George III, ca. 1790
Oil on ivory
3/4 in (1.9 cm) diameter; gold brooch, the border modeled as a coiled serpent, the reverse with plaited hair
George III (reigned 1760-1820) is famous for being the king who went mad. He suffered his first bout of "madness" in 1787 and over the next year was troubled by worsening fits of erratic behavior and increasing dementia. Although he recovered from the illness, probably caused by porphyria, a disease originating in the blood, he suffered relapses for the rest of his life.
The reverse of this miniature contains locks of braided hair. Traditionally, hair contained inside a miniature belonged to the person portrayed on the front. If this is indeed George's hair, then the miniature may have belonged to his wife, Charlotte. Unlike most previous English kings, George was completely faithful to his queen, and they enjoyed a long and happy marriage.
Christie's, London, May 21, 1998, lot 50
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