Miers, or Myers, John
An artist who was a skilful taker of silhouette portraits. They were both cheap and quickly executed. Burns was one of his sitters, and the poet presented Miers's silhouettes to several of his friends. Clarinda also sat for him.
Miers came from Leeds, but spent two years, 1786 8 in Edinburgh. In the London Directory (1792) he is found as Profilist and Jeweller, first at 111 Strand, then at 162. Little is known of his latter years.
He produced his work on cardboard, plaster and ivory, his prices ranging from 6d to 10s. 6d. 'Ivory was a speciality and might cost 4 guineas.' One branch of his work was in much demand tiny miniatures suitable for ring, locket or tie-pin. Miers's portrait of Clarinda was used by Burns as a breast pin: 'I thank you for going to Miers, I want it for a breast pin to wear next my heart....' The poet wrote her.
Miers's outstanding merit seems to have been his accuracy of likeness particularly valuable in view of the few genuinely good likenesses we have of the poet. Indeed, the artist claimed, on the labels to his silhouettes 'Perfect likenesses in miniature profile with the most exact symmetry and animated expression of the features;' and again, 'Likenesses in a style of superior excellence, with unequalled accuracy.'
Miers, it seems, never lacked work.
Silhouettes were made, of course, long before they were so called. They were named after Etienne de Silhouette (1709 1767), France's Controleur General des Finances, whose enemies regarded his policies as only outlines!
Royalty, among them George III, George IV, William IV and Queen Victoria, had silhouettes made of themselves; or as Burns sometimes called them 'shades'.