Unknown - portrait of Charles James Fox

Although this miniature portrait is unsigned, it is inscribed on the reverse "Charles James Fox".

It is quite a coincidence that the portrait was acquired only a month or two after the acquisition of the adjacent miniature of William Pitt the Younger (1759-Feb 1806), as Pitt and Charles James Fox (1749-Sep 1806) were fierce political opponents for many years in the late 18C and early 19C. Perhaps worn out by his political combat, Fox only outlasted Pitt by seven months before he too died.

The miniature may be from life, but is more likely to have been copied from another portrait, although to date the source has not been located. However, the miniature shows Fox as so portly that he can only do up one button on his jacket, a characteristic of other portraits of him.

Although the artist is unknown, he was skilful and competent. The close up gives an indication of the delicacy, although it is a little faded and thus the dark eyebrows which are more obvious in other portraits of Fox are not as prominent in this instance.

The jacket worn by Fox appears as grey-green with dark highlights. But at the very edge, where it was covered by the frame, the jacket is blue and so it seems the artist used a fugitive blue pigment for the jacket which has faded to a grey-green over the last two hundred years.

A minority of miniature painters also painted the reverse of the ivory base to enhance the miniature. The reverse image here is an example of that technique and perhaps shows the original colour of his jacket.

Fox was only 57 when he died, but appears younger than that in the miniature. Judging from his apparent age and that a black ribbon of a pig-tail wig can be seen behind his collar, it would seem that the portrait depicts him at age 40, say around 1790.

It can be compared with a number of other contemporary portraits of him. 1311

There is at least one other miniature portrait of Fox which was painted by Thomas Day in 1787. It is shown here and is held as part of the National Portrait Gallery collection in London, see NPG 6292

Apart from these portraits, both Fox and Pitt were the subjects of many vicious political cartoons depicting political events of the period. The NPG holds many examples of these.

Fox was a Liberal and the founder of the modern Whig party. Fox was a strong advocate for the abolition of slavery. He was also well disposed to America and became a prominent and staunch opponent of George III, whom he regarded as an aspiring tyrant.

Fox demonstrated his support of the revolutionaries across the Atlantic by taking up the habit of dressing in the colours of George Washington's army. As mentioned above, the coat here is badly faded, but was originally dark blue, as can be seen at the extreme edges. Taken with the buff waistcoat, it does represent the colours of Washington's army.

See also Charles James Fox - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Unlike Pitt, Fox was a passionate advocate for peace with France. After the "Peace of Amiens" in 1802, Fox went to France and met Bonaparte with a view to paving the way for a future Anglo-French alliance.

Although, I have not seen a direct reference to it, it seems that the relationship between Pitt and Fox was a little like that between Winston Churchill and Neville Chamberlain.

Supposedly the two men thought highly of each other, but that is similar to Chamberlain's comments about Hitler. Perhaps as Hitler did with Chamberlain, Napoleon put up a front to convince Fox of his "peaceable intentions".

After war broke out again in 1805, Fox renewed his virulent attacks in Parliament against Pitt's policy and said, not without reason, that the aggression came initially from England, that France had done no more than exert her right of legitimate defence.

He also spoke up against the subsidies that Britain paid to the coalition, declaring that war was disastrous for the nation and served no one but the Bourbons. He never varied in his opinions and represented a large part of the British nation who were opposed to war with France.

When William Pitt died, Fox immediately started negotiations with Napoleon and believed he was about to secure a durable peace, but he died a few months later. With his death, hopes for peace were irrevocably dashed and Napoleon always considered Fox's death as one of the misfortunes of his career. 1311

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