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

Art Detectives: a new perspective on the portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle

In our previous blog about the turban that Dido Elizabeth Belle was wearing in the portrait of her with her cousin, the Honourable Lady Elizabeth Murray, we mentioned that the portrait was reputed to have been painted by Johann Zoffany and we promised to give you an update with some new information, so here we go.

We now know more about the turban, courtesy of one of our lovely readers, Etienne Daly, who has been diligently researching Dido for some considerable years now.

The turban that Dido was wearing was not merely a fashion statement but was a gift to her from her father, Sir John Lindsay, so it was not part of a portrait ‘costume’ as had been assumed.

Sir John was invested as a Knight of the Bath in an extravagant ceremony in India on 11th March 1771.

A sketch of Sir John Lindsay KB, Prince Of Arcot (and father of Dido Elizabeth Belle), as he would have looked around the time of his investiture at the Chepauk Palace, Madras, India on 11th March 1771 when he was the King's ambassador to India. By Ian Sciacaluga.
A sketch of Sir John Lindsay KB, Prince Of Arcot (and father of Dido Elizabeth Belle), as he would have looked around the time of his investiture at the Chepauk Palace, Madras, India on 11th March 1771 when he was the King’s ambassador to India.

At that time he was presented with ‘a very rich dress of gold brocade, made after the European manner with the star upon the left breast,’ a ring with several titles engraved on it in Persian and a turban, all given by Nawab Muhammed Ali Khan Wallajah. It is also understood that, at the same time, Sir  John was bestowed the title of Prince of Arcot by the ruling Nawab who was an ally of the East India Company.

Muhammad Ali Khan, Nawab of Arcot by Tilly Kettle, c.1772-1776. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Muhammad Ali Khan, Nawab of Arcot by Tilly Kettle, c.1772-1776. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

We think it seems a lovely gesture that she would wear it as a ‘nod’ to her father, in the only known portrait of her. 

Dido Elizabeth Belle

If you look closely at the turban you will notice that it sparkles; it was studded with gold and diamonds. You will also note the presence of a black ostrich feather at the back of the turban. Now, this was a fashion statement! It is also worth mentioning that the fashion of the day was to wear rouge and Dido was no exception to this.

Ostrich feathers were all the rage in the mid-1770s and Dido’s uncle, Viscount Stormont bought some back from Paris in 1774. Perhaps he gave one to Dido and following the fashion, she added it to the turban?

The preposterous head dress, or the featherd lady, 1776.
The preposterous headdress, or the featherd lady, 1776. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Viscount Stormont also presented one to the Duchess of Devonshire on his return, and being the fashion doyenne of the day, she sent the fashion world into a spin by adding it to her hat. This sparked the caricaturists into a frenzy, creating the most elaborate caricatures with the largest of plumes, as you can see above.

The Duchess of Devonshire by Joshua Reynolds.
The Duchess of Devonshire by Joshua Reynolds.

It has to be said that the Duchess of Devonshire was mocked mercilessly and according to the British Museum:

Lady Louisa Stuart wrote in her old age of “the outrageous zeal manifested against the first introduction of ostrich feathers as a headdress. This fashion was not attacked as fantastic or unbecoming or inconvenient or expensive, but as seriously wrong or immoral. The unfortunate feathers were insulted mobbed burned almost pelted…”. 

Massachusetts colonial governor Thomas Hutchinson by Edward Truman
Massachusetts colonial governor Thomas Hutchinson by Edward Truman. Massachusetts Historical Society

When Thomas Hutchinson, Governor of Massachusetts, dined with Lord Mansfield in 1779 he met Dido and recorded the following in his diary:

A black came in after dinner and sat with the ladies, and after coffee, walked with the company in the gardens, one of the young ladies having her arm within the other. She had a very high cap and her wool was much frizzled in her neck, but not enough to answer the large curls now in fashion. She is neither handsome nor genteel – pert enough.

We now move on to look at the artist of the portrait. It has long been reputed to have been painted by Johann (John) Zoffany, but this is now disputed, and to this day it remains ‘artist unknown’.

It is acknowledged that Zoffany went to Europe for several years, finally returning to England at some stage in 1779 the very year that the portrait was reputed to have been painted.

From the account of his life, John Zoffany, R.A. his life and works: 1735-1810, it tells us that he remained in Coblenz well into the summer of 1779. Although not impossible, it certainly would have given him little time to have painted Dido on his return. So, if we discount Zoffany that leaves only a few other possible artists, two of whom we think were feasible. One would be Allan Ramsay’s protégé’s David Martin, who was known to the family as he painted the stunning portrait of Lord Mansfield.

William Murray (1705-1793), 1st Earl of Mansfield; David Martin
William Murray (1705-1793), 1st Earl of Mansfield; David Martin; English Heritage, Kenwood

The slight difficulty we have with the portrait of Dido and Lady Elizabeth Murray being painted by Martin is that again there is a question as to whether he was still living in England in 1779 or if he had returned to his native Scotland. Certainly, we know that in 1780 Martin was in Scotland when he was admitted to the Royal Company of Archers. Again, the dates are tight.

If it was definitively painted in 1779, then it is feasible that he could have at least had some input into the work, especially as Ramsay had severely injured his hand a few years previously which stopped him taking on any major projects.

The other difficulty we have with Martin is that Etienne has checked Lord Mansfield’s accounts. There is no record of Lord Mansfield having paid him for such a work and it seems unlikely that Martin would have painted it for no recompense. So, that leaves only the principal painter to the King (George III), Allan Ramsay, and although we don’t have the expertise to validate this, with the research we have done it would appear far more likely that it was painted by him. Why? Well, there are several reasons to suppose this.

Allan Ramsay, self portrait c.1755-1756.
Allan Ramsay, self portrait c.1755-1756. National Galleries Scotland.

Firstly, we understand that the portrait was commissioned by Lord Mansfield, but there is no record in his accounts of him paying for any such portraiture.

Secondly, given the socially precarious position Dido held in Georgian society, then why not ‘keep it in the family’? Especially when you have an extremely distinguished portrait artist as an uncle to call upon, in the guise of none other than the Scottish portrait painter, Allan Ramsay who was married to Margaret Lindsay, the sister of Sir John Lindsay.

The Artist's Wife: Margaret Lindsay of Evelick, c 1726 - 1782 by Allan Ramsay.
The Artist’s Wife: Margaret Lindsay of Evelick, c 1726 – 1782 by Allan Ramsay. National Galleries Scotland

Thirdly, despite an earlier family ‘falling out’ over Ramsay being not regarded as a suitable match for Sir John’s sister, we know that the family had been reconciled and Ramsay was, at this time, close to Dido’s extended family. Amongst his paintings, there was one, if not two portraits of Sir John Lindsay himself, so again, it would seem natural for him to paint his illegitimate daughter. Ramsay also named Lord Mansfield and Sir John Lindsay in his will, another sign of the close familial ties.

Captain Sir John Lindsay (1737-1788) by Allan Ramsay
Captain Sir John Lindsay (1737-1788) by Allan Ramsay; Glasgow Museums

Finally, the posing of the subjects in the painting appears very relaxed and informal as if being painted by someone the girls knew well and were comfortable with.

Hopefully one day someone will be able to validate the artist and settle that unanswered question once and for all.

To see the portrait of Dido and Lady Elizabeth in situ, it would be well worth a visit to Scone Palace, Perth, Scotland or to the home, where she spent many of her years, Kenwood  House (Caenwood as it was formerly known as), Hampstead.

Sources:

The History of the Royal Company of Archers: The Queen’s Bodyguard for Scotland by Sir James Balfour Paul

General Evening Post, September 14, 1771 – September 17, 1771

English Common Law in the Age of Mansfield, by James Oldham

John Zoffany, R.A. his life and works: 1735-1810

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Church at Marylebone by James Miller.

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

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, Susanna and Frances, 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 1832 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)

Meissonier, Jean Louis Ernest; An Artist Showing his Work; The Wallace Collection

A chance discovery or a red herring: is this another portrait of Grace Dalrymple Elliott?

The earliest known portrait of the infamous eighteenth-century courtesan, Grace Dalrymple Elliott is a miniature painted by Richard Cosway around the time of her marriage to Dr (later Sir) John Eliot. It can be viewed on the cover of our biography of Grace, An Infamous Mistress.

Incidentally, Cosway lived on Berkeley Row where Grace was seen in a bagnio with the worthless Viscount Valentia, an indiscretion which led to a Criminal Conversation trial and her divorce; Cosway was called to the trial as a witness and testified to the disreputability of Mrs Jane Price’s house.

An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Infamous-Mistress-Celebrated-Dalrymple-Elliott/dp/1473844835

Then there are the two well-known portraits of Grace by Thomas Gainsborough, both now held in museums in New York. The full-length of Mrs Elliott was commissioned by her lover the 4th Earl (later 1st Marquess) of Cholmondeley and hung in his mansion in Piccadilly, and remained there even after their romance was over and Grace was in Paris, in the arms of the Duke of Orléans. Reputedly, the young Prince of Wales stood in front of this portrait and expressed his wish to meet the original; Cholmondeley was despatched to Paris to bring Grace home and she enjoyed a few short weeks as the Prince’s paramour and gained a permanent reminder and claim to the royal purse in the form of their daughter, born nine months later, Georgiana Seymour. We have examined this portrait, now in the Met Museum, in more detail in a previous blog post.

Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough
Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough (Metropolitan Museum of Art).

While her star burned brightly as Prinny’s courtesan (she replaced Perdita aka the actress and courtesan Mary Darby Robinson in the prince’s affections), Gainsborough was commissioned to paint a head and shoulders portrait of Grace. Although by the time it was finished, the prince had long since abandoned its subject, it is a stunning portrait and one that gained an instant fame when it was first exhibited. Grace, it was thought, exuded a much too ‘knowing’ look.

Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough

These are all the confirmed portraits of Grace. There is a chalk drawing by Hoppner which is traditionally thought to be of Grace, and the jury is out on this one with us. It could possibly be her (we’ve discussed this drawing before too, here).

Unidentified lady, thought to be Grace Dalrymple Elliott by John Hoppner, British Museum.
An unidentified lady thought to be Grace Dalrymple Elliott by John Hoppner, British Museum.

