Painted in London in 1786, a signed and dated 1½in (4cm) tall oval portrait of a gentleman was estimated at £1500-2000 at Henry Adams’ (20% buyer’s premium) Chichester sale.
In an unmarked gold coloured frame with purple glass and with a bouquet within a plaited hair border to verso, it sold at £9500 via thesaleroom.com.
Although Smart (1741-1811) was successful at home where he was president of the Society of Artists, the portrait-painting market was a little overcrowded. In 1788 he was among the first of a number of British miniaturists to ‘shake the pagoda tree’ and seek his fortune in India finding clients among fabulously rich princes and wealthy British expats.
Smart appeared to have already had commissions lined up before he sailed. One of the earliest was the portrait miniature of a young lady, also offered at the Chichester auction on October 14.
Signed and dated 1789, the 2½in (6.5cm) tall oval in unmarked gold coloured frame with a monogram CAM on a woven hair ground to verso, tripled the mid estimate at £8000.
Attributed to John Smart at Lawrences (25% buyer’s premium) October 13 sale in Crewkerne, a half-length portrait of Dodda Vira Raja (ruler of Coorg, 1780- 1809) was in the Indian tradition of somewhat larger miniatures at 4in (10.5 cm).
It was unsigned and undated and carried a speculative estimate of £500-800.
Bidders seemed to consider it one of a number of princely Indian commissions by Smart during his 11 years there before returning to London, and it sold to an overseas buyer at £8000.
Smart typically clearly signed and dated his work. A 4.2cm miniature of an attractive lady in an ermine bordered lilac coat with pearls sold online at Bellmans (22% buyer’s premium) for £11,000 on November 16 was signed with initials and dated JS 1781.
Housed in a diamond-studded frame, it proved the most commercial of three Smarts from the collection of Lewis Gilbert, the film director, producer and screenwriter responsible for three James Bond movies, and his wife Hylda, whose passion for art and antiques was fuelled by her father, a Kensington Church Street dealer.