting in full: Six large frames, in one room, glazed on red Damask, holding a vast quantity of enamelled pictures, miniatures & Cameos, amongst which six or eight at least of Charles Ist. There are also the best of those that belonged to the late Duke of Cumberland, & the Isaac Olivers bought of Dr Meade by the late Prince; but in general, the Miniatures are much faded, having been & being, exposed to the light & Sun. There are also some modern Enamels by Meyer, & miniatures by Humphreys.
Signed and dated in monogram lower left JM 67
Catalogue entry adapted from George III & Queen Charlotte: Patronage, Collecting and Court Taste, London, 2004