But Grace was a noted beauty and, for many years, a fixture in the society gossip columns. We can’t believe that there were no other portraits of her. We know of none painted while she was resident in France, and the Duke of Orléans would surely have commissioned a portrait or at least a miniature of his stunning mistress. It was with some excitement then, that we noticed a pastel portrait supposed to be of Grace had been added on to The Getty site. The provenance for the sitter being Grace comes from a 1906 edition of The Connoisseur, in which the portrait is reproduced as a colour plate; it is this image which is on The Getty website. The publication gives no other evidence for claiming the sitter is Grace. However, we can’t see Grace in this portrait (although we’ll grant the nose is a similar shape). Doing a little digging we found that there are several versions of this portrait. Many have passed through various auction houses over the years, as a portrait of an unknown woman, one is held in Riga Castle and one in the Royal Collection where it is traditionally claimed to be a likeness of one of the daughters of George III. So, we’ll leave this one with you, for your response. Do you think it is Grace, or not?

Pastel portrait claimed by The Connoisseur (1906) to be of Grace Dalrymple Elliott, but we doubt the provenance of this. Read why on our blog.
Pastel portrait reproduced from The Connoisseur (1906) and claimed to be of Grace Dalrymple Elliott.

 

Left, the pastel portrait reputed to be of Grace Dalrymple Elliott and right, for comparison, a cropped image from the full-length portrait of Grace by Thomas Gainsborough.
Left, the pastel portrait reputed to be of Grace Dalrymple Elliott and right, for comparison, a cropped image from the full-length portrait of Grace by Thomas Gainsborough.

 

Sources:

The Connoisseur, volume XVI, 1906

Neil Jeffares, Dictionary of pastellists before 1800

Sandpit near Sudbury, Suffolk by Joshua Kirby (1716-1774)

Sarah Trimmer née Kirby (1741-1810), author, critic and educational reformer

Sarah Trimmer née Kirby, author, critic and religious and educational reformer, was born in 1741 at Ipswich, the only daughter of the Suffolk landscape painter Joshua Kirby (a close friend of Thomas Gainsborough) and his wife Sarah née Bell. The Kirby family, including Sarah’s younger brother, William moved to London in 1755 where Joshua Kirby tutored the Prince of Wales (the future George III) in perspective.

Sarah Kirby (née Bull) and her husband (John) Joshua Kirby by Thomas Gainsborough, c.1751-52. © National Portrait Gallery, London
Sarah Kirby (née Bull) and her husband (John) Joshua Kirby by Thomas Gainsborough, c.1751-52. © National Portrait Gallery, London

Many well-known personalities of the day counted the Kirbys as friends, including William Hogarth and Samuel Johnson and, as befitted the daughter of an artist, and one with social connections to the best artistic and literary talents of the day, Sarah later had her portrait painted three times, by Henry Howard, George Romney and Thomas Lawrence. She herself was a talented amateur artist, and several miniatures by her survive.

Sarah Trimmer by Sir Thomas Lawrence, c.1790. © National Portrait Gallery, London
Sarah Trimmer by Sir Thomas Lawrence, c.1790. © National Portrait Gallery, London

In time, the family moved to Kew when Joshua Kirby was appointed Clerk to the Works of the Royal Household at Kew Palace and it was at Kew that Sarah met her future husband, James Trimmer whose family owned a brick making business at Brentford; the young couple married on 21st September 1762, at Ealing. The notice of their marriage in the Ipswich Journal reveals the name by which Sarah was known to her family.

MARRIAGE – At Great Ealing, Mr. James Trimmer, of Brentford, to Miss Sally Kirby, of the Chapelry of Kew.

A View of the Palace at Kew from the Lawn, in the Royal Gardens at Kew, 1763. This plate was engraved after Joshua Kirby for William Chambers’s Plans, Elevations, Sections and Perspective Views of the Gardens and Buildings at Kew, published in 1763 and dedicated to the Dowager Princess of Wales.
A View of the Palace at Kew from the Lawn, in the Royal Gardens at Kew, 1763. This plate was engraved after Joshua Kirby for William Chambers’s Plans, Elevations, Sections and Perspective Views of the Gardens and Buildings at Kew, published in 1763 and dedicated to the Dowager Princess of Wales. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

The Trimmers had twelve children in all, equally divided between boys and girls and – as she was responsible for their education – Sarah, both a mother and a teacher, discovered a lifelong passion for education. She founded the first Sunday school for poor children in 1786 and began to write and publish books, initially treatises on how to establish Sunday schools with a sub-text of social reform and then branching out into instructive works and fiction for children, such as her Fabulous Histories. She also reviewed children’s literature in her periodical, The Guardian of Education, with the aim of influencing both authors and publishers and redefining the content of these books.

She used to say, that as soon as she became a mother, her thoughts were turned so entirely to the subject of education, that she scarcely read a book upon any other topic, and believed she almost wearied her friends by making it so frequently the subject of conversation. Having experienced the greatest success in her plan of educating her own family, she naturally wished to extent that blessing to others, and this probably first induced her to become an author.

After James Trimmer died in 1792, Sarah and her unmarried daughters moved to Brentford, and it was there that she died on 15th December 1810, in the act of writing a letter.

Sarah Trimmer by Henry Howard, c.1798. © National Portrait Gallery, London
Sarah Trimmer by Henry Howard, c.1798. © National Portrait Gallery, London

She had been known to fall asleep at her desk in her study, and so when her daughters found her, with her head bowed forward onto her bosom, they assumed she merely slumbering and it was some time before they could be made to believe that she was dead. This gave rise to a few ‘Chinese whispers’ which were reported in the newspapers, with a slightly more lurid take on poor Sarah’s demise.

MRS TRIMMER – This authoress died under circumstances of a peculiar nature. Having received intelligence of the death of a favourite sister, she sat down to write a letter of condolence to her family; but soon after, on her female servant going into the room, she found her mistress sitting, apparently in the utmost composure, with her pen in one hand, and her head reclining on the other; in this attitude it appears that she died. What added to the singularity of this extraordinary occurrence was, that although she had been dead three weeks, her countenance had not changed in the least, and in consequence her relatives had directed that no interment should take place, in the hope (a vain one, it is feared) that the body might be recovered from a trance.

Sarah had no sister, favourite or otherwise, and her sister-in-law – and her brother – had both died some years previously. She was buried on the 5th January 1811, in a family plot in St Mary’s churchyard, Ealing, the delay between her death and burial probably being more to do with the weather and the season rather than any fanciful notions supposed to have been entertained by the children of such an eminently sensible, moral and instructive mother.

Portrait of Sarah Trimmer by George Romney (1734-1802). Image taken from Illustrated Catalogue of the Fifth Series of 100 Paintings by Old Masters, being a portion of the Sedelmeyer Gallery, Paris, 1899.
Portrait of Sarah Trimmer by George Romney (1734-1802). Image taken from Illustrated Catalogue of the Fifth Series of 100 Paintings by Old Masters, being a portion of the Sedelmeyer Gallery, Paris, 1899.

One of Sarah’s daughters, at least, followed in her footsteps; her daughter Selina was appointed by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire to be the governess to their daughters and their cousins, including the future Lady Caroline Lamb. You can read more about Selina and her life as a governess in the Cavendish household here, in a blog post by Lauren Gilbert.

 

Sources not mentioned above:

Ipswich Journal, 25th September 1762

Chester Chronicle, 1st February 1811

Chalmer’s General Biographical Dictionary, volume 30

Brentford High Street Project: The Trimmer family

 

Featured image:

Sandpit near Sudbury, Suffolk by Joshua Kirby (1716-1774)

Painted c.1780, Jenny Davis is portrayed as a bride but it would be a further two years before she actually walked down the aisle of Bath Abbey to marry John Langton, a wholesale linen-draper from Cheapside. She married on 16th April 1782, by licence and with the consent of her father.

Miss Jenny Davis as a bride, 1780

Charles Davis (or Davies) was a painter and artists’ supplier who lived in Bath in the eighteenth-century. In 1778 he placed an advertisement in the Bath Chronicle which both promoted his own business and offered a house in Westgate Buildings for rental. The house was taken by another painter, Thomas Beach, who evidently got to know the Davis family very well for he painted Charles Davis as well as three other members of the family.

CHARLES DAVIS, Painter, the lower end of Westgate-street, near King’s mead-square, sells on the best terms, – All sorts of fine Colours, dry or prepared in oil or water… Crayons… N.B. A convenient House, with four rooms on a floor, situate in Westgate-Buildings, to lett.

Charles Davis had married Hannah Rotten in 1764 at St. James’s in Bath. Thomas Beach’s portrait of Hannah was executed shortly before her death in 1782.

Mrs Charles Davis (1726-1782) by Thomas Beach. Victoria Art Gallery
Mrs Charles Davis (1726-1782) by Thomas Beach; Victoria Art Gallery

The Davis’ only daughter was known as Jenny but was probably the Ann Davis born in Bath in 1766. She was painted by Thomas Beach twice.

Miss Jenny Davis by Thomas Beach. Victoria Art Gallery
Miss Jenny Davis by Thomas Beach; Victoria Art Gallery

In the second portrait of her, painted c.1780, Jenny is portrayed as a bride but it would be a further two years before she actually walked down the aisle of Bath Abbey to marry John Langton, a wholesale linen-draper from Cheapside. She married as Jenny Davis, on 16th April 1782, by licence and with the consent of her father; if hers is the baptism found in 1766 then she was only aged around 16-years at the time of her wedding and was a mere 14-years-of-age when she posed as a bride for Thomas Beach.

Miss Davis as a Bride by Thomas Beach. Victoria Art Gallery
Miss Davis as a Bride by Thomas Beach; Victoria Art Gallery

Eight years later, in 1790, the Davis’ eldest son, Charles Davis Jr, married Lydia Winter; by this union they are the grandparents of the noted Bath architect Major Charles Edward Davis. Lydia was also painted by Thomas Beach, after her marriage. (This painting is incorrectly noted in some sources as being the image of Charles Davis Senior’s second wife.)

MARRIAGES – Thursday, at St. Andrew’s church, Holborn, Mr. Charles Davis, jun. of Bath, to Miss Lydia Winter, of New Ormond-street.

Mrs Charles Davis, Grandmother of Major C.E. Davis by Thomas Beach. Victoria Art Gallery
Mrs Charles Davis, Grandmother of Major C. E. Davis by Thomas Beach; Victoria Art Gallery

Charles Davis Senior married for a second time on 18th October 1792, to Dorothy Townley. The marriage took place at St George’s in Bloomsbury. Dorothy was the sister-in-law of the Bath born actor, Richard Wroughton, who trod the boards of both the Covent Garden and Drury Lane theatres to some acclaim, and who was later a theatre manager. He was an ‘actor of the old school, in which he always maintained a most respectable rank; and as a private Gentleman he was throughout life deservedly respected and esteemed’. Dorothy was mentioned alongside Richard Wroughton in the will of the actress Elizabeth Bennet who died in 1791. Richard Wroughton’s first wife had been Joanna Wroughton.

