Art Detectives: Miss Mary Hatton by George Romney

We came across this portrait by George Romney, in the Frick Collection purely by chance, and wanted to know more about who the sitter was, so off we disappeared down one of our proverbial rabbit hole in search of more information about her.

Miss Mary Finch Hatton by George Romney, 1788.
Miss Mary Finch Hatton by George Romney, 1788. The Frick Collection

Our first port of call was the Frick itself, who were extremely helpful and sent us all the information they had about the painting. So, exactly who was this enigmatic woman?

We knew that  Dido Elizabeth Belle’s cousin Lady Elizabeth Mary Murray had married into the Finch-Hatton family, but we hadn’t come across this lady within the family, which slightly surprised us, as she would have been somewhere around the same sort of age as both Dido and Elizabeth, perhaps a little older, but not much.

Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, c.1778. Formerly attributed to Johann Zoffany. Now attributed to David Martin
Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, c.1778. Formerly attributed to Johann Zoffany. Now attributed to David Martin

Some sources had suggested that the portrait was possibly Lady Elizabeth Murray, but somehow that didn’t seem to fit, we couldn’t see a likeness at all.  There was another suggestion that she was a  different Lady Mary Hatton, the daughter of Daniel Finch-Hatton, 7th Earl of Winchilsea, but it couldn’t possibly be her, as she died in 1761 and the portrait wasn’t painting until 1788, also her appearance confirmed that it had to post-date 1761.

Eventually, we came across a book, Pictures in the Collection of Henry Clay Frick which contained the same portrait and confirmed for us that she was:

Miss Mary Hatton, the daughter of Sir John Finch-Hatton of Longstanton Hall, Cambridgeshire and wife of Hale Wortham Esq.

Further information from Romney’s own ledger tells us the number of sittings it took to complete the painting, where Mary was living at the time and how much was paid.

It seems quite feasible that this was a pre-wedding painting, as Mary married a gentleman named Hale Wortham at St Marylebone, on 4th December 1788, the very year it was painted or perhaps her mother wanted a painting of her daughter as a keepsake.

Church at Marylebone by James Miller.
The church at Marylebone by James Miller. Yale Center for British Art, Gift of Paul Mellon in memory of Dudley Snelgrove

However, with more research, we discovered that even this information wasn’t quite accurate, she was not the daughter of Sir John Finch-Hatton, but his sister and that she was the eldest daughter of Sir Thomas Hatton, 8th Baron of Longstanton, Cambridgeshire (1728-1787).

The marriage allegation for Harriot Askham and Sir Thomas Hatton
The marriage allegation for Harriott Askham and Sir Thomas Hatton

Sir Thomas and his wife Harriott Dingley (daughter of Dingley Askham Esq), married 22nd April 1752 and had 8 children – Mary, in the portrait, was the eldest and born 4th October 1754 at Conington, Cambridgeshire.

Her siblings were Harriet (1755); Frances (1757); John (1758) later to become the 9th Baronet; Elizabeth Ann (1759); Susanna (1761); Anne (1763) and the youngest, Thomas Dingley Hatton (1771) who became the 10th and final Baronet.  When Sir Thomas died in 1788 he helpfully named all his children individually in his will, so we were now certain we had the correct person.

An entry in the Dictionary of National Biography suggests that before Mr Wortham, Mary’s hand in marriage had been sought by Dr Richard Farmer of Emanuel College, Cambridge.

