A portrait miniature ring, circa 1785. The high carat gold tapered shank supports a compartment set with a watercolour portrait of a young midshipman within a surround of royal blue enamel and under crystal. It is loosely based on the portrait of Midshipman Augustus Brine, painted by John Singleton Copley in 1782. Midshipmen, ‘middies’, or ‘young gentlemen’, were officer cadets, drawn from the middle to upper echelons of British society and with ‘good family’ and some education behind them. They joined the Navy at the ages of 12 to 14. The midshipman wears the uniform of a blue wool single breasted tail coat with brass buttons, stand up patch collar and white stock. His hair falls loose upon his shoulders. The sitter gazes pensively at the viewer, with an air of quiet determination and confidence. The ring is size O and 1/2 [US 7 and 1/4] and the head of the ring measures 1 and 1/4 inches by one inch. Such a poignant portrait of a young boy who had barely left childhood to train in the harsh naval world as an officer. The Naval Monitor  lamented ‘those young lads sent away for the first time from the fostering arms of their parents into the cockpit of a man of war’.
Midshipman Augustus Brine by Singleton Copley