This pair of miniature portraits are tightly riveted in small gold cases, so it is not practical to open them. Hence it is not possible to tell whether they are painted on ivory, or on card over-painted on a photographic base. They are very small at 26mm x 23mm.
Nevertheless, they are an interesting pair, being of Prince Louis of Hesse and his wife Princess Alice, second daughter of Queen Victoria of England, see View
The case of Prince Louis is inscribed "Louis of Hesse / 1st July 1862 / From Alice and Louis / Xmas 1862" with that of Princess Alice inscribed "Alice / 1st July 1862 / From Alice and Louis / Xmas 1862".
Thus they appear to have been intimate Christmas gifts, perhaps as a thank-you for wedding presents from July 1862. Although one might expect there to be other similar examples in existence, so far none seem to be known.
A kind expert has advised;
You are right to draw a comparison with the miniature by Charles
Lepec of Prince Louis in the Royal Collection, based, probably on a
photograph by F. Backhofen of Darmstadt, although it differs from yours
in being in enamel on gold. Yours look to me to be in watercolour on
card. I have searched through the transcriptions of the archival material
which I have from 1862 which I have but unfortunately can find no
reference which equates with the two miniatures in your possession.
Sadly, without opening the miniatures, it may not be possible to
identify the creator, particularly in this case where they are clearly
derived from photographs. Queen Victoria commissioned miniatures from
photographic colourists such as John Horrak/Horrach (fl. 1861-2) who is
the sort of artist who could have been responsible for your miniatures,
if indeed they were made in London. It is also possible that they were
made in Darmstadt.
Princess Alice (25 April 1843 – 14 December 1878) was a member of the British royal family, the third child and second daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. In 1861, Prince Albert became ill with typhoid fever, and Alice nursed him through his final illness before he died on 14 December. Following his death, Queen Victoria entered a period of intense mourning, and Alice spent the next six months acting as her unofficial secretary.
While the court was still at the height of mourning, on 1 July 1862, Alice married Prince Louis of Hesse, heir to the Grand Duchy of Hesse. The ceremony—conducted privately and with unrelieved gloom at Osborne House—was described by the Queen as "more of a funeral than a wedding". The life of the Princess in Darmstadt was unhappy as a result of impoverishment, family tragedy and worsening relations with her husband and mother.
Alice was a prolific patron of women's causes, especially nursing, and was a follower of Florence Nightingale. When Hesse became involved in the Austro-Prussian War, and Darmstadt filled with the injured, the heavily pregnant Alice devoted much of her time to the management of field hospitals. One of her organisations, the Princess Alice Women's Guild, became a national one, and took over much of the day-to-day running of the military hospitals in Darmstadt. Furthermore, she befriended and promoted the theologian David Friedrich Strauss, who provided an intellectual basis for her faith instead of the traditional sentimentality of Victorian religion.
In 1877, Alice became Grand Duchess following the accession of her husband, and her duties put a further strain on her health. The following year, she travelled to England for the last time, holidaying in Eastbourne at the Queen's expense.
In the later months of 1878, diphtheria infected the Hessian court, and Alice nursed her family for over a month before falling ill herself. She died on the 17th anniversary of her father's death, 14 December 1878, at the New Palace in Darmstadt.
Princess Alice was mother of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (the wife of Emperor Nicholas II of Russia) and the maternal great-grandmother of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, consort of Queen Elizabeth II.
Louis IV (Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig Karl) (12 September 1837 – 13 March 1892), was the fourth Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine, reigning from 13 June 1877 until his death.
Through his own and his children's marriages he was connected to the British Royal Family, to the Imperial House of Russia and other Royal Houses of Europe.
There is a modern portrait of Empress Alexandra (1872-1918) in this collection. She was murdered in 1918.
Also in this collection is a contemporary miniature portrait, by Adolf Helzel, of two of the grandchildren of Louis and Alice, the Grand Duchesses Olga (1895-1918) and Tatiana (1897-1918) who were also murdered in 1918.
For more about these see View 1425