MARRIAGES – Mr. Charles Davis, of Mount Beacon, near Bath, to Miss Townley, sister-in-law to Richard Wroughton, Esq; of Charlotte-street, Bloomsbury.

Charles Davis (1741-1805) by Thomas Beach. Victoria Art Gallery
Charles Davis (1741-1805) by Thomas Beach; Victoria Art Gallery

 

Additional image in header: East View of Bath Abbey, c.1805 (Victoria Art Gallery, Bath)

Sources used:

Dictionary of pastellists before 1800 (online edition), Neil Jeffares

British and Irish Paintings in Public Collections: An Index of British and Irish Oil Paintings by Artists Born Before 1870 in Public and Institutional Collections in the United Kingdom and Ireland by Christopher Wright and Catherine May Gordon. (Yale University Press, 2006)

The Collected Letters of Robert Southey, part two: 1798-1803, edited by Ian Packer and Lynda Pratt.

A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers and Other Stage Personnel in London, 1600-1800, volumes 1 and 2, Philip H. Highfill, Kalman A. Burnim and Edward A. Langhans. (SIU Press, 1973)

A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers and Other Stage Personnel in London, 1600-1800: W. West to Zwingham, Philip H. Highfill, Kalman A. Burnim and Edward A. Langhans. (SIU Press, 1993)

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 18th April 1782

Kentish Gazette, 23rd April 1790 and 26th October 1792.

Bell’s Weekly Messenger, 10th February 1822

Sir Joshua Reynolds, self portrait; National Portrait Gallery, London

James Turner and George White, beggars and artists’ models

James Turner and George White were beggars and it might seem odd that they should have been immortalised in works of art by the likes of Sir Joshua Reynolds and Nathaniel Hone, the elder. In actual fact they were used by some of the greatest painters of the eighteenth-century as artist’s models, a nice side-line which supplemented their income derived from begging on the London streets and as casual labourers.

James Turner, with his long white hair and flowing beard and his wise, wrinkled and well-lived-in face was painted in miniature by Nathaniel Hone the elder in 1750. He was reputedly 93-years old and was paid one shilling per hour for his services to the artist, ‘which he asserted he always got by his profession of begging’.

James Turner by Nathaniel Hone the elder (inscribed James Turner a beggar aged 93 who valued his time at a shilling an hour, 1750). Adam's
James Turner by Nathaniel Hone the elder (inscribed James Turner a beggar aged 93 who valued his time at a shilling an hour, 1750). Adam’s

Anglesey Abbey, a National Trust property in Cambridgeshire holds a miniature of an unknown man which is catalogued as possibly being an earlier miniature of James Turner by Nathaniel Hone.

An Unknown Man, possibly James Turner (b.1657) by Nathaniel Hone the elder. Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire
An Unknown Man, possibly James Turner (b.1657) by Nathaniel Hone the elder. Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire

After James, Hone and his great rival Sir Joshua Reynolds both used another beggar in their work, George White. Reynolds used him as the thirteenth-century Italian nobleman, Count Ugolino (featured in Dante’s Divine Comedy) in his 1773 depiction of the count and his children, starved to death.

Count Ugolino and His Children in the Dungeon by Joshua Reynolds; National Trust, Knole
Count Ugolino and His Children in the Dungeon by Joshua Reynolds; National Trust, Knole

George White, a Yorkshireman, became one of Reynold’s favourite models. He was discovered by the artist while working as a casual labourer, laying paving stones.

Old George… owed the case in which he passed his latter days, in great measure to Sir Joshua Reynolds, who found him exerting himself in the laborious employment of thumping down the stones in the street; and observing not only the grand and majestic traits of his countenance, but the dignity of his muscular figure, took him out of a situation to which his strength was by no means equal, clothed, fed, and had him, first as a model in his own painting room, then introduced him as a subject for the students of the Royal Academy.

In winter White would return to Yorkshire as ‘coals be cheap in the north, and warmth be the life of an old man’.

A Man's Head c.1771-3 by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Presented by Sir George Beaumont Bt 1826. Tate
A Man’s Head c.1771-3 by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Presented by Sir George Beaumont Bt 1826. Tate

George White also appears in a portrait named Pope Pavarius (a pun on White’s former profession as a street mender or paviour) by Joshua Reynolds.

Pope Pavarius by Joshua Reynolds, via Wikimedia.
Pope Pavarius by Joshua Reynolds, via Wikimedia.

Nathaniel Hone too used White in his painting, The Pictorial Conjurer displaying the Whole Art of Optical Deception.

Portraits, memoirs, and characters, of remarkable persons (1820) – which does admittedly mix up James Turner and George White – has this to say of The Conjuror.

Some difference existing between Sir Joshua Reynolds and Mr Hone, the latter, in revenge, painted the figure of an old man, with a magic want, conjuring from the flames various designs from old masters, which Sir Joshua had taken for models of some of his best pictures; and had afterwards destroyed the originals. On the death of Mr Hone, in 1784, the whole of his collection of paintings, prints, and drawings, were sold by auction, at Hutchins’ rooms, in King-street, Covent-garden, when the picture of the Conjuror was purchased for sixty guineas, by an agent of Sir Joshua’s, and consigned to the same destructive element that had consumed the old masters.

Sketch for 'The Conjuror' 1775 by Nathaniel Hone. Tate
Sketch for ‘The Conjuror’ 1775 by Nathaniel Hone. Tate

 

More information on Nathaniel Hone, the elder can be found on Mike Rendell’s excellent blog by clicking here.

 

Sources not mentioned or linked to above:

Lowell Libson Ltd, 2015

 

Header image: Sir Joshua Reynolds, self portrait; National Portrait Gallery, London

Fashionable Blues of the 18th century

No-one seems quite sure how the colour blue became associated with the feeling of sadness, some say its origins lay back in Greek mythology whilst others say it has links to the devil. Whatever the true origin, how could anyone possibly feel blue wearing these sumptuous gowns that we’re going to take a look at?

A Lady in Blue 1757 Arthur Devis 1711-1787 Bequeathed by Alan Evans 1974 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T01884
A Lady in Blue 1757 by Arthur Devis. Tate

So many shades of blue exist, from the palest baby blue to darkest navy blue and everything in-between and the colour was clearly very popular during the Georgian era. Given the amazing array of paintings sadly we only have space to share  few with you, but we do hope you enjoy them.

http://www.rollins.edu/cornell-fine-arts-museum/collection/european-art/european-16th-19th-century-portraiture.html
Portrait of La Comtesse de Beaufort, c, 1760 by Louis Michel van Loo. Gift of the Honorable Marilyn Logsdon Menello and Michael A. Menello, in honor of Rollins College President Rita Bornstein, Cornell Fine Arts Museum.

 

An interesting point worth noting about these paintings is that to be create the impression of fabric required a very specific skill and it seems, not a skill that some of the most famous artists had, so they employed  ‘drapery painters’ to paint the more intricate and detailed aspects of fabrics, to ensure that they looked as natural as possible. One of these, who was regarded as being amongst the best was Joseph Van Aken. Another was Peter Toms who was one of founding members of the Royal Academy.

Mr James Peters was Kneller’s drapery painter so it seems highly likely that he painted this stunning blue dress.

Sir Godfrey Kneller. Portrait of Mrs. Bagnal, Circa 1690 - 1720  courtesy of 1tsdibs
Sir Godfrey Kneller. Portrait of Mrs. Bagnal, Circa 1690 – 1720

 

We came across this description in The London Tradesman, of exactly what a drapery painter’s role was so thought you might find it interesting.

The drapery painter is but the lowest degree of a liberal painter; he is employed in dressing the figures, after the painter has finished the face, given the figure its proper attitude and drawn the outlines of the dress or drapery.

A portrait painter who is well employed, has not time to cloath his figures, and therefore employs a drapery painter to finish that part of the work.

This workman must have a tolerable notion of painting in general; but his chief skill consists in his knowledge of colours and the mixing of them, to produce proper shades; for the painter generally draws the outline and leave him to fill up the empty space with proper colours.

The drapery painters are generally employed in signpost drawing, and other sorts of painting that do not require a masterly hand: they have commonly but a dull genius and a mere mechanical head: however, those who are eminent in their way and in the employ of a noted master make very handsome bread; they may sometimes earn a guinea a day, and must be mere bunglers if they cannot make half a guinea.

Their education may be as low as you please; but as in all other branches that handle the pencil, they ought to be early acquainted with the use of it: the sooner they are bound apprentices the greater proficiency they may be expected to make. A sober disposition and a sound constitution are absolutely requisite.

unknown artist; Daughter of a 7th Dragoon Guards Officer; The Military Museum of the Royal Dragoon Guards; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/daughter-of-a-7th-dragoon-guards-officer-10251
unknown artist; Daughter of a 7th Dragoon Guards Officer; The Military Museum of the Royal Dragoon Guards

And our final selection:

495px-sir_joshua_reynolds_-_portrait_of_miss_elizabeth_greenway
Miss Elizabeth Greenway by Sir Joshua Reynolds
Romney, George; Miss Sophia Musters; Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/miss-sophia-musters-144612
Miss Sophia Musters by George Romney; Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery
Romney, George; Margaret Messenger (b.1737), Mrs Walter Strickland; National Trust, Sizergh Castle; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/margaret-messenger-b-1737-mrs-walter-strickland-132097
Margaret Messenger (b.1737), Mrs Walter Strickland by George Romney; National Trust, Sizergh Castle

 

Romney, George; Ann Verelst (1751-1823); Rotherham Heritage Services; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/ann-verelst-17511823-69312
Romney, George; Ann Verelst (1751-1823) by George Romney; Rotherham Heritage Services

UPDATE

Following a great deal of discussion amongst our readers, we thought we would add some of the earliest references to a few shades of blue that we have come across in the newspapers.

Navy Blue 

Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, Saturday, October 7, 1780

A slight variation on the term appeared in The London Chronicle of 1781.

London Chronicle, August 16, 1781 – August 18, 1781

Turquoise

The Parisian fashion report for  June 1779 confirms for us the existence of the colour turquoise in clothing.

Evening Mail, June 26, 1799 – June 28, 1799

Saxon Blue

General Evening Post, August 13, 1748 – August 16, 1748

Royal Blue

It is said to have been created by millers in Rode, Somerset, a consortium of which won a competition to make a dress for Queen Charlotte, consort of King George III. The article does not, however, give a specific date for this, but we did manage to find this article below confirming the existence of such a colour by 1782.

