A letter accompanying the miniature from Arthur Jaffé, dated 5 October 1942, addressed to Mr Moore, describes the present miniature as follows: 'I have compared Smart's miniature with all the portraits of Cornwallis at the Nat. Port. Gallery & have no doubt that it is probably the best portrait of him;..' Arthur Jaffé was Secretary of the International Law Society and an authority on miniatures by John Smart. His extensive notes on the artist were used in Daphne Fosket's 1964 monograph, which she dedicated to the memory of the late Arthur Jaffé.
Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis, styled Viscount Brome between 1753 and 1762 and known as the Earl of Cornwallis between 1762-1792 was a British Army officer and colonel administrator and is remembered as one of the leading British generals in the American War of Independence. Cornwallis joined the army in 1757 and took part in the Seven Years' War. On his father's death in 1762 he became Earl Cornwallis and entered the House of Lords. He was promoted to colonel in 1766 and next saw action in America in 1776. He occupied Philadelphia in 1777 and invaded Virginia in 1780 but surrended his army at Yorktown in October 1781. He was knighted in 1786 and in that year was appointed to be Governor General and commander-in-chief in India. He introduced numerous reforms within the East India Company and its territories, including the Cornwallis Code, part of which implemented land taxation reforms known as the Permanent Settlement. He led the forces in the Third-Mysore War to defeat Tipu Sultan in 1791 and in 1792 dictated terms of peace for Madras. He returned to England in 1794 and was given the post of Master-General of the Ordnance and in 1798 was appointed Lord Lieutenant and Commander-in-chief of Ireland where he forced the French to retreat and was instrumental in bringing about the Union of Great Britain and Ireland. He negotiated the Peace of Amiens in 1802 and was reappointed Governor-General of India in 1805 but died two months after his arrival and is buried at Ghazipur, near Benares. He married Jemima Tulikens (1747-1779) in 1768 and was succeeded by his only son, Charles Cornwallis, 2nd Marquess of Cornwallis (1774-1823).
John Smart, who lived and worked in India between 1785 and 1795, painted Cornwallis on several occasions but the present miniature dated 1791 appears to be his earliest portrait of the sitter. A similar miniature dated 1792 is in the Starr Collection, Missouri, USA (see The Starr Collection of Miniatures in the William Rockhill Nelson Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri, 1971, no. 125, illustrated in colour p. 31, signed and dated 1792) and a slightly smaller, miniature of the same date is in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (R. Bayne-Powell, Catalogue of Portrait Miniatures in the Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge, Cambridge, 1985, no. 3922, illustrated p. 202) and a pencil drawing, executed in the same year, is in the National Portrait Gallery (no. 4316). A further miniature, signed and dated 1793 was with Elle Shushan, Philadelphia and a miniature of the sitter dated 1794 was sold Sotheby's, London, 27 November 1972, lot 169. A miniature of the sitter looking left wearing a coat and the sash and breast-star of the Order of the Garter, dated 1792, was in the collection of E. M. Hodgkins (see G. C. Williamson, The History of Portrait Miniatures, London, 1904, Vol. II, illustrated pl. LXX. no. 9 and a lady called, Lady Cornwallis, dated 1793, illustrated op. cit., pl. LXXII, no. 4).
We are indebted to David Jaffe for his assistance with this catalogue entry.