At the end of 2009, around the time that the National Trust acquired Seaton Delaval Hall, we also purchased this set of enamel miniatures, dubbed the Fairfax Jewel, which has a historical connection to the house. The miniatures were painted by Pierre Bordier, a seventeenth-century Huguenot artist.
The purchase of the Fairfax Jewel was funded by generous grants from the Art Fund and Sir Siegmund Warburg’s Voluntary Settlement.
The enamels were originally set into a gold watchcase which was presented to the Parliamentarian general Sir Thomas Fairfax, 3rd Baron Fairfax, after his victory against the royalist forces at Naseby in 1645. One of the enamels depicts that victory.
The back of it has been painted with Fairfax on his horse Chessnut while the battle rages in the background.
Ironically, the way Fairfax is shown is modelled on equestrian portraits of Charles I by Van Dyck – the political divide between Parliament and the King clearly didn’t prevent them from using the same iconography.
The Jewel was later owned by Horace Walpole and kept as part of his antiquarian collection at Strawberry Hill. It was subsequently acquired by Sir Jacob Astley, 6th Baronet, recognised as the 16th Baron Hastings in 1841 and who inherited Seaton Delaval. By this time the miniatures had been set into the present plaque.
The Astleys had been on the royalist side in the Civil War, but as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries Lord Hastings let his historical interests prevail over his family allegiance.
Other posts about Seaton Delaval can be found here.