Morning Herald and Daily Advertiser, Tuesday, April 23, 1782

 

Featured Image

Miss Taylor by Joseph Highmore (1692-1780) Courtesy of Manchester Art Gallery

Thomas Bewick’s snowman

Here in Lincolnshire in the English Midlands, we’re yet to see any real snow this winter and it’s beginning to look a little unlikely now. Certainly, we have not yet been able to build a snowman so, while we wait for a good snowfall, today we’re going to take a closer look at an engraving of a snowman built by a young boy and his friends in the eighteenth-century.

Thomas Bewick, wood engraver and natural history author, was born in 1753 in the village of Mickley in Northumberland, in a cottage known as Cherryburn. With a talent for drawing, young Thomas was apprenticed at the age of fourteen years to Ralph Beilby, a Newcastle engraver, later becoming a partner in his business.

(c) The Natural History Society of Northumbria Great North Museum: Hancock; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Thomas Bewick in later life, painted by Thomas Sword Good, 1827. The Natural History Society of Northumbria Great North Museum: Hancock

The following two vignettes supposedly show Thomas Bewick as a child, building a giant snowman at Cherryburn. Bewick is the boy standing on the stool, putting the finishing touches to the snowman, while his childhood friend, Joe Liddell, stands behind him, shivering and with his arms crossed.

bewick-snowman
© The Trustees of the British Museum

 

bewick-snowman-engraving
© The Trustees of the British Museum

The cottage shown in the background is Cherryburn and, in the latter image, Bewick’s bedroom window, which was next to his bedhead, is visible to the right of the horse’s head. The image appeared as a tailpiece woodcut engraving at the end of British Birds, 1797. Another tailpiece in the book shows Joe Liddell out hunting in the snow.

bewick-snowman-hunter-in-the-snow
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Cherryburn is now owned by the National Trust. For more information on Thomas Bewick, his life and works, see The Bewick Society.

 

Sources not mentioned above:

Berwick Gleanings by Julia Boyd (1886)

Nature’s Engraver: A Life of Thomas Bewick by Jenny Uglow (Faber & Faber, 2011)

 

Header image:

Cherryburn.

Thomas Bewick’s childhood cottage and farmhouse on a hillside, with a fence at left, seen from an orchard; frontispiece to ‘A Memoir of Thomas Bewick’ (London, 1862). © The Trustees of the British Museum

The many faces of George III’s wife, Queen Charlotte

With so much interest in the Royal Collection’s Georgian Papers Project,  we thought we would examine some of the portraits of Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz who was also patron of the arts. We took a brief look some time ago at some of the portraits of George III’s children, so other portraits of the Queen with her children can be found by following this link.

As you would imagine, both the King and Queen were painted by many of the leading artists of the day so we’ll take a look at just a few of them.

We begin with a miniature of Queen Charlotte by the artist Jeremiah Meyer, who was appointed miniature painter to her majesty.

Meyer, Jeremiah; Profile of Queen Charlotte (1744-1818); York Museums Trust; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/profile-of-queen-charlotte-17441818-7868
Meyer, Jeremiah; Profile of Queen Charlotte (1744-1818); York Museums Trust

Our next portrait is attributed to Johann Zoffany, 1766. According to John Zoffany, His Life and Works by Lady Victoria Manners and Dr. G C Williamson:

Unfortunately for our artist he was addicted to the practical joke of introducing into his groups ‘without the permission of the original and often in unflattering guise‘ the representations of living persons with whom he had quarrelled or against whom he had  grievance. He is said to have scandalised the English Court by sketching out and showing to his friends a bold replica of his ‘Life School‘ in which he had introduced a portrait of Queen Charlotte before she was married and had placed it opposite to the figure of one of her former admirers in Germany.

As Zoffany’ s Life School wasn’t painted until after this portrait of Queen Charlotte, it rather begs the question as to what she had done to upset him – perhaps she didn’t think he had captured her likeness in this portrait! We will probably never know.

som_hm_a359
Queen Charlotte (1744–1818) Johann Zoffany (1733–1810) (attributed to) The Holburne Museum

In 1789 Queen Charlotte sat for the artist Thomas Lawrence but, according to the National Gallery,  apparently unwillingly, having recently undergone the shock of George III’s first attack of apparent insanity. The pearl bracelets on Queen Charlotte’s wrists were part of the king’s wedding gift to her; one clasp contains his portrait miniature, the other his royal monogram. Although Lawrence’s portrait was considered to be very like Queen Charlotte, it failed to please the king and queen and remained in the artist’s possession

Lawrence, Thomas; Queen Charlotte; The National Gallery, London; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/queen-charlotte-115071
Lawrence, Thomas; Queen Charlotte; The National Gallery, London

This next painting is by one of the monarch’s favourite artists, William Beechey. In the biography of William Beechey R.A. written by W. Roberts in 1909, he notes that in 1793 Beechey painted a full-length portrait of Queen Charlotte, the Queen, in turn, honoured him by the appointment of Her Majesty’s Portrait Painter.

Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818) by William Beechey; National Trust, Upton House
Beechey, William; Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818); National Trust, Upton House

Interestingly, there is another copy of this portrait at the Courtauld Gallery, dated somewhat later – 1812 – and with slightly different dimensions.

Beechey, William; Queen Charlotte; The Courtauld Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/queen-charlotte-207040
Beechey, William; Queen Charlotte; The Courtauld Gallery

Probably one of the most well-known portraits of her is the one by Allan Ramsay.

Reynolds, Joshua; Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818), Queen Consort of King George III; Government Art Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/charlotte-sophia-of-mecklenburg-strelitz-17441818-queen-consort-of-king-george-iii-29112
Reynolds, Joshua; Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818), Queen Consort of King George III; Government Art Collection

And finally, a portrait after Thomas Gainsborough.

Gainsborough, Thomas; Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818); National Trust, Wimpole Hall; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/charlotte-sophia-of-mecklenburg-strelitz-17441818-171645
Gainsborough, Thomas; Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818); National Trust, Wimpole Hall

Featured Image:

Art Detectives: The Family of Captain RD Pritchard

We came across a painting on the ArtUK website, simply titled The Children of Captain RD Prichard and dated 1827; the artist is Philip August Gaugain (1791-1865). It captured our attention and so we decided to turn art detectives and find out a little more on the history behind the portrait. As a result, we can now put names to the two children and provide a little more information on Captain Pritchard.

The Children of Captain R. D. Pritchard (1827) by Philip August Gaugain (1791–1865) Walker Art Gallery
The Children of Captain R. D. Pritchard (1827) by Philip August Gaugain (1791–1865)
Walker Art Gallery

Their father was Captain Richard Davison Pritchard of the Royal Navy. Born on the 30th May 1788 to Samuel Perkins and Ruth Ann Pritchard, he was baptised at St Mary, Newington on the 19th June. Richard’s father was a naval man and, following in his father’s footsteps at a very tender age, he joined the navy as a Volunteer 1st Class on the 10th August 1797, serving on board HMS Prince and rising to the rank of Midshipman by 1799. Service on HMS George and Blenheim followed before he joined HMS Royal Sovereign, the ship on which he would serve, as Master’s Mate, during the Battle of Trafalgar which took place on 21st October 1805.

The Battle of Trafalgar, as Seen from the Mizen Starboard Shrouds of the Victory by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) Tate Britain
The Battle of Trafalgar, as Seen from the Mizen Starboard Shrouds of the Victory by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851)
Tate Britain

Richard Davison Pritchard subsequently served on many royal naval vessels, seeing action and receiving wounds, He was twice discharged from his ship; in 1808 from HMS Terrible upon which he had the rank of Acting Lieutenant he was ‘invalided and unserviceable’ and the following year he joined HMS Avenger as a Lieutenant but was discharged ‘invalided’ at the end of 1809.

At 22 years of age, he married Mary Ann Davis, on the 3rd July 1810, at the church of St Andrew by the Wardrobe. Interestingly, banns had been read at St Clement Danes for three weeks from the 31st December 1809, but no wedding had taken place there. Did Mary Ann’s family object to her marriage to an out-of-employ naval officer? She was mentioned in the Naval Chronicle as being the only daughter of the late John Davis of Binfield, Berkshire.

Their son, the boy in the portrait, similarly named to his father as Richard Davis Pritchard, was born in the following year, at Langley near Windsor and then there was a gap of 10 years before their daughter Rosanne Mary Pritchard was born, on the 5th February 1821 at the Bank House in Southampton. Rosanne Mary was baptized on the 4th March 1821 at Holyrood, Southampton.

Oxford Journal, 11th May 1811
Oxford Journal, 11th May 1811

During these years, Pritchard had served in the Transport service between November 1813 and August 1819, attaining the rank of Captain by which he is denoted in his children’s portrait, before embarking on something of a different career path. Rosanne Mary’s birthplace, Bank House, gives a clue. In partnership with a man named John Kellow, Pritchard had gone into business at Southampton as a banker and trader, continuing in this vein until the partnership was dissolved on the 30th December 1827.

Old Boat House, West Quay, Southampton by an unknown artist Southampton City Art Gallery
Old Boat House, West Quay, Southampton by an unknown artist
Southampton City Art Gallery

It was in the same year that Pritchard’s banking business came to an end that his two children were painted by Gaugain, when they were aged 16 and 6 years. Gaugain also painted the portrait of a Captain Pritchard and a Mary Ann Pritchard three years earlier, and surely these must be their parents, Richard Davison and Mary Ann Pritchard.

Captain Pritchard by Philip August Gaugain (1791–1865) Southampton City Museums
Captain Pritchard by Philip August Gaugain (1791–1865)
Southampton City Museums

The portraits of Captain and Mary Ann Pritchard are held by Southampton City Museums and the portrait of their children by the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.

Mary Ann Pritchard by Philip August Gaugain (1791–1865) Southampton City Museums
Mary Ann Pritchard by Philip August Gaugain (1791–1865)
Southampton City Museums

In later life Captain Richard Davison Pritchard returned to his former profession, serving on HMS Meteor and Avon as Lieutenant Commander from February 1838 to September 1841, before he gave up the sea for good. The home to which he retired was Keydell House, an ‘uncommonly pretty cottage villa’ at Horndean in Hampshire.

Keydell House via horndean.net
Keydell House via horndean.net

It is altogether a little snuggery, in a valley of extraordinary beauty. The house stands or rather nestles under the shadow of the hill, on a lawn resplendent in flowers and American plants, looking around its domain without a feeling of envy for any spot in England. It is, in fact,

A BIJOU on a PETITE SCALE…

Perhaps it was his wife’s illness which had prompted the end of his naval service, for Mary Ann Prichard died at Keydell House on the 12th March 1842, leaving her husband inconsolable. She was buried in the churchyard at the nearby village of Catherington a week later. Pritchard put Keydell House up for sale.

