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GENERAL GEORGE ELIOT: Le Général Elliot. Quo nihil majus meliusve. Dédié a son Excellence Milord Visomte de Torrington…



A decorative originally coloured mezzotint portrait showcasing General George Eliott, the Governor of Gibraltar with a siege in the background, was drafted by a Brussels-based artist Pierre de Glimes, and printed by Johan Fredrik Martin, a Swedish specialist in mezzotint stipple engraving and colour printing.

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A larger originally coloured mezzotint showcases George Augustus Eliott, 1st Baron Heathfield, PC, KB (25 December 1717 – 6 July 1790), a British Army officer and a Governor of Gibraltar. The scene in the background represents the Siege of Gibraltar in September 1782, when the British deployed the newly devised technique of heated shot, here presented in the right-hand side corner.

The image was drafted by Pierre de Glimes, and printed by Johan Fredrik Martin.

Pierre de Glimes (fl. 1789-circa 1800) was a Dutch artist, active in Brussels, mostly as a portrait painter. Johan Fredrik Martin (1755 – 1816) was a Swedish engraver, known for his perfectioned techniques of stipple engraving and mezzotint, as well of colour printing. He spent his schooling years between 770 and 1780 in England, where he was educated by artist 1770-80 in England and received his education there from English graphic artists like William Woollett and Francesco Bartolozzi. He later moved to Stockholm, where he made most of his work.

Mezzotint (meaning “middle colour”) was invented in 1642 by Ludwig von Siegen. It became popular especially between portrait engravers in Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries. With this demanding technique, which is a version of copper engraving, the artist has to stipple the surface of the copper plate and then smoothen the parts that later appear dark on the imprint. The result is a print without thick lines, typical for the copper engravings. The main characteristics of a mezzotint are soft lines, shadows with dark contrasts and tiny spots as a result of stippling.

The engraving was dedicated to Vice-Admiral George Byng, 6th Viscount Torrington (1768–1831), a British consul in the Austrian Netherlands. The draft was probably made in Brussels by Pierre de Glimesand the portrait was printed in London by Johan Fredrik Martin.

The portrait is scarce. We could only trace one other, uncoloured, example (National Portrait Gallery, NPG D35662).

References: THIEME / BECKER 13/14, 255; 23/24, 159; Gérard de WALLENS. Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon – Internationale Künstlerdatenbank – Online. Glimes, Pierre de.

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