Sylvester Harding was a miniaturist and engraver, born in Newcastle-under-Lyme and sent to London to an apprenticeship with a hairdresser as a boy. He ran away at age 14 and spent several years in a company of strolling players before embarking upon a successful career as a miniature painter in 1775. From 1777 to 1787 he exhibited at the Royal Academy. He also collaborated on illustrated publications with his brother, a librarian, and his son, an engraver. Published works by Harding include illustrations from Shakespeare (1793), and works titled The Biographical Mirror and Memoirs of Count de Grammont. Many of his watercolors are in the collection of the South Kensington Museum, and dozens of prints and other works are in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery (UK).
William Nelson Gardiner was born in Dublin, where he studied at the Dublin Academy and earned a medal. He made his way to London, supporting himself by painting black shade profile miniatures and as the scene painter for a troupe of strolling players. Eventually he was hired by an engraver and then worked for the famous engraver Francisco Bartolozzi. He worked on the engravings for Sylvester Harding’s editions of Shakespeare and Memoirs of Count de Grammont. He dropped out of art for about five years to attend Corpus Christi College at Cambridge with the goal of qualifying for holy orders. Upon returning to secular life, he became a bookseller.
Edward Harding (1776-1796) was an up-and-coming engraver who engraved or published some of the works by his father, the miniature painter Sylvester Harding, before his untimely death at age 20. Several of his engravings are in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery (UK).
Condition: Generally very good with the usual light overall toning and faint scattered soiling and wear.
Bénézit, E. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs. France: Librairie Gründ, 1966. p. 590.
Logan, Bari and Ellis, Harry. “Teaching Anatomy in Cambridge then and now.” Scientific and Social Programme: 3rd Joint Meeting of the American and British Associations of Clinical Anatomists. 19 July, 2000. http://www.clinicalanatomy.org/pdfs/Cambridge_Program.pdf, p. 5.
Redgrave, Samuel. A Dictionary of Artists of the English School: Painters, Sculptors, Architects, Engravers and Ornamentists. London: Longmans, Green, and Col., 1874. pp. 160-161 (Gardiner) and p. 189 (S. Harding and E. Harding).