Bell's Weekly Messenger, 21st March 1842
Bell’s Weekly Messenger, 21st March 1842

The following year Captain Pritchard was living at Hampton Grove in Surbiton, Surrey, although he died at Fareham in Hampshire on the 4th January 1849. He was buried five days later at Catherington near to his former home, Keydell House, and alongside his beloved wife.

Catherington Church © Copyright David Martin and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Catherington Church
© Copyright David Martin and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

So, what of the two children in the portrait? Rosanne Mary married the Reverend Thomas Pyne, incumbent of Hook near Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey, at Wonston in Hampshire on the 8th October 1850. It was fated to be but a short marriage for Rosanne Mary died on Valentine’s Day 1853, at Surbiton. Her obituary named her as the ‘only surviving child’ of the late R.D. Pritchard Esq, so her elder brother had predeceased her. He was alive when his father wrote his last will and testament, on the 16th December 1843. In that will Captain Pritchard left everything to his daughter Rosanne Mary, stressing that it was not for want of affection for his son that he had done so, but simply because his son had been amply provided for already in ‘bringing him up to his present profession’. Possibly he is the Richard Davis Pritchard who was appointed as a surgeon by the Royal Navy in 1833.

Morning Advertiser, 18th February 1853
Morning Advertiser, 18th February 1853

 

Sources used not referenced or linked to above:

Trafalgar Ancestors, National Archives

Will of Richard Davison Pritchard, PROB 11/2807/24, National Archives

The Naval Chronicle, Containing a General and Biographical History of the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom, with a Variety of Original Papers on Nautical Subjects, Volume 24

Aris’s Birmingham Gazette, 8th January 1827

Globe newspaper, 15th May 1843

Johan Zoffany – questions about his life

In one of our previous blogs we took a look at the famous painting by Johan Zoffany, ‘Colonel Mordaunt’s Cock Match.  His name cropped again in our research so we thought we’d find out more about the man and his family and came across this book online, which would definitely recommend – John Zoffany, R. A., his life and works. 1735-1810 by Lady Victoria Manners and G.C Williamson.

Zoffany self portrait 1761
Johan Zoffany – Self-portrait 1761

His life and his works appear to be have been very well documented but, in brief, Zoffany was born in Germany, moved to London and married twice. His first wife, Anthonie Theophista Juliane Eiselein, whom he married in the late 1750s, left him at some stage to return to Germany and died shortly after, after which he married for the second time and the couple had 4 daughters. He died 11th November 1810.

So that’s the basic facts of his life in a nutshell … but needless to say we have come across a few anomalies for which we have no answers, perhaps our readers can offer some help.

Everywhere we’ve looked states that he was born on 13 March 1733 near Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and baptized on 15 March at St Bartholomew’s Cathedral (including the ODNB). If you ‘do the maths’ on this, he would have been aged 77 when he died.

Tomb of Johan Zoffany

So who got it wrong? The entry in the burial register, although a faint copy, quite clearly records his age at the end of the line as 87, a full 10 years older than stated everywhere, added to this, his gravestone also gives his age as 87.

Zoffany burial register St Anns Richmond upon Thames
Zoffany burial in the register of St Anns Richmond upon Thames

We are unsure why no-one has ever questioned this. We know it is quite common for entries to be a year or so out, but it’s very unusual for them to be a whole 10 years out – so someone got it wrong, was it his wife who arranged for the tomb to be erected, did she simply get it wrong or was it historians, who over the years just assumed that what they had read about his date of birth was correct without checking any further?

Zoffany and his children

Zoffany with children info 1

zoffany family portrait 2

Self-Portrait with His Daughter Maria Theresa, James Cervetto, and Giacobbe Cervetto, c.1780 Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

He had 4 daughters, all four of whom he mentions in his will – Maria Theresa Louisa who was born on 4th April 1777, but who was not baptized until 1801.

Maria baptised 27 March 1801, born 4 april 1777

Cecilia Clementina Elizabeth (baptized  10th December 1780).

10th Dec 1780

Claudina Sophia Ann, (no sign of her baptism, but census returns confirm that she was born c1793) and finally Laura Helen Constantia who was reputed to have been born 1795 (RIP July 11 1876), making Johan quite elderly when she was born (62 or 72).

The strangest thing of all though is, despite his 4 daughters, his marriage to Mary Thomas, didn’t take place until 20th April 1805 making him either 72 or 82 at the time. He was reputed to have married Mary in Florence c1771/72 and it is said that they had a son whilst living there. However, Mary married as a spinster in 1805 so either the Italian wedding was not legal in England, or no marriage had previously taken place.

Zoffany marriage at St Pancras chruch 1805 to Mary Thomas

It begs the question as to why he left it so late. It can’t have been an attempt to legitimize his daughters before they were of an age to marry, as the two eldest, Maria and Cecilia, were married 1801 and 1799 respectively. Perhaps it was to give his wife security for when he died given that she was some considerable years younger than her husband? Mary died in 1832, aged 77.

We end this post with more questions than answers, perhaps someone in the future will be able to solve this mystery, so in the meantime, we will continue to enjoy his works.

The Academicians of the Royal Academy 1771-72
The Academicians of the Royal Academy 1771-72 Courtesy of The Royal Collection
Zoffany,_Johann_-_Portrait_of_Ann_Brown_in_the_Role_of_Miranda_-_c._1770
Portrait of Ann Brown in the Role of Miranda (c. 1770)
Johann_Zoffany_-_'The_Garden_at_Hampton_House,_with_Mr_and_Mrs_David_Garrick_taking_tea'
The Garden at Hampton House, with Mr and Mrs David Garrick taking tea, 1763

 

Featured image – The Tribuna of the Uffizi  1772-77 Courtesy of the Royal Collection

The Sense of Hearing, Philippe Mercier.

Women in Music and Art in the Georgian Era

Needless to say in the 18th century women were regarded as being of lower status than their male counterparts, this was especially noticeable in music. How many well-known female composers of the 18th century have you heard of – not many, if any for a guess! Many women were however expected to study music and to be accomplished at playing an instrument or singing, merely as a form of entertainment for their family and friends. This went hand in hand with being the perfect hostess.

Adolphe, Joseph Anton; Caroline D'Arcy (d.1778), 4th Marchioness of Lothian; National Galleries of Scotland; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/caroline-darcy-d-1778-4th-marchioness-of-lothian-209742
Adolphe, Joseph Anton; Caroline D’Arcy (d.1778), 4th Marchioness of Lothian; National Galleries of Scotland

In this post we thought we would take a look at how art captured women playing a musical instrument, whether these women were actually able to play theses instruments we have no idea, maybe they were simply used as props in the paintings.  One of the most popular instruments for a woman to become accomplished at playing was the harpsichord and so we begin with Anastasia Robinson, mistress of the 3rd Earl of Peterborough followed by A Girl at a Harpsichord 1782 attributed to Mather Brown.

Anastasia Robinson c.1727 via Wikimedia
Anastasia Robinson c.1727 via Wikimedia
A Girl at a Harpsichord by Mather Brown (attributed to), 1782 (c) Glasgow Museums; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
A Girl at a Harpsichord by Mather Brown (attributed to), 1782
(c) Glasgow Museums; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The harp was also immensely popular as we can see here in the painting by Joshua Reynolds, who captured  the Countess of Eglinton playing it, then we have  A Young Lady Playing the Harp  by James Northcote.

The Countess of Eglinton, 1777 by Reynolds, Sir Joshua (1723-92) Private Collection © Agnew's, London English, out of copyright
The Countess of Eglinton, 1777 by Reynolds, Sir Joshua (1723-92)
Private Collection © Agnew’s, London
English, out of copyright
A Young Lady Playing the Harp by James Northcote, exhibited 1814 (c) Tate; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
A Young Lady Playing the Harp by James Northcote, exhibited 1814
(c) Tate; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Lady Frances Seymour Conway (1751–1820), Countess of Lincoln by William Hoare (c) The University of Nottingham; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Lady Frances Seymour Conway (1751–1820), Countess of Lincoln by William Hoare
(c) The University of Nottingham; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Sarah Curran (1782–1808), Playing the Harp by William Beechey (c) Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Sarah Curran (1782–1808), Playing the Harp by William Beechey
(c) Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The guitar was also a popular instrument for women to play as we can see in these next paintings.

(c) The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
A young Woman playing the Guitar with a Songbird on her Hand by Louis-Léopold Boilly
(c) The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Artist-Painting-a-Portrait-of-a-Musician
Artist Painting a Portrait of a Musician, Marguerite Gerard, Before 1803 courtesy of the State Hermitage Museum

And finally, an all female quartet.

The Sense of Hearing, Philippe Mercier.
The Sense of Hearing, Philippe Mercier. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

But the post would not be complete without Gillray’s take on an old woman playing the harpsichord now would it!

Colonel Mordaunt's Cock Match c.1784-6 by Johan Zoffany. The Tate.

A closer look at Colonel Mordaunt’s Cock Match

Today we are going to have a look at a painting (and its copies) which features Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s cousin, Colonel John Mordaunt.

John Mordaunt was one of the illegitimate sons born to Grace’s aunt Robinaiana Brown when she was the mistress of Charles Mordaunt, 4th Earl of Peterborough. The couple later married, as soon as his first wife had conveniently breathed her last, and managed a legitimate son and heir, Charles Henry who became, in time, the 5th and last Earl of Peterborough.

The elder sons were packed off to India to make their fortunes.

John Mordaunt (Jack to his friends) became a favourite at the court of the Asaf-ud-Daula, Nawab of Oudh in Lucknow, where the two men shared a love for the sport of cock-fighting, a brutal and barbaric activity; John had several gamecocks imported from England for this purpose. And so Colonel Mordaunt’s Cock Match shows a scene from the Nawab’s court with the two men engaged in this activity. Painted by Johan Zoffany c.1784-86 during his time in India, it was commissioned by Warren Hastings shortly before he resigned as the Governor-General of India. Hastings is not present in the picture but he was in attendance at John Mordaunt’s cock fight on the 5th April 1784, on which this painting is probably based. It is now held in the Tate in London.

Colonel Mordaunt's Cock Match c.1784-6 by Johan Zoffany 1733-1810
Colonel Mordaunt’s Cock Match c.1784-6 by Johan Zoffany 1733-1810.
© The Tate

Jack Mordaunt was an easy-going and charming fellow, quite the male counterpart to his cousin Grace. He was in charge of the Nawab’s bodyguards and at the head of all the amusements of the court.

