Following our blog about Anne Mee which you seemed to have enjoyed we thought we would take a look at another female artist who specialized in painting miniatures.
According to quite a few sources Penelope was born around 1730, so just to confirm we will start this post with details of her baptism. She was baptized on 29th April 1729 at Withington, Hereford, her parents being John and Ann, nee Bullock, of Preston Wynne, Herefordshire.
Her siblings included Anne (Frier), Mary (Wilson), Priscilla (Warricker and Crichton, who died in 1776), Rebecca (Probert) and Henrietta (Pugh). She also had a brother Thomas, a clergyman, but who was also a miniature portrait painter and who married a Miss Anne Holgate in Essex.
Until her marriage, somewhat later in life than was the norm at that time, Penelope pursued the genteel pastime of miniature painting which was viewed as a suitable way for women to earn a respectable living, a necessity given that her father had managed to be reckless with the family money, she was a pupil of the artist Ozias Humphry.
The diarist, James Boswell, noted in March 1763 that Alexander 10th Earl of Eglinton was sitting for his miniature to ‘Mrs Carwardine’, who he described as ‘a very good-looking, agreeable woman, unmarried but I imagine virtuous’. Given the date of her marriage this must have taken place just prior to it. Penelope was described as being a close friend of Joshua Reynolds and his sister Frances.
It is reputed that Penelope exhibited at the Society of Artists in 1761, 1762, 1771, and 1772, however, on checking The Society of Artists of Great Britain, 1760-1791; the Free Society of Artists, 1761-1783; a complete dictionary of contributors and their work from the foundation of the societies to 1791, the earlier entries refer to Mrs Thomas (Ann) Carwardine, this seems more likely to actually relate to Penelope’s mother Ann despite the reference to Thomas.
Penelope married James Butler, a church organist at Ranelagh and St Margaret’s and St Anne’s Westminster. The couple were married at St James, Piccadilly, St James the Less, Thorndike Street, 26th May 1763. Until now there have always been two possible dates for her marriage, many sources saying that she married around 1772, gave up her work at that time and that no miniatures by her after this date are known. The majority of her works are said to have been produced between 1750 and 1765.
Her husband James also taught organ and harpsichord at Mr Dubdat’s on Berwick Street, Soho until his death in 1774. Fortunately for us James left a will in which he named not only Penelope, but also his 4 children from his previous marriage – Elizabeth (1751), Harriott (1755), Thomas Hamley (1756) and Anthony (1757). He also made provision for Charles Mellish of Blyth, a relative of Mrs Gooch who we have written about previously.
Sources also give the date of Penelope’s demise as being 14th October 1805 at Preston Wynne, Herefordshire (the place of her mother’s birth). However, when checking her last will and testament this cannot be correct as her will was written on the 15th January 1804 and then proven on the 30th October 1804. Penelope was, at the time of writing her will living in the village of East Colne, Essex.
However, her death did take place in Herefordshire according to the Monthly Magazine and British Register, Volume 18, Issue 2 and the Bath Chronicle reported her death on the 18th Oct 1804. With the kind help of the Hereford Archives we have managed to establish there was a burial on the 16th October 1804 for a Priscilla Butler, rather than a Penelope, but that her gravestone does record her correctly, so possibly a simple mistake on the part of the vicar who got the sisters mixed up, presumably, let’s hope he named her correctly during the funeral service!
To be certain that we had found the correct persons will we have noted some of the beneficiaries:-
Her sister Mary Wilson was left a long India shawl, agate snuff box and £10 for mourning. Her cousin Martha Allan – £10 for mourning and £10 annual annuity between Martha and Mary, also her clothes to be divided between them.
Her sister Henrietta Pugh – received £100 with Rebecca Probert getting £10 for mourning. Lucy Crichton received the portrait of her father the late William Crichton Esq. Her sister-in-law, wife of her brother Thomas Carwardine, a gold repeating watch in trust for her daughter Ann Carwardine and £200 in the 4 percents, hoop diamond ring, ring connected with her brother and the long shawl given to her by Claude Benset Esq. To her niece Ann Carwardine she bequeathed diamond earrings. To the poor of the village of Preston Wynne in Withington, Hereford, £5 and her brother Thomas Carwardine received the residue of her estate.
Anne Gilchrist, her life and writings. edited by Herbert Harlakenden Gilchrist, with a prefatory notice by William Michael Rossetti