The miniature has repaired damage, is 155mm x 140mm and on a thin piece of shiny porcelain approx 2.5mm thick. Although this is not a high resolution image (150dps), the portrait is a example of the saying that a good miniature can often be enlarged to full size without losing definition.
Much later - A kind visitor, Bob Cutts, has provided a lot more information about the Keys family and hence the probable sitter this miniature via his comments, some of which are included below, for which I am very grateful and pleased to be able to table to a wider audience.
The Irish miniature artist, Michael Kean, was associated with the Duesburys porcelain manufactury at Derby between 1795 and 1811. He then left for London where he died in 1823.
According to John Twitchett, Samuel Keys Snr was apprenticed to the manufactory in 1785. Twitchett mentions that three of his sons were also associated with the manufactory, Edward, John and Samuel Jnr, and that John died in 1825. All Saints, Derby parish records show that a Samuel Keys was christened at All Saints, Derby, in 1770. The records of St Peter’s Cathedral, Sheffield, show that a Samuel Keys married a Hannah Ault on 28/11/1792. The Saint Alkmunds, Derby, records give several children of a Samuel and Hannah Keys christened there including Edward (in 1795), John (in 1797) and Samuel (1804). The records of All Saints, Derby, include the burial of a John Keys in 1825. The records of Saint Werburgh’s, Derby, indicate that a Samuel Keys married a Mary Hazeldine in 1828.
Twitchett says that Samuel Keys Jnr was at Minton’s, Stoke-on-Trent, from c1831-42. The 1841 census returns include a Samuel Keys (born c1806, occupation modeller) and his wife Mary, resident in Burslem, close to Stoke-on-Trent (Ancestry.com gives Samuel’s surname as Keye, but inspection of the image indicates this to be a transcription error – I submitted a correction).
Michael Kean is most unlikely to have painted the portrait after 1811. Therefore, if it is his work, the subject of the painting must surely be Hannah Keys, née Ault. If the subject’s clothing preclude this possibility then she could be Mary Keys, née Hazeldine. But, if so, the artist would certainly not have been Michael Kean. I agree with you that, if the artist is Michael Kean of Duesbury and Kean, the subject is unlikely to be Frances Keys, née Cundell. She appears (along with the portrait!) on many Ancestry.com trees. But she died in 1792 and her husband, Samuel, died in 1838, in Jackson, Alabama. I doubt that Michael Kean travelled far north of London until Duesbury II recruited him in 1795.
Much later - 2015 - A kind visitor has advised the following:
Are you still interested in comments about the portrait of Mrs Samuel Keys? If she is the wife of Samuel Keys the elder, gilder at the Derby works, then I am a direct descendent, but should she be his son Samuel’s wife then a many times great aunt of mine. I think there has been enough said in the comments about the portrait that it is connected with the Derby factory and she is the wife of one of the two Samuel Keys.
Like yourself I have more than a passing interest in history but I retired early to study the history of law and how it affected ordinary people. I have also researched the family history. I am related to the Keys though my paternal grandmother Edith Mary Keys, a great granddaughter of Samuel senior. The family still has a loving cup Samuel painted for his son William’s wedding when aged 69 and his eye and hand were still excellent.
I was amused to see from your web site that the portrait had been claimed by another family and this is not the only error about the Keys on some Ancestry family trees. Some have Samuel Keys senior marrying Hannah Gratton but I see this as unlikely as this Samuel couldn’t sign his name in the marriage register when Samuel proper was known for committing to paper his thoughts about the Derby factory (and some views not at all politically correct from today’s perspective). Personally I would like to see more evidence that Samuel’s first wife was Hannah Ault. Marriage registers at that period did not usually contain enough information uniquely to identify an individual without supporting information from other sources. I know there were at least two couples with the names Samuel and Hannah Keys having children in Derby at the time. I will have to check but references to the Keys-Ault marriage I’ve seen state it as a fact but no sources are given other than the names found in the church registers are a fit at face value alone.
My sister has expertise about fashion history and has written on the subject, I have asked her for a view about the date. The cautionary note she always raises is that women would retain and wear favourite outfits from their earlier years unless they were very fashion conscious and could afford to renew their wardrobes. Portraits tend to flatter and so Mrs Keys apparent age could also be deceptive.
Another clue is the piano on the reverse, a Broadwood and the history of this piano maker is well documented. The advert states “John Broadwood and Sons, Ltd.” which dates it after 1899 when the company became incorporated. The attribution as written on the advert of subject and artist is twentieth century and possibly from when and if the portrait was reframed. Unfortunately it is not contemporaneous with the execution of the portrait which is clearly early nineteenth century.May I ask whether there is any known earlier history about the portrait before you came across it? Was it just ‘a find’ or are there some clues? The Derby Keys were well remembered in my grandparents generation and had there been a portrait that had been held in my family line then I think there would have been a memory of it. Apart from the loving cup Samuel senior had earlier painted a tea service for the family which is still retained. If the portrait had been in my families line I think it also would have been retained. However, the family had no recollection of a portrait of Samuel senior painted by John Simpson in 1838 to which I found a reference. That portrait is in the British Museum.
To answer the question about earlier history, regrettably there is none, as it was purchased on eBay some years ago. The same kind visitor has now provided the following extra comment:
Drawing the threads together and if a given death date for Kean of 1823 is correct (Dictionary of Irish Artists, 1913) then the portrait was likely not by him. Mrs Key’s dress has an estimated date in the 1830s but allowing it to be earlier takes it back to the end of Kean’s life and well after he had left the Derby china works in 1811. Apparently signed work by Kean is rare so lack of signature isn’t itself a major concern. The attribution on the reverse of the portrait to Mrs Keys by Michael Kean was written in the twentieth century.
The attribution, however, cannot be dismissed entirely. Whoever wrote it didn’t pluck the ideas out of the air but was working from some information. The facts are connected: Kean was at Derby, the portrait is on porcelain, and both Samuel Keys and his son worked at Derby. What we can add is that artists at the factories painted portraits of other workers so why not their wives. There were talented artists at the Derby works including another of Samuel Key’s sons John but he died in 1825.
If the portrait is of a Mrs Samuel Keys whose husband worked at the Derby factory then a date in the 1830s has only two contenders. Samuel senior’s second wife Elizabeth (m. 1822) or son Samuel’s wife Mary (m. 1828). Elizabeth would have been in her forties in the 1830s, if ages in censuses and burial are reliable, and Elizabeth in her thirties. (Then allow the artist to take off a few years.)
Samuel junior is said to have left Derby in 1830 to work in potteries elsewhere. If it is his wife and painted in Derby then she would be aged about 24 to 26.