So, let’s have a closer look at some of the people in the people in the painting.

In the centre we have Jack Mordaunt, dressed in white and holding out his hands in front of him. Asaf-ud-Daula, the Nawab of Oudh, is gesturing towards Mordaunt. In front of them are their two Cockfighters, Mordaunt’s wearing the red turban and the Nawab’s the white turban. Johan Zoffany placed himself in the painting at the far right hand side (seated, dressed in white and holding a pencil or paintbrush, presumably to sketch the scene unfolding around him) and behind him with a hand on his shoulder is his friend Mr Ozias Humphry R.A.  Next to them, wearing a blue jacket and sitting, holding a hookah, is John Wombwell, an accountant. The man wearing a red coat and standing under the red canopy is Colonel Antoine Louis Polier (a Swiss soldier) and the gentleman seated on the white divan wearing a red military jacket is the Frenchman Colonel Claude Martin. He is talking to Trevor Wheeler who is holding his own gamecock.

In the bottom right hand corner we find Mr Robert Gregory with a white gamecock in his hands (his father disinherited him for cock-fighting, reputedly after seeing an engraving of this painting after he had warned his son of the consequences if he continued to gamble on such fights). The rather plump Lieutenant W. Golding is sitting with his own gamecock and on the floor next to him, holding an empty box, is Mr Gregory’s Cockfighter.

Nawab of Oudh, Asaf-Ud-Daula, Lucknow, India, c.1785-90 by a local artist after Zoffany (via Wikimedia)
Nawab of Oudh, Asaf-ud-Daula, Lucknow, India, c.1785-90 by a local artist after Zoffany (via Wikimedia)

Further details were later revealed. From the Tate’s information on the painting:

After its acquisition by the Tate the painting was cleaned, revealing new subtleties of colour, detail and meaning. The Nawab’s state of sexual arousal, his agitated pose and inclination towards his chief minister and favourite bodyguard Hassan Resa Khan (in the ornate red turban), add an erotic dimension to the nature of the cock fight. The vignette just behind the Nawab shows a bearded Hindu (in turban) fondling a Moslem boy catamite (in the white cap worn by Moslem men), to the outrage of the man in the red turban who must be restrained by a courtier. Lewis Ferdinand Smith recounted that the Nawab ‘has many adopted children, but none of his own’ – despite a harem of 500 beauties – and that towards his wife of sixteen years ‘he has never fulfilled the duties of a husband’ (quoted in Archer, p.144). This painting was perhaps Hastings’s select joke, a memento of his time in India.

Detail from the Tate copy.
Detail from the Tate copy.

One version of this painting was presented to the Nawab (presumably omitting the extra details above) and one to Hastings. Unfortunately the ship in which it was later travelling on its homeward journey to England was lost at sea (Hastings was luckily on another ship) and so Zoffany painted a second version for him, the one pictured above. The Nawab’s copy was lost in the rebellion of 1857 (and is presumed destroyed) but a slightly different version, with less people in it, was given by the Nawab’s successor Ghazi-ud-din Haider to Richard Strachey who was the British Resident at Lucknow from 1815 to 1817. This copy, known as the Ashwick version and also painted by Zoffany, is still in a private collection.

The Ashwick version, from John Zoffany R.A., his Life and Works, 1735-1810.
The Ashwick version, from John Zoffany R.A., his Life and Works, 1735-1810.

Three further versions are in existence, all however painted much later than the original. One is an Indian version of the painting, c.1840 and possibly commissioned by John Elliot, the son of the 1st Earl of Minto who was Governor-General in India in the early nineteenth-century. This painting was sold at Sotheby’s auction house in 2014. Interestingly, the 1st Earl of Minto, Sir Gilbert Elliot, was a contemporary of Colonel John Mordaunt’s and would more than likely have been aware of his Scottish ancestry. Sir Gilbert’s wife descended from the same Dalrymple family as Grace, and his sons were educated by the Scottish historian David Hume who was certainly aware of the Brown’s of Blackburn in Berwickshire from which both Jack Mordaunt and Grace were descended on their respective mothers’ side.

Colonel Mordaunt's Cock Match, copy made c.1840
Colonel Mordaunt and Nawab Asaf al-Daula of Avadh at a Cock Fight, Company School, Patna, circa 1840, after Richard Earlom’s mezzotint of Zoffany’s ‘Col. Mordaunt’s Cock Match’, via Sotheby’s website.

An Indian artist in Lucknow, c.1800, made a reasonably faithful copy of Zoffany’s original. This is now in the Harvard Art Museum.

© President and Fellows of Harvard College Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Stuart Cary Welch Collection, Gift of Edith I. Welch in memory of Stuart Cary Welch
© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Stuart Cary Welch Collection, Gift of Edith I. Welch in memory of Stuart Cary Welch

Lastly, a version which was again painted by a Lucknow artist, c.1830-35 and held by the British Library.

Painting of Asaf al-Daula (the Nawab of Awadh 1775-97) at a cock-fight, by a Lucknow artist, c. 1830-35. © The British Library
Painting of Asaf al-Daula (the Nawab of Awadh 1775-97) at a cock-fight, by a Lucknow artist, c. 1830-35.
© The British Library

We can’t conclude this without pointing out the similarity in appearance between Colonel John Mordaunt and his cousin Grace Dalrymple Elliott. Both were tall and slender, and we think we can see a distinct likeness in the profiles of their two faces. Do our readers agree?

Colonel Mordaunt's Cock Match c.1784-6 by Johan Zoffany 1733-1810

 

You can find out more about Grace’s life and adventures and Colonel John Mordaunt and his time in India in our book.

Meissonier, Jean Louis Ernest; An Artist Showing his Work; The Wallace Collection

A closer look at Thomas Gainsborough’s full-length portrait of Grace Dalrymple Elliott

An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Infamous-Mistress-Celebrated-Dalrymple-Elliott/dp/1473844835

In our biography of the eighteenth-century courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott, we tell her story more completely than ever before whilst also shedding light on her siblings and maternal family who were central to her experiences. Containing many rarely seen images relating to Grace and her family and a wealth of new information, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott is available as a hardback or e-book from Pen and Sword Books and all good bookshops, worldwide.

 

Today we are going to have a closer look at a fabulous portrait of Grace, who had her likeness painted twice by Thomas Gainsborough. The first was a full-length, probably commissioned by her lover the Earl of Cholmondeley in 1777 and which hung in his London mansion at Piccadilly. When the portrait was exhibited at the Royal Academy in Pall Mall during 1778 the General Evening Post newspaper called it a ‘striking and beautiful likeness’ of Grace, quoting some lines from The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope.

If to her share some female errors fall,

Look on her face, and you’ll forget them all.

Sadly for Grace, the picture proved to have a longer life in the earl’s household than she did; when he refused to marry the divorced Mrs Elliott she upped sticks for France and the Anglophile duc d’Orléans. Reputedly, the portrait was viewed, a few years later, by Cholmondeley’s boon companion, George, Prince of Wales, and he admired both the painting and its subject so much that Cholmondeley was despatched across the Channel to fetch Grace back home from the arms of her French duc and to deliver her into those of a British prince. The portrait is now held in New York, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough (Metropolitan Museum of Art).
Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough (Metropolitan Museum of Art).

Over the years the portrait’s condition meant that certain details had been lost, but these can be seen on an engraving made of it in 1779 by John Dean (or Deane, c.1754-1798, draughtsman and engraver (mezzotint)). On his engraving can be seen a flagstone floor and a burst of light coming over the trees in the background. During treatment of Gainsborough’s portrait of Grace, dark paint was visible under the sky suggesting that the picture may originally have been intended to be much narrower, possibly without the landscape in the background.

The left hand of the 1779 engraving and Gainsborough's portrait, side-by-side.
The left hand of the 1779 engraving and Gainsborough’s portrait, side-by-side.

An additional revelation also came about during the Met’s treatment of the portrait – the presence of a small dog which was once in the lower right hand corner was also revealed.[i]

Bottom right hand corner of the Gainsborough portrait - can you see an impression of a dog?
Bottom right hand corner of the Gainsborough portrait – can you see an impression of a dog?

And here is the 1779 John Dean engraving of ‘Mrs Elliot’ courtesy of the Yale Centre for British Art.

John Dean, 1754–1798, British, Mrs. Elliot, 1779, Mezzotint, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund
John Dean, 1754–1798, British, Mrs. Elliot, 1779, Mezzotint, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund

Notes:

[i] British Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575-1875, by Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Katharine Baetjer, 2009.

Divorced wife, infamous mistress, prisoner during the French Revolution and the reputed mother of the Prince of Wales’ child, notorious courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott lived an amazing life in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century London and Paris. Strikingly tall and beautiful, later lampooned as ‘Dally the Tall’ in newspaper gossip columns, she left her Scottish roots and convent education behind, to re-invent herself in a ‘marriage a-la-mode’, but before she was even legally an adult she was cast off and forced to survive on just her beauty and wits. The authors of this engaging and, at times, scandalous book intersperse the story of Grace’s tumultuous life with anecdotes of her fascinating family, from those who knew Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and who helped to abolish slavery, to those who were, like Grace, mistresses of great men. Whilst this book is the most definitive biography of Grace Dalrymple Elliott ever written, it is much more than that; it is Grace’s family history which traces her ancestors from their origin in the Scottish borders, to their move south to London. It follows them to France, America, India, Africa and elsewhere, offering a broad insight into the social history of the Georgian era, comprising the ups and downs, the highs and lows of life at that time. This is the remarkable and detailed story of Grace set, for the first time, in the context of her wider family and told more completely than ever before.

Street Scene, Newcastle upon Tyne; British School; National Trust, Cragside

The Newcastle Eccentrics of Hell’s Kitchen

Eccentric Characters of Newcastle by Henry Perlee Parker (after) (c) Laing Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Eccentric Characters of Newcastle by Henry Perlee Parker (after)
(c) Laing Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

In the taproom of The Flying Horse public house in the Groat Market, colloquially known as Hell’s Kitchen, various of the Newcastle Upon Tyne ‘Eccentrics’ were to be seen, many of them mentioned in popular local ballads and folk-songs. They were well known on the Newcastle streets and on the quayside, and in the ale-houses. Fourteen of them were painted by the artist Henry Perlee Parker around 1817, shown in Hell’s Kitchen, immortalising their images. The original has been lost, but engravings have survived.

