Matthew Boulton was an industrialist and entrepreneur, one of the pioneering figures of the Industrial Revolution in Britain. He was born in Birmingham, England and entered his father’s button and buckle manufacturing business in 1745. In 1762, he opened the Soho Works in Handsworth, which produced high quality metalwork under an innovative system, where complete production took place under one roof, rather than being farmed out to different workshops. In addition to consolidating manufacturing in one place, the factory housed an advertising and marketing section. Soho became the largest factory in the world. Boulton took part in manufacturing and promoting other innovations, including James Watt’s steam pump and other inventions by Watt. After 1788, Boulton developed new presses for minting coins, as well as producing the first modern coins with diagonal “reeding” along the edges to make counterfeiting them more difficult. In 1795, he established the Soho Foundry, the first plant expressly built to manufacture steam engines.
Carl Frederik von Breda was a Swedish painter who was also active in England. From the late 1770’s, he studied at the Kungliga Akademi för de Fria Konsterna in Stockholm, and adopted the rococo style of the period. In 1787, he painted a portrait of the Swedish King Gustav III. Later that year, a trip abroad to England, France and Italy introduced him to the neoclassical style and the Italian Renaissance masters. He moved to London, working briefly in the studio of Joshua Reynolds, and absorbing the influence of Reynolds, Gainsborough, and the Italian and Dutch Baroque masters. He specialized in portrait painting and began exhibiting annually at the Royal Academy in London from 1788. Today, his portraits are in museum collections in Sweden, Denmark, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, and Britain’s National Portrait Gallery.
Samuel William Reynolds (the elder) was a British painter and one of the premiere mezzotint engravers of his day. It is believed that he was a student of John Raphael Smith and Charles Howard Hodges. Later he became drawing master to the daughters of King George III. From 1797 to 1834, Reynolds exhibited landscapes in London, notably at the Royal Academy and the British Institution, and also made portraits and watercolors. As a mezzotint artist, he engraved portraits and landscapes after the most important artists of his time, including Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Lawrence, R.P. Bonington, John Constable and J.M.W. Turner. In 1809, he went to Pairs and exhibited in the Salons of 1810 and 1812. Reynolds mentored the engraver Samuel Cousins, and also exerted an important influence on young French engravers on his second trip to Paris in 1825. His students included his son, Samuel William Reynolds (the younger) (1794-1872), who also became a successful painter and mezzotint engraver. Today, a number of Reynolds the elder’s engravings are in the collection of the British National Portrait Gallery, and his works are in other museums such as the Victoria and Albert.
Inscription: An inscription beneath the title describes von Breda as a member of the Royal Academy of Stockholm and “Painter to the King of Sweden,” whose portrait he painted in 1787.
Full publication information: S.W Reynolds, No. 6 Rolls Buildings, Fetter Lane, London.
Condition: Generally good, a rich impression, with the usual overall light toning, wear, foxing, and spotting. Printed title faded in first few letters. Lower platemark trimmed, other margins slightly short but ample, all as typical for separately issued 18th century mezzotints.
Bénézit, E. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs. France: Librairie Gründ, 1966. Vol. 7, p. 204.
“Carl Fredrik von Breda.” The Grove Dictionary of Art. New York: Macmillan. 2000. Artnet.com. http://www.artnet.com/library/01/0110/T011071.asp (12 February 2007).
Dick, Malcom. “A Portrait of Matthew Boulton.” Revolutionary Players. http://www.search.revolutionaryplayers.org.uk/engine/resource/default.asp?resource=5 (12 February 2007).
“NPG D771: Matthew Boulton.” National Portrait Gallery. http://www.npg.org.uk/live/search/portrait.asp?LinkID=mp06718&rNo=4&role=art (12 February 2007).