Sarah Biffin - The eighth wonder of the world

Sarah Biffin - The eighth wonder of the world

Our Spring Fine Art sale features this wonderful early 19th century portrait miniature by the renowned artist Sarah Biffin.

28/03/2024

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Born in Somerset in 1784, she had a condition now recognised as phocomelia and was born with no arms and only vestigial legs, but displayed remarkable perseverance, learning to sew, write and draw using her mouth. At the age of 13 she was recruited by a travelling fairground and became a fairground amusement for the following 16 years. Billed as ‘the eighth wonder of the world’, her skills as a painter were to the fore, customers were charged three guineas for her miniature portraits, it was a poor deal for Sarah who is reputed to have earned just £5 per year.

Aged 30, her fortunes changed when the Earl of Morton sat for her at a country fair, he was so impressed with her skills that he became her patron, paying for her to have lessons with royal watercolourist William Craig and ultimately establishing her in a studio in Bond Street where her patrons included Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, aristocracy and members of the European royalty. The death of her patron, coupled with failing eyesight and physical deterioration prompted retirement to Liverpool where she was buried in 1850, aged 66. A series of dedicated exhibitions in recent years have resulted in a re-evaluation of her legacy and her remarkable career. 

 

The present lot is accompanied by a note identifying the sitter as Thomas Pym Weekes and stating 'drawn by Miss Biffin, born without hands or feet'. It is estimated at £800-1200.

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