(c) Laing Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 

Old (or Aud) Judy Dowlings was the keeper of the Newcastle upon Tyne ‘hutch’, a form of strongbox used by the City Treasurer. She was a formidable guard, wielding a hefty stick in its defence and is also depicted in another painting by Henry Perlee Parker. You can read more about Old Judy in one of our previous posts by clicking here. Peering over Old Judy’s shoulder is Jenny Ballo and beside her Whin Bob, or Robert Cruddace. The dog is Timour, belonging to Doodum Daddum.

(c) Laing Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 

 

 

Next is Jacky Coxon who is mentioned in a song written by Robert Emery (a Scot living in Newcastle) called ‘The Pitman’s Dream – or a description of the North Pole’. The others are Pussy Willy, Cull (or Cully) Billy and Donald. Cully (also known as Silly Billy) was really William Scott and lived in St John’s poorhouse and was the subject of various local folk songs. He lived with his diminutive mother who was only 4ft tall and who made her living as a hawker. Both mother and son were often cruelly ridiculed but Cully was a gentle man with a good nature and a quick sense of humour. He died in the poorhouse on the 31st July 1831 at the age of 68 years. Donald, obviously a Scotsman from his tartan tam o’shanter, also revelled in the name Lousy Donald.

(c) Laing Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The four gentleman here are Bugle-Nosed Jack, Hangy (or Hangie), Bold Archy (or Airchy) and Blind Willie. Bugle-Nosed Jack was also known as Cuckoo Jack and Bold Archy was really Archibald Henderson, a huge, well-built man but absolutely a gentle giant, devoted to his mother who often had to lead him away from fights as he was a magnet for trouble due to his size. He died, on the 14th May 1828, at the age of 86 years. Blind Willie, or William Purvis, was probably the best known of the Newcastle Eccentrics. Born in Newcastle, and baptised at All Saints’ Church on the 16th February 1752, his father John was a waterman and his mother Margaret lived to a grand old age, dying in All Saints poorhouse at well over 100 years of age. Blind Willie (blind from birth or from very early in his childhood) was a fiddler, song writer and performer, often to be found in ale houses where he asked for a drink and entertained the regulars. He was a great favourite on the streets of Newcastle, renowned for never wearing a hat, no matter what the weather, having got fed up of it being stolen from his head by idle boys. Like his mother, he ended up in the All Saints poorhouse where he died on the 20th July 1832 aged 80.

(c) Laing Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Finally, we have Shoe-tie Anty, ‘Captain’ Benjamin Starkey and Doodem Daddum, owner of Timour the dog. Benjamin Starkey, extremely short in stature, had pretensions to grandeur, hence his appellation of ‘Captain’, and certainly had some education as he was noted as a very neat writer. In his youth he had been an usher at a school, William Bird’s Academy in Fetter’s Lane in Holborn, London (where the essayist Charles Lamb remembered him from). He was born around 1757 and died on the 9th July 1822, and was an inmate of both Freeman’s Hospital and the poorhouse. Doodum Daddem is identified as John Higgins in an eprint from Nottingham University, a jack-of-all-trades and also the Town Crier or Bellman of Newcastle Upon Tyne. However, from census records, John Higgins would appear to be too young to be the man in the painting.

Woodcuts of Blind Willie and ‘Captain’ Benjamin Starkey appear in Allan’s Illustrated Version of Tyneside Songs, in which many of the Newcastle Eccentrics are named. It also provides an engraving of the Hell’s Kitchen portrait with a key underneath to the identities of the people within it.

Eccentric - Blind Willie 2
Blind Willie (Newcastle Libraries via Flickr)

Eccentric - engraving

 

Sources:

Newcastle Courant, 28th July 1832

Allan’s Illustrated Edition of Tyneside Songs, 1891

Header image:

Street Scene, Newcastle upon Tyne; British School; National Trust, Cragside

Meissonier, Jean Louis Ernest; An Artist Showing his Work; The Wallace Collection

Does this chalk drawing depict Grace Dalrymple Elliott?

Unidentified lady, thought to be Grace Dalrymple Elliott by John Hoppner, British Museum.
Unidentified lady, thought to be Grace Dalrymple Elliott by John Hoppner, British Museum.

A chalk drawing dating to around 1782 by John Hoppner, whilst unproven, is reputed to depict the celebrated courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott.  If there is a corresponding portrait it has yet to be discovered.  There certainly does look to be a good similarity between the Gainsborough portraits of her and, if it is Grace, it dates from the time of her pregnancy with the reputed child of George, Prince of Wales (and the end of her relationship with her royal lover).  The lady in the portrait is wearing a chemise à la reine, a diaphanous white muslin gown made popular in France by Queen Marie Antionette and in 1782 the latest fashion.  Grace was one of the first women in London to appear dressed in one of these gowns, along with Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire and the Prince’s former mistress, the actress and courtesan Mary Robinson (Perdita).

Mrs Mary Robinson (1758–1800), as 'Perdita' by John Hoppner, c.1782. (c) Chawton House Library; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Mrs Mary Robinson (1758–1800), as ‘Perdita’ by John Hoppner, c.1782.
(c) Chawton House Library; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Hoppner was connected with the Court, having been encouraged to paint by George III and eventually becoming Principal Portrait Painter to the Prince of Wales in 1793 after the death of Sir Joshua Reynolds.  Is it just possible that this chalk drawing is Grace, sitting for a portrait commissioned by the Prince and that nothing more than a preliminary sketch was produced following the rupture of their union? What do our readers think?

Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough. Courtesy of the Frick, New York.
Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough.
Courtesy of the Frick, New York.

You can read more about Grace in our book, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, which is the product of many years of research into her life and which is available now in the UK, published by Pen and Sword Books. Containing much information that is new to Grace’s story, and some rarely seen illustrations and pictures too, our book is also a broad insight into the social history of the Georgian era, interspersed with the fascinating lives her family led across the globe. It is both the story of Grace’s life and her family history.

Divorced wife, infamous mistress, prisoner in France during the French Revolution and the reputed mother of the Prince of Wales’ child, notorious eighteenth-century courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott lived an amazing life in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century London and Paris.

Strikingly tall and beautiful, later lampooned as ‘Dally the Tall’ in newspaper gossip columns, she left her Scottish roots and convent education behind, to re-invent herself in a ‘marriage-a-la-mode’, but before she was even legally an adult she was cast off and forced to survive on just her beauty and wits.

The authors of this engaging and, at times, scandalous book intersperse the history of Grace’s tumultuous life with anecdotes of her fascinating family, from those who knew Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and who helped to abolish slavery, to those who were, like Grace, mistresses of great men.

Whilst this book is the most definitive biography of Grace Dalrymple Elliott ever written, it is much more than that; it is Grace’s family history which traces her ancestors from their origin in the Scottish borders, to their move south to London. It follows them to France, America, India, Africa and elsewhere, offering a broad insight into the social history of the Georgian era, comprising the ups and downs, the highs and lows of life at that time.

This is the remarkable and detailed story of Grace set, for the first time, in the context of her wider family and told more completely than ever before.

An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Infamous-Mistress-Celebrated-Dalrymple-Elliott/dp/1473844835

 

Sources:

British Museum

 

Street Scene, Newcastle upon Tyne; British School; National Trust, Cragside

Old Judy – keeper of the Newcastle upon Tyne town hutch

We loved this portrait of ‘Old Judy’, keeper of the Newcastle upon Tyne town hutch, and thought we’d take a closer look at both the hutch and Old Judy for our latest blog.

Judy Dowling, Keeper of the Town Hutch by Henry Perlee Parker, c.1815-1820 (c) Laing Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Judy Dowling, Keeper of the Town Hutch by Henry Perlee Parker, c.1815-1820
(c) Laing Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The ‘town hutch’ was a strongbox, a sturdy wooden chest located in the Guildhall (also known as The Exchange) in which the Corporation officials kept the money the town paid in their dues (the Newcastle upon Tyne one has a hole in the lid to admit the money – a similar idea to the money boxes and piggy banks we all owned as children).

Photograph taken c.1830. Newcastle Libraries via Flickr.
Photograph taken c.1930.
Newcastle Libraries via Flickr.

The Newcastle hutch had eight locks – the Mayor had the key to one and seven chamberlains the others, and the hutch could only be opened in the presence of all the key-holders (or with their explicit consent if they couldn’t be there). But when these illustrious officials were absent, the hutch was guarded by the formidable Old Judy.

The Old Exchange, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear by George Bouchier Richardson. (attributed to) (c) Newcastle Guildhall; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
The Old Exchange, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear by George Bouchier Richardson (attributed to).
(c) Newcastle Guildhall; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

In the early nineteenth-century Judith Dowlings (also Downey or Downing) was the keeper or guardian of the town hutch and wielded a stout stick, which she was not afraid to use in its defence to keep away anyone she thought should not be near, including unwary boys loitering nearby. A newspaper report written in 1863 quoted the Handbook to Newcastle-on-Tyne by the historian Dr John Collingwood Bruce, which wryly noted that ‘some shoulders still ache at the thought of her’. Presumably that is the same stick which Old Judy has hold of in her portrait.

The Black Gate, Newcastle Upon Tyne by George Balmer (attributed to). (c) Lady Lever Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
The Black Gate, Newcastle Upon Tyne by George Balmer (attributed to).
(c) Lady Lever Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

In 1816 the artist Henry Perlee Parker settled in Newcastle upon Tyne (he stayed there until 1841 when he moved to Sheffield) and painted some of the local characters, including Old Judy, people that history would probably otherwise have forgotten all about. Her portrait was executed at some point in the first four years of his residence in Newcastle. We’ll take a look at some of his other paintings in due course – including one in which Old Judy makes another appearance. Both the town hutch and Henry Perlee Parker’s portrait of Old Judy, a half-length in oils on canvas, were moved to the new offices of the Newcastle City Treasurer when the hutch ceased to be used – fittingly Old Judy could gaze down from the wall and keep a watchful eye on the hutch she had so formidably guarded for so many years. Her portrait is now held by the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Henry Perlee Parker by Ralph Hyde Parker. (c) National Portrait Gallery, London; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Henry Perlee Parker by Ralph Hyde Parker.
(c) National Portrait Gallery, London; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

As Judy Downey her death is immortalised in a verse of The Newcassel Props by William Oliver. The earliest date we’ve found for this ballad in 1827, which puts Old Judy’s demise prior to that date.

But when maw lugs was lectrified

Wiv Judy Downey’s deeth,

Alang wi’ Heufy Scott aw cried,

Till byeth was out o’ breeth;

For greet and sma, fishwives an’ a’,

Luik’d up tiv her wi’ veneration –

If Judy’s in the Courts above,

Then for au’d Nick there’ll be ne casion.

