The Holburne is delighted to have received on long-term loan an outstanding private collection of miniatures and preparatory drawings by the artist John Smart (1740-1811). Smart was arguably the most talented miniaturist among his contemporaries, who included Richard Cosway, Richard Crosse, George Engleheart, and Ozias Humphry.
The first miniature from the collection to be displayed in the Posnett Gallery is the portrait by John Smart (1740-1811) of Muhammad Ali Khan Wallajah, Nawab of Arcot and Prince of the Carnatic (1717- 1795), watercolour on ivory mounted in a gold ring, in a red leather case, 1795. The Nawab (or ‘Nabob’ as the British would have called him at the time), was the Muslim ruler of the Carnatic region of south India from 1749 to his death in October 1795. This portrait, one of several John Smart made of the Nawab, was painted in the year he died and is a fine example of Smart’s skill. The portrait is mounted under glass on a gold ring and is distinguished both in the minute scale of its execution and in its detail, which captures the likeness of the prince and something of his character. Where other portraits present the Nawab as a stately ruler wearing fine robes and garlanded in jewels, Smart’s portrait is more intimate. The artist captures the individual, snowy white hairs of his sitter’s beard, his smiling eyes and determined mouth and the white tissue silk of his garment.
Muhammad Ali Khan Wallajah, Nawab of Arcot and Prince of the Carnatic (1717- 1795)
John Smart (1740-1811).Watercolour on ivory, mounted in a gold ring, in a red leather case, 1795. Signed and dated: JS 1795. On loan from a Private Collection