Madras Light Cavalry - Miniature Portrait of Captain Thomas Martin, 1801
Madras Light Cavalry - Miniature Portrait of Captain Thomas Martin, 1801
Madras Light Cavalry - Miniature Portrait of Captain Thomas Martin, 1801
Madras Light Cavalry - Miniature Portrait of Captain Thomas Martin, 1801
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Madras Light Cavalry - Miniature Portrait of Captain Thomas Martin, 1801

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Provenance: By descent to Major-General J.M.W. Martin, C.B., C.B.E (1902-1986)

Oval miniature portrait of Captain Thomas Martin in the uniform of the 5th Madras Cavalry (as detailed under the regulations of 7 July 1801), attributed to Frederick Buck, circa 1800; together with an associated oval miniature painting of a southern Indian stronghold, and an Indian cornelian seal matrix engraved with regimental insignia of the 19th Light Dragoons.

Thomas Martin was the scion of an Anglo-Irish ascendancy family with landed interests in Co. Cork.  O'Byrne's ‘Naval Biographical Dictionary’ in the entry for Martin’s brother, Commander William Martin, R.N., who served at Trafalgar, states that their father was ‘Thos. Martin, Esq., of Springmount, co. Cork’ ... ‘a Magistrate and the Commander of a corps of Yeomanry, [that] rendered good service in the rebellion of 1798’, adding also ‘One of [Commander Martin’s] brothers, an officer in the 19th Light Dragoons, was for a long time employed in India as Aide-de-Camp to Lord Lake.’

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It seems probable that this portrait miniature was painted around this time by the Irish miniaturist Frederick Buck (1771-1839). It certainly bears the rather hot colouring, which is recognised as an unmistakable characteristic of his work. Buck, like Martin, was a native of Cork, and after studying at the Dublin Society Schools the artist returned to Cork and set up shop at Fen’s Quay and later at Buckingham Square. With the onset of the wars with France, Cork’s importance as a port of embarkation increased, supplying Buck with a constant stream of naval and military officers seeking his services. Indeed it is said that at the height of the Peninsular War, he kept a supply of painted ivories to which he added the heads and regimental facings as required in order to keep up with demand.