 

Sources:

Newcastle Courant, 20th November 1863.

Notes:

Header image: Street Scene, Newcastle upon Tyne; British School; National Trust, Cragside

The Newcastle upon Tyne town hutch can be seen in the Discovery Museum.

Penelope Carwardine (1729 – 1804)

Penelope Carwardine

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.

Descendant chart - John Carwadine
© Joanne Major

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.  

Lady Anne Sophia Egerton by Penelope Carwardine, Ashridge House.
Lady Anne Sophia Egerton by Penelope Carwardine, c.1765-1770. Ashridge House.

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.

6 May 1763 marriage

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.

Descendant chart - James Butler
© Joanne Major

 

Anne Holgate, wife of Thomas Carwardine, Romney
Anne Holgate, wife of Thomas Carwardine, Romney

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!

Monthly Magazine and British Register, Volume 18, Issue 2 - 1804
Monthly Magazine and British Register, Volume 18, Issue 2.

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.

Maria Gunning c.1757 by Penelope Carwardine, Wallace Collection.
Maria Gunning (later Countess of Coventry) c.1757 by Penelope Carwardine, Wallace Collection.

 

Sources

Anne Gilchrist, her life and writings. edited by Herbert Harlakenden Gilchrist, with a prefatory notice by William Michael Rossetti

https://archive.org/details/annegilchristher00gilcuoft

https://archive.org/stream/societyofartists00grav#page/52/mode/2up/search/carwardine

https://archive.org/stream/artcollectionsof00ande_3#page/178/mode/2up/search/carwardine

https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NRSK-BRG

The Wallace Collection

Monthly Magazine and British Register, Volume 18, Issue 2

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Tm9AUEJCYQ0C&pg=PA115&lpg=PA115&dq=penelope+carwardine+emma+rutherford&source=bl&ots=d4u9mSI8Iq&sig=ktMMaCstIG5sk1jC1TP2ryCI71w&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiohvP1z4vLAhWBoRQKHawcDZ4Q6AEIJjAC#v=onepage&q=penelope%20carwardine%20emma%20rutherford&f=false

George Gordon, 6th Lord Byron, 1807-1809 by George Sanders.

George Sanders (1774-1846)

The name George Sanders cropped up during our research so as always we felt compelled to learn a little more about him. Our first port of call being the usual online sources such as DNB.  Sure enough  there he was on the DNB website, George Sanders born 1774, Kinghorn, Fife, son of John Sanders and his wife, Jean, née Bruce, so of course we wanted to check out his details date of birth, siblings etc and anything else we might glean from his baptism.

George Sanders by Andrew Geddes. National Galleries of Scotland, Scottish National Gallery.
George Sanders by Andrew Geddes. National Galleries of Scotland, Scottish National Gallery.

So far so good, this was going to be really straightforward or so we thought, until we realized that we couldn’t immediately find his baptism from the information we had.  After a few minutes we realized that the reason for this being that there was a second George also born in 1774, not in Kinghorn, Fife, but in Keith,Banff, now part of Moray, Scotland.

The George born 1774 at Kinghorn, Fife, with the correct parents, was in fact a George Saunders, not Sanders as shown in the baptism register below.

George Saunders 1774 baptism
George Saunders baptized 4th May 1774, Kinghorn, Fife. Parents John Saunders and Jean Bruce

So, this has left us with the dilemma as to which child the artist was, as there is no definitive proof we have included the baptism for George Sanders below. It seems likely that this George Sanders remained in Banff  where he married and had at least one child in 1800, but then he disappeared.

George SANDERS baptism 5th Jan 1774
George Sanders born 5th Jan 1774, parents James Sanders and Elizabeth Keith

We checked the 1841 census just to make sure which name was recorded on there and sure enough he was recorded as George Sanders, 25 Allsop Terrace, London then his death which was reported as having taken place on 26th March 1846, according to The Times of  Saturday, 28th March 1846, then his burial, again buried as Sanders.

George Sanders All Souls Kensal Green burial
George Sanders All Souls Kensal Green burial

And finally his will, and sure enough  … Sanders. Unfortunately in his will there were no family members named only two close friends, shipbuilders of Leith, one of whom was Thomas Menzies, so we can only assume that he had no family remaining when he wrote his will or he that he chosen not to include them.

We have found no mention of George being known as Saunders, he is even included in the Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Men of Fife of Past and Present Times by Matthew Forster Connolly (1789-1877), published 1866.

So was he actually the George Saunders of Fife as shown in the first baptism and opted to change his name to Sanders when he moved to England about 1806 or was he actually the George Sanders born in Banff?  We really can’t decide, so if anyone can shed any light on this we would love to hear from you.

Lord Byron Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
George Gordon, 6th Lord Byron (1788-1824) painted c1807-1809 Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
(c) National Trust, Tatton Park; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Mary Elizabeth Egerton (1782–1846), Lady Sykes (c) National Trust, Tatton Park; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) National Maritime Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Admiral George Keith Elphinstone (1746–1823), 1st Viscount Keith (c) National Maritime Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Francis Cotes (20 May 1726 – 19 July 1770)

Paul Sandby 1761 Francis Cotes 1726-1770 Bequeathed by W.A. Sandby 1904 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N01943
Paul Sandby 1761 Francis Cotes 1726-1770, Tate

As Francis was born this week in 1726 we thought it would be an ideal opportunity to take a quick look at his life and some of his wonderful paintings. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do. The first one looks quite a modern pose in our opinion.

Anna Maria Astley, Aged Seven, and her Brother Edward, Aged Five and a Half 1767 Francis Cotes 1726-1770 Purchased 1981 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T03251
Anna Maria Astley, Aged Seven, and her Brother Edward, Aged Five and a Half 1767 Francis Cotes 1726-1770, Tate

Francis was born in London, the son of an apothecary Robert Cotes and his wife Elizabeth née Lynn, on the 20th May 1726 and then baptized at St Mary-le-Strand on 29th June 1726. Although unfortunately the image of this christening is quite poor we felt we had to include it.

Francis Cotes baptism

He studied his craft as a pastelist under the watchful eye of the portrait painter George Knapton, after which he established his own business based in his father’s premises in London. As his father was an apothecary Francis learnt about chemistry and was able to use this knowledge to his advantage when making his pastels. Cotes was always regarded as being a serious rival to Gainsborough and Reynolds and was a founder member of the Royal Academy.

Alice Countess of Shipbrook by Francis Cotes
Alice, Countess of Shipbrook

In 1762 the Register of Duties paid for Apprentices show that Francis took on a new trainee, one John Russell  (1745-1806)  who became renowned for his his portraits also and as a writer and teacher of painting techniques.

Francis Cotes - The young cricketer (1768)
The young cricketer – Portrait of Lewis Cage (1768)

Six years before his death Francis finally married, to Sarah Adderley. The couple married on the 3rd October 1764.

Francis Cotes marriage

One amusing comment noted in  The Diary of Mrs Hester Lynch Thrale being:

Whose picture is that said I, and that Lady’s pray, who is as eminent for her ugliness methinks, as anyone here for her beauty, hold for God’s sake says Francis Cotes, in a fright, ’tis my own wife, it is indeed; and I have been married to her but a fortnight’.

Princess Louisa and Princess Caroline by Francis Cotes, 1767
Princess Louisa and Princess Caroline 1767

Francis died on the Thursday afternoon, 19th July 1770, at Richmond, in Surrey, according to the Middlesex Journal, not on July 16th, 1770.

and was buried a week later on the 26th July at St Mary Magdalene, Richmond.

Francis Cotes July 1770 St Mary richmond

Our quick look at some of his paintings wouldn’t be complete with at least one courtesan, so here we have the infamous Kitty Fisher.

Kitty Fisher; Chawton House Library
(c) Chawton House Library; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 

Sources

ThralianaThe Diary of Mrs. Hester Lynch Thrale (later Mrs. Piozzi) 1776-1809, Volume 1

Lloyd’s Evening Post, July 23 1770 – July 25 1770

Middlesex Journal or Chronicle of Liberty July 21, 1770 – July 24, 1770

Header image: Detail from the portrait of Henry Cope, ‘The Green Man’, by Francis Cotes

Anne Mee, 18th century artist

Anna Mee, born Foldsone, self portrait c.1795
Anna Mee, born Foldsone, self portrait c.1795

 

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.

Frances Ann Foldsone baptism

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.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Anne Mee, 1813. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Anne Mee, 1813. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

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.

Princess Charlotte of Walesby Anne Mee, before August 1814. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Princess Charlotte of Walesby Anne Mee, before August 1814. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

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 …

Lady Cecilia Foley by Anne Mee, 1813. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Lady Cecilia Foley by Anne Mee, 1813. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

 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!*

Joseph Mee married Ann Foldstone 16 may 1793 St Marylebone

In November 1811 The Morning Chronicle reported that Anne was to publish  ‘The Gallery of Beauties of the Court of George the Third’.

Princess Sophia by Anne Mee. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Princess Sophia by Anne Mee. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

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.

Lady Sarah Bayley by Anne Mee, 1813. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Lady Sarah Bayley by Anne Mee, 1813. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

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.

NPG D5045; Louisa Catherine Osborne, Duchess of Leeds when Marchioness of Carmarthen by Thomson, published by Edward Bull, published by Edward Churton, after Anne Mee (nÈe Foldsone)
Duchess of Leeds when Marchioness of Carmarthen Engraving. Courtesy of National Portrait Gallery

Header image: The Exhibition of the Royal Academy, 1787. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

The Mansion House, Lombard Street and Cornhill, London; City of London Corporation

William Wynne Ryland – Hanged for Forgery

by D.P. Pariset, after Pierre-Étienne Falconet, stipple engraving, circa 1768-1769. © National Portrait Gallery, London

William Wynne Ryland was born November 1733 and baptized 2nd December of that year at St Martin, Ludgate, London, the son of Edward Ryland and his wife Mary. Like his father William learnt his trade as an engraver and copper plate printer. He was assisted by his godfather, Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn, to visit France and Italy. He stayed in Paris for around five years, studying drawing under François Boucher, and engraving under Jacques Philippe Le Bas.

Madame de Pompadour by François Boucher, 1756.
Madame de Pompadour by François Boucher, 1756.

In 1757 he gained a medal for a study from the life at the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, and while abroad he engraved several plates after the old masters and from the compositions of Boucher.

Illustration to Fielding’s ‘Tom Jones’ by Wynne Ryland; Sophia, fainting at the pretended news of Tom Jones’ death