This beautifully preserved portrait was made by the most prolific engraver of the second half of the eighteenth century, John Raphael Smith.
On the decline of his print business, Smith increasingly operated as an itinerant portraitist producing works in oil, chalk and pastel. In 1793 The World reported that: ‘Raphael Smith, who has renounced the Graver for the Pencil, has recently produced an admirable whole length of Mr Fox in crayons.’ Smith specialised in small-scale whole-length portraits drawn in pastel. Smith was said to have executed his portraits in ‘a single sitting of six hours, with perhaps some additional mellowings after the departure of the sitter’; he would charge eight guineas for small heads. The present, characteristic example, seems to date from the 1790s and shows a fashionable young man seated holding a book. Preserved in outstanding condition, this pastel points to Smith’s appeal in conveying character in rapidly applied pastel marks of pure colour.