At this time he [Farmer] formed an intimacy with Sir Thomas Hatton, bart., of Long Stanton, Cambridgeshire, and for some time aspired to the hand of his eldest daughter. The marriage was postponed on account of Farmer’s want of means, and when after many years this objection was removed, he found on mature reflection that his habits of life were too deeply rooted to be changed with any chance of perfect happiness to either party. Such is George Dyer’s version of the story; but Cole says: ‘Dr. Coleman told me, 3 May 1782, that he had it from sufficient authority, that Sir Thomas Hatton had refused his eldest daughter to Dr. Farmer, but upon what foundation he knew not. The lady is 27 or 28, and Dr. Farmer about 47 or 48. It will probably be a great mortification to both, as to every one it seemed that their regard for each other was reciprocal. Dr. Farmer’s preferment is equal to 800l. per annum; and I guess the lady’s fortune, there being six daughters and two sons, not very great’

Richard Farmer by George Romney. Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge
Richard Farmer by George Romney. Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge

We still hadn’t worked out where the Finch-Hatton mistake had come from in her name, she was simply Mary Hatton, not Finch-Hatton. Even at her death, there was no reference to the Finch part of her surname. According to the Oxford Journal 1st November 1828 and the London Evening Standard, 21st October 1828:

Mary, relict of the late Colonel Wortham and eldest daughter of Sir Thomas Hatton, Baronet of LongStanton, died 17th October, aged 74.

So we moved on the checking her will which was proven on 20th November 1828. Mary left a number of bequests to each of her living sisters, Anne, Elizabeth Ann, and Susanna, all just named as Hatton, not a ‘Finch-Hatton’ in sight. She also left £200 (which is around £13k in today’s money) to Addenbrookes hospital.

Finally, this led us to the will of one of her siblings, Anne who died in 1842 and in her will she left part of the family estate to a relative – Rev Daniel Heneage Finch-Hatton, the son of Lady Elizabeth Murray, so it seems likely that is where the erroneous addition to Mary’s surname came from, but quite what their connection was to the Finch-Hatton’s we still haven’t managed to confirm, so, more work required!

Sources and Notes:

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 18: Farmer, Richard by Thompson Cooper

A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies of England, Ireland and Scotland by John Burke and Bernard Burke, 1841

Pictures in the Collection of Henry Clay Frick: at One East Seventieth Street, New York, 1910

Birth/baptism of Mary and her siblings – Familysearch online

The will of Sir Thomas Hatton (1788) – The National Archives; Kew, England; Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1161

The will of Mary Wortham nee Finch (1828) –  The National Archives; Kew, England; Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1748

The will  of Anne Finch (1832) – The National Archives; Kew, England; Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1799

Hale Wortham died February 19th, 1828 (Cambridge Chronicle and Journal 29 February 1828)

7 thoughts on “Art Detectives: Miss Mary Hatton by George Romney

    1. Sarah Murden

      Aww thank you so much. According to their website it’s not on display right now, but might be worth asking them if there’s any way you could view it 🙂

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  1. Hello Sarah! Once again the super-sleuth at work! As always very interesting reading and outstanding research. I have two questions for you: I am confused about the title of the second painting in your post; it reads “Portrait of Dido Belle Elizabeth Lindsay and her cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray” Now, is clear that there is only one English woman in the painting, the other lady is clearly an Indian servant, who, by the way, makes a puzzling gesture pointing to her right eye, like saying “watch out”. First question: Why the wrong/misleading title? Second question: Which is the source of this painting? Regards

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    1. Sarah Murden

      As always we’re delighted you have enjoyed our research. Dido Elizabeth Belle was the daughter of Sir John Lindsay, her mother’s surname was Bell(e) but in the painting, she has her father’s name surname included. The other girl is her cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray, the girls were great friends as well as cousins and grew up together at Caenwood (now known as Kenwood) House, the home of Lord Mansfield. The painting attempts to depict that the girls are of almost equal social status – Dido was not an Indian servant, despite the turban. The painting of the two girls is now housed at Scone Palace, Scotland – https://scone-palace.co.uk/dido-elizabeth-belle-her-story-1761-1804. It has always been thought to have been painted by Zoffany, but this is now in doubt as there are other artists who are more likely. There’s more information about the girls on the Kenwood House website too – http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/learn/histories/women-in-history/womens/dido-belle/ Hope this helps 🙂

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