LAFRENSEN, Niclas the Younger
(b. 1737, Stockholm, d. 1807, Stockholm)


Niclas Lafrensen (also Lavreince), Swedish miniature painter. He received his first training in miniature painting and gouache technique from his father, Niclas Lafrensen the Elder (1698-1756), a self-taught miniature painter who had gained some popularity at the Swedish court. From 1762 to 1769 Lafrensen the Younger studied in Paris, where French Rococo painting suited his temperament and was to be most important for his future development. His choice of realistic themes rather than those from the antique world led to his becoming a favourite of the public, though not of the academicians. On his return to Stockholm he obtained a commission from Crown Prince Gustav (later Gustav III) to paint 12 miniature portraits (1770; Stockholm, Nationalmuseum), in connection with which he was appointed Royal Court Miniature Painter. He was accepted into the Kungliga Akademi för die Fria Konsterna in Stockholm but was passed over for a professorial appointment.

Despite this recognition, he returned again to Paris in 1774, staying there until 1791. This was his most brilliant period. The unrest prior to the French Revolution led him to return to Sweden, where he completed a series of compositions on the history of Sweden prior to 1771.

In Paris Lafrensen developed the 'cabinet-piece', a type of painting popular at the time, piquant and elegantly descriptive of manners. He worked entirely on miniatures, first on ivory and later on paper or parchment. He used watercolour or gouache, and there are also sketches in ink and watercolour wash. His miniatures were widely circulated as copperplate engravings and coloured engravings. His watercolours, with their intriguing subjects, were popular sources for engravers such as Delaunay, Dequevaulvillers, Janinet, Helman, Vidal and - later - Janinet and Debucourt.