Freese, Nicholas - portrait of a young lady

A recent addition is a most attractive miniature of an unidentified young lady in a white dress by a British artist whose work appears infrequently.

The miniature was offered for sale as by an unknown artist, but a kind expert has identified the artist as Nicholas Freese (1762-after 1824). Foskett notes that he was active in London in 1794-1814. Judging by the hairstyle, this would appear to be one of his later works probably dating to around 1810-1812.

As the name Freese is uncommon, a little research suggests that he is the Nicholas Freese christened on 23 Jun 1762 at St Martin, Birmingham, as the son of Nicholas Freese and Elizabeth Rowney, who were married at the same church on 30 March 1758. They also had another son, George christened on 10 April, 1767 and three daughters Charlotte, christened on 5 March 1764, Margaretta christened on 23 August 1765, and Elizabeth christened on 22 November 1768.

Nicholas apparently moved to London to study and then married Mary Stokes on 29 August 1791 at St Martin in the Fields, Westminster, London. They evidently had a son, George Fraser Freese, in 1792.

Foskett notes that in 1814 he exhibited a portrait of Lieutenant G F Freese (1792-1813) who fell at the storming of Salamanca. The European Magazine of 1813, Vol 63/64, on page 371, shows that it was a portrait of his son;
Lieutenant George Fraser Freese, of the 59th regiment of foot, in his 22d year, only son of Mr N Freese, artist. As an ensign, he partook in the perils of the Walcheren expedition; in the memorable battle of Vittoria, as a lieutenant, his intrepidity war highly conspicuous, and claimed the particular attention of his Hon. commander, Lieutenant-colonel Fane, now no more; and at the storming of St Sebastian, he was mortally wounded whilst gallantly leading and cheering the brave company he had the honour to command, and which was one of the first that stormed the breach."
The death of his son must have been a blow to Nicholas and is perhaps why he did not exhibit after 1814.

They had a daughter, Mary Freese, born on 10 February 1795 and christened at St Clement Danes Westminster on 8 March 1795. The Edinburgh Annual Register reveals that Mary became an actress and married Henry Stephen Kemble (15 Sep 1789-22 Jun 1836) on 22 January 1814; At South Shields, Mr Henry Kemble, manager of the theatre there, to Miss Freese, one of his actresses, and daughter of Mr Freese, miniature painter, London. (NB The IGI marriage record shows her name as Miss Freize.)

Henry Kemble was a member of the famous Kemble theatrical family;
Kemble is the name of a family of English actors, all distinguished actors and actresses who reigned over the British stage for decades. The most famous were Sarah Siddons (1755-1831) and her brother John Philip Kemble (1757-1823), the two eldest of the twelve children of Roger Kemble (1721-1802), a strolling player and manager, who in 1753 married an actress, Sarah Ward. Three younger children of Roger, Stephen Kemble (1758-1822), Charles Kemble (1775-1854), and Elizabeth Whitlock (1761-1836), were also actors, while Ann Hatton was a novelist.

A Memoir of Henry Kemble was published in The Theatrical Inquisitor of June 1819 and refers to a portrait of him painted by Nicholas Freese, on which this engraving is based;
This gentleman is the son of Mr and Mrs Stephen Kemble, he was born in Villiers-street, in the Strand, on the 15th of September 1789; his mother long one of the brightest ornaments of the Haymarket Theatre, was taken ill while acting her original character of Queen Margaret, in Colman's play of "The Battle of Hexham." She had scarcely sufficient strength to finish her arduous task, before the object of this memoir was born. Mr H Kemble was educated at Winchester, where, having gone through the regular routine of school practice, he was entered at Trinity College, Cambridge, to study, as it was hoped, for the bar. His inclinations however, naturally enough, were fixed upon the stage, and after remaining two years at the University, he left Euclid and the classics for the sock and buskin. He commenced his theatrical career at Whitehaven, in Cumberland, under the management of his father, in the character of Frank Heartall, in Cherry's comedy of "The Soldier's Daughter." He acted sometime under the eye of his father in several of the Northern towns, but Mr S Kemble resigning management, he joined the Portsmouth company, under Maxfield, Kelly, and Collins; it was here by accident, that the late Mr T Palmer, chief proprietor of the Bath theatre, witnessed his representation of Octavian and Jaffier, so pleased was he with his delineation of those characters that he immediately offered him a situation at Bath for the ensuing winter. Mr H Kemble accepted the offer, and appeared at Bristol on Monday, September 30th, in Bertram, his success was complete. This was followed by Warwick, Daran, Bajazet, Macbeth, Gambia, Rolla, etc, all of which characters he repeated at Bath and Bristol, much to his own credit, and the satisfaction of his employers. When the Sub-committee of the Theatre Royal, Drury-lane appointed Mr Stephen Kemble to the management of their theatre, he sent for his son to London, where, on Saturday, September 12th, 1818, he made his bow in the national theatre, in the character of Romeo; here again his efforts were crowned with success. He has since played Douglas, Barnwell, Biron, Macduff, Richmond, etc. The engraving is an admirable likeness of Mr H Kemble, in his original character of Barmecide; it is taken from an exquisite painting, by Mr Freese.

Reportedly, Henry Stephen Kemble (1789-1836) debuted at age four as the Duke of York in Richard III, at Theatre Royal, Edinburgh. Educated at Winchester and Trinity College, Henry left school after two years to become an actor. In 1816, the Bristol press reported, “that he met with peals of derision, although entitled to shouts of disgust”. As acting manager at Drury Lane for the 1818-1819 season, Stephen Kemble gave roles to his unqualified son, and the theatre suffered financially. Henry Kemble drank himself into obscurity, and died at age 46.

Nicholas Freese may be related to a J Freese who exhibited at the RA in 1811. N Freese, an artist is recorded in Boyle's Court Guide for April 1824, as living at 9 Percy St, London.

The backing paper is missing from this miniature, but Foskett observes that Nicholas Freese often used a small label on the reverse of his miniatures which reads "Freese, Miniature Painter, No 411 Strand, London". Also that his best work is reminiscent of J C D Engleheart. Schidlof notes "He drew well and his portraits had expression". This miniature would appear to fall into that category. 1413

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