1851 Autograph Letter Signed by William Charles Ross, Miniature Painter to Queen Victoria.

A letter to the painter and printmaker Henri Berthoud

Autograph letter signed from artist Sir William Charles Ross (1794–1860) in Scotland writing to his friend in Paris, the painter and printmaker Henri Berthoud (c.1800–1864). Ross is noted for his miniature portraits and for being appointed “Miniature Painter” to Queen Victoria.

Ross’ letter sympathizes with Berthoud over a family misfortune that has affected the latter: “How dreadful to see a friend or relation going wrong, and to have every anxious desire but no power to help him.” (p[1]) After taking consolation in religion and rejoicing “...that Protestantism is gaining ground in France,” Ross describes his purpose in being in Scotland:

I must now tell you where I have been and what I have been doing in bonnie Scotland. You know where abouts the County of Banff is, well I have been very kindly welcomed at the House of the Earl of Seafield and employed finishing a Miniataure of himself that I commenced in London, and painting one of his wife who makes a pretty picture, both are much admir’d. ... I am now staying with him at his Highland Castle in the beautiful County of Inverness. The Scotch firs and other trees are magnificent and a fine view of the Cairngorum Mountains [Cairngorms] in the distance charms the eye. When I leave this I am to pay a few visits on my way to the Isle of Arran to paint a Miniature of the Marchioness of Douglas. (pp[2–3])

In a postscript, Ross adds: “I shall be glad to receive the picture you are kindly painting for me.”

According to ODNB online: “[Sir William Charles Ross] (1794–1860), miniature painter, was born on 3 June 1794, the elder son of William Ross (d. after 1842), miniature painter, and his wife, Maria (1766–1836)... His father worked as a portrait and miniature painter,... and as a drawing master. His mother was an accomplished portrait painter in her own right,... Ross’s preference for historical subjects at this early stage of his life is quite clear from the subject matter that he chose for his competition pieces, and he may have been influenced in this by his mentor at the Royal Academy Schools, Benjamin West. ... Ross’s burgeoning success is apparent in the increasingly illustrious clientele whose portraits he exhibited at the Royal Academy throughout the 1820s. ... Queen Victoria had a series of sittings with Ross in November 1837; the resulting miniature she declared ‘very like and very well painted’ (Queen Victoria’s journal, 30 Nov 1837, Royal Archives). Ross was swiftly appointed ‘Miniature Painter’ to the queen (TNA: PRO, LC 3/71, fol. 42) and during the succeeding years he was employed constantly by her in painting her immediate family… Ross is traditionally said to have taken a pessimistic view of the impact of photography on the art of miniature painting from the early 1850s, although he himself was sufficiently well established to have been immune from its more disturbing effects. However, a miniature of an unknown gentleman inscribed (indistinctly) on the reverse ‘[Painte]d by Sir W:C: Ross / [Minia]ture Painter & […] / [after a] Dagueratype / 1847’...shows that he may have been more aware of the possibilities for photography to influence miniature painting than has previously been acknowledged.”

Description: 1851 Autograph Letter Signed by William Charles Ross, Miniature Painter to Queen Victoria.

Castle Grant, Grantown, Inverneshire [Scotland], October 14, 1851. [3½]pp. ALS. Quarto. Bifolium with integral address leaf; red wax seal. Folds; small losses at wax seal affecting two words, not affecting sense; very good.


Ref. Henry Berthoud (Biographical details) accessed online via The British Museum.

Price: $125.00