Whilst looking at various miniatures by Anne Mee in the Royal Collection we decided to try to find out a little more about her. Most sources seem to know exactly when Anne died, but there appears to be speculation as to exactly when she was born, with most sources including the DNB opting for c1775, although given the birth of her siblings c1771 would appear a more likely date.
Anne was the daughter of John Foldsone and Elizabeth nee Fell who were married at St James, Westminster 29th August 1767. Just over 9 months after the couple married they produced their first child Frances Ann who was later to appear as a witness to Ann’s marriage. Anne was reputed to be the eldest child but there is no sign so far of any baptism for her, hopefully that will come to light at some stage.
John certainly showed initiative, according to The Public Advertiser, 30th December 1769, John was advertising his services
As Mr Barrett a famous copyer of family and historical pictures is dead, permit me to offer myself to succeed him …
He gave his address as ‘Little Castle Street, Oxford Market, name above the door.’
Foldsone exhibited at the Society of Artists of Great Britain 1769-70 and the Royal Academy 1771-83 and specialized in small portraits which he often painted at the sitter’s home. He died 1787 (not 1784 as previous sources have recorded) and was buried at St Marylebone on the 12th August 1787, leaving Elizabeth to raise all their children.
By the time of his death the couple had produced at least another 7 children – Henry John (1769), Amelia (1773), Caroline (1776), Elizabeth (1777), John (1781) and William Henry (1783), although according to Horace Walpole, Anne was busy supporting her mother plus 8 siblings.
Money was in short supply so it fell to Anne, who had been educated at Madame Pomier’s school in Queen Square, Bloomsbury, to be the main provider for the family. Anne was clearly regarded as having some talent as an artist and had began to paint at age 12, with tuition from George Romney. She went on to receive royal and aristocratic patronage.
Walpole, in his inimitable fashion, complained about Anne ‘ I am out of humour with Miss Foldsone, though paid for, she has not yet sent me your pictures; and has twice broken her promise of finishing them’. Walpole in a later letter, says that he has written to her several times, but ‘she has not deigned to even answer one in writing’.
Clearly from this next letter from Walpole to Miss Berry his patience had been sorely tested.
Miss Foldsone is a prodigy of dishonest impertinence—I sent her word a week ago by Kirgate that I was glad she had so much employment, but wished she would recollect that your pictures had been paid for these four months. She was such a fool as to take the compliment seriously and to thank m e for it, but verbally, and I have heard no more—so I suppose she thinks m e as drunk with her honours as she is—I shall undeceive her, by sending for the pictures again and telling her I can get twenty persons to finish them as well as she can —and so they could the likenesses, and I doubt, better …
By March 1791, Walpole says:
I have got a solution of Miss Foldsone: she has a mother and eight brothers and sisters, who make her work incessantly to maintain them, and who reckon it loss of time to them, if she finishes any pictures that are paid for beforehand—That however is so very uncommon that I should not think the family would be much the richer. I do know that Lord Carlisle paid for the portraits of his children last July and cannot get them from her-at that rate I may see you before your pictures!
On the 16th May 1793 Anne married Joseph Mee by licence at St Marylebone Church, the same church that her siblings had been baptized at. Apparently Joseph would only consent to let her paint ladies and they were not to be accompanied into the painting room by gentlemen but whether this was true we can’t confirm, nor can we confirm that as Joseph was proud of his wife’s hair after a violent quarrel she cut it close to her head just to spite him!*
In November 1811 The Morning Chronicle reported that Anne was to publish ‘The Gallery of Beauties of the Court of George the Third’.
Whatever the quality of her work, Anne appears to have working continually through her life, whilst also raising her family of 8 children, although there were various newspaper reports stating that her work was not of the highest standard. The couples children being – Joseph John (1795); Charles Henry (1796); Josephine Teresa (1797); Georgina (1799); Arthur Patrick (1802); George Augustus(1804) and John Edmund (1807). There was also Anna Eliza who although we haven’t found a baptism for her, her relationship to the family is proven on her marriage entry as most of the family was listed as being present at the service.
The Examiner of July 1826 said of Anne that she ‘fails in drawing but not in likeness‘. Her works were also known to have been exhibited at the Royal Academy on occasion.
The newspapers remained relatively quiet about Anne after 1826 so it is difficult to piece together the latter part of her life. Joseph who was reputed to have been a barrister who possessed of a fairly large estate in Armagh, died 5th December 1849, aged 86, leaving his estate to his beloved wife Anne plus bequests to his 3 sons, Charles, Arthur Patrick and George Augustus. The 1851 census states that Anne was living in Hammersmith with her son Arthur and was a ‘landed proprietor‘.
The Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Review, Volume 190 reported Anne’s death on 28th May 1851, giving her age as 76. She possibly knew she didn’t have long to live as she wrote her will 7th November 1850 leaving everything to her son Arthur Patrick, who was an architect and who exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1824 to 1837. Anne was reported as being aged 76 which would make her birth c1775 although given the dates of birth for her siblings this does appear unlikely.
Header image: The Exhibition of the Royal Academy, 1787. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.