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Artwork of the Month - December 2012


Portrait of Major-General Sir Isaac Brock K.B. (1769-1812)

Artist: Gerrit Schipper (1775-1825) (attrib.)
Medium: Pastel
Status: Permanent collection
Item No.: GMAG 2009.52

About the Work

This small profile portrait of Major-General Sir Isaac Brock is attributed to Gerrit Schipper (1775-1825), produced sometime between late May 1809 and mid-July 1810. It portrays Brock in the uniform of a Brigadier-General and Staff Officer in the British Army in Canada. What makes this portrait so special is that it is thought to be the only likeness of Brock created during his lifetime.

Profile portraits are one of the earliest forms of portraiture, seen in the frontalism techniques of early Egyptian art and on Roman coins. The profile portraits seen on Roman coins influenced early Renaissance portraiture of the 14th and 15th centuries. This Classical influence was seen again later on during the 18th century with the profile portraits of the Neo-classical era.

Generally profile portraits appear more formal that the three-quarter or full-face view, which appear to be more natural and less posed. The formality of the profile portrait lent itself well to depicting military figures and leaders. This straight forward no frills depiction of a person's features combined with the association with great rulers of the past immediately gave the sitter an air of superiority and strength.