Diana was an artist, who, if I’m honest, I had not come across until recently, but when I saw this portrait by Diana, of an unknown girl and simply had to know more about Diana’s life. Many of her portraits are in private collections so are difficult to view, but I have managed to find a few to share.
Who was Diana? It’s difficult to establish exactly when Diana was born, but it was around 1760, to parents George Dietz, a jeweller and his wife, Elizabeth.
The couple had 4 known children, Diana who I think was the eldest, then George, named for his father, who was born 1761, but as there are no further sightings of him, it’s fairly safe to say he died in infancy. The couple went on to have a further 2 daughters, Amelia (1763-1837) and Ann Sophia (1764-1819).
Diana and Amelia were trained as artists, with Diana winning five guineas and the Greater Silver Pallet for her painting of flowers in 1775, and another entry confirmed her as being a pupil of a Mr Pars, who I have not been able to trace.
I have read that she also studied under the famous artist, Jeremiah Meyer, but to date, I have found nothing to substantiate this.
In March 1780, according to London Lives, the family home at 236 Oxford Street was robbed and here we have a handwritten letter by Diana submitted to the court:
A little under a year later, on 1 February 1781, Diana made her first marriage, to Haydock Hill at St Marylebone.
Interestingly one of the witnesses was a German merchant, Theophilus Christian Blanchenhagen (c1736-1814) whose name we will come across later.
The couple began their married life at 41 Broad Street, Golden Square, London, but their marriage was to be short lived. However, they did produce three children – Elizabeth (1781-1868), Haydock James (182-1834) and Catherine who was born December 1783, but who sadly died aged just one year, eleven weeks and was buried on 28 January 1785.
Tragedy would strike Diana again, just 4 months later, when her husband, Haydock died. Haydock was buried on 11 May 1785, at St Marylebone church.
Finding herself a widow, in her mid-twenties, with two very young children to raise alone, she made the decision, presumably with help from family and friends to continue her artwork, but not in England where she would have had her father and siblings, plus in-laws around her for support – instead she set sail for India.
On 21 September 1785, Diana and her two surviving children made the long and arduous crossing to India, having been granted permission by the Court of Directors to travel there as a portrait painter. Her mother in law, Elizabeth Hill, of Newman Street, London and Theophilus Blanchenhagen, a very affluent merchant, of Broad Street, (which, coincidentally was where Diana and her children also lived), acted as her sponsors.
She arrived in Calcutta sometime in 1786 and began painting portraits of Europeans, much to the irritation of a jealous painter, Ozias Humphrey, who was already working in India.
Humphrey described Diana as a
‘pretty widow with to children’. Her popularity alarmed him and said that he would ‘rather have all the male painters in England landed in Bengal than this single woman’.
Not only did Diana continue with her painting in India, but also found herself a new husband and on 15 November 1788 she married Lieutenant Thomas Harriott (1753-1817) of the First Native Infantry, whose portrait we see above.
On the 13 October 1789, the couple were to baptise their first child, a daughter, named Diana Maria, as to whether this child survived infancy is not known, but the following year saw the birth of their first son together, Thomas George (1790-1857).
In February of 1792, her sister, Ann Sophia, known to all as Sophia, arrived to join her sister in India, again, Mrs Hill was to be her sponsor, as she had done for Diana. Sophia arrived around the time that Diana gave birth to their next child, William Henry (1792-1839). William was followed two years later by their final child, another daughter, Clara Amelia (1794-1843). Of this brood of children, 4 survived into adulthood. In February 1806, Thomas resigned his commission and the family returned to England, taking up residence at West Hall, Mortlake. By this time Diana had given up painting, but her sister, Amelia was still working as an artist and presumably living with her father.
1816 her father, George died. In his will written in 1810, his occupation as that of jeweller was confirmed.
He left legacies for his 3 daughters – Diana, Amelia and Ann Sophia and his grandchildren. At probate his estate was valued at about £1500 (approx. £120k today). His address was give at Great Pultney Street, formerly of Vauxhall Terrace, Lambeth, but he was buried on 26 July 1816, at St Mary’s Lambeth, named George Erchart Dietz.
In April of the following year, Diana’s beloved husband, Thomas died and was buried at St Mary the Virgin, Mortlake. In his will he bequeathed his estate to Diana and their children. On 2 September 1819, Diana’s sister, Ann Sophia died, leaving just the two siblings.
The 1841 census shows Diana living at Sussex Place, London, she is noted to be of independent means. Her companion at that time was Sibella Harriott née Hunter, her daughter in law, the wife of Thomas George Harriott.
Diana, it is to be assumed, lived a quiet later life, with her sister, Amelia close by, until her death in 1837. Diana, however, would outlive them all, dying on 10 February 1844.
She was buried beside her husband at St Mary’s Mortlake, at the ripe old age of 84, but at least we still have her art to remember her by. Diana also left a will, the bulk of which was left to her son, Thomas George, with bequests made to all her grandchildren.
George Dietz Probate – Bank of England Wills Extracts 1717-1845
Burial of George Dietz – London Church of England Parish Registers; Reference Number: P85/MRY1/487
Archer, Mildred. Patna Painting
Williamson, George Charles. Life and Works of Ozias Humphrey
Foskett, Daphne. Collecting Miniatures
Will of Diana Harriott
Will of George Dietz
Will of Thomas Harriott
Will of Amelia Mary Dietz
Portrait Miniature on Ivorine of the Prominent Merchant Theophilus Blanckenhagen by Diana Hill (nee Dietz) 1760-1844. Courtesy of Antiques.co.uk
3 thoughts on “The artist, Diana Hill née Deitz 1760 – 1844”
Fascinating article, what a lot of work!
Thank you Sylvia, she was such a fascinating character, I really couldn’t imagine back then, taking two children and sailing to India … but, of course she did just that!
She certainly was a brave lady…..and a very talented one too! I have a few Georgian miniatures, all inherited, but unsigned…sigh!
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