This fine enamel portrait of the great statesman Charles James Fox was made in 1807 in the year after his death. Fox was the greatest whig politician of his generation, espousing a series of reforming ideas which had great influence amongst a coterie of his aristocratic friends and followers. Along with Fox Clubs, which held annual dinners on Fox’s birthday, his image became ubiquitous in whig circles. This posthumous deification took many forms. The bust of him by Joseph Nollekens became an indispensable adornment of whig houses. Locks of his hair and complete sets of his speeches were given as birthday presents in whig families. Portraits and busts appeared everywhere. In 1811 the prince of Wales took the oaths of office as regent with a bust of Fox at his side. This beautifully preserved enamel portrait is an early manifestation of the cult of Fox’s image.
Horace Hone was born in Frith Street, Soho, London, the second son of the painter Nathaniel Hone and Mary. On 19 October 1770 he entered the Royal Academy Schools when his age was recorded as '17 11th Febry next', indicating that he was born on 11 February 1754. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1772 to 1822 and was elected an associate of the academy in 1779. In 1782 he went to Dublin, where he established a successful practice, living in Dorset Street. He painted in watercolour and enamel as well as producing engravings. In 1795 he became miniature painter to the prince of Wales.
This fine enamel is carefully signed and inscribed by Hone. It is based on a portrait of Charles James Fox by Thomas Lawrence which was made in 1802, formerly with Lowell Libson Ltd. This engaging portrait was latterly in the exceptional collection of miniatures assembled by Valerie Eliot, the widow of the poet, T.S. Eliot.