A rare portrait miniature of Sir Thomas Brisbane, the sixth Governor of New South Wales, has recently been added to the Library’s collection.

Portrait miniatures were especially popular among soldiers and sailors who wanted to leave a likeness with loved ones during their long absences, in an era before photography. This portrait was probably commissioned by Brisbane to leave with family during his overseas service in Jamaica and the West Indies.

Encased in a 9-carat gold mount, the reverse is engraved ‘Lieutt Coll Thomas Brisbane’ which dates it to around 1800-1810, when Brisbane held this military rank. It is significant as a rare painted portrait of Brisbane before he was appointed Governor of NSW and as a rare portrait miniature of a named British colonial figure.

Explore the portrait miniature of Sir Thomas Brisbane in Trove

A painted locket portrait of a man in a red military uniform. The locket is resting on some black material.
Nathaniel Plimer, Portrait Miniature of Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Brisbane, c.1800-1810, nla.obj-3180221948

This miniature has been attributed to Nathaniel Plimer (1757–1822). Nathaniel and his younger brother Andrew were originally apprenticed as clockmakers but both boys ran away with a travelling troupe and eventually settled in London in 1781. Nathaniel was then apprenticed to Henry Bone, an enameller, before studying drawing with lead18th-centurytury miniaturist Richard Cosway. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1787 until 1815.

The shiny gold reverse side of a locket portrait, with the following engraved on it: Lieutt Coll Thomas Brisbane.
Nathaniel Plimer, Portrait Miniature of Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Brisbane, c. 1800-1810, nla.obj-3180222719

Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane (1773-1860) was born in Ayrshire, Scotland. Brisbane was appointed sixth Governor of New South Wales, arriving in November 1821. He served as Governor until 1825 when he was recalled and replaced by Sir Ralph Darling.

Brisbane administered the establishment of a Legislative Council and the introduction of trial by jury. He oversaw the easing of government control of the press which allowed for the first independent newspaper, Wentworth’s Australian. Brisbane was responsible for stamping out abuses in the system of hired convict labour, encouraging experimentation with new crops such as tobacco, cotton, and flax as the first patron of the New South Wales Agricultural Society, and building an observatory in the grounds of Government House at Parramatta.

A companion portrait miniature of Sir Thomas Brisbane, with locks of hair encased, is held by the Queensland Women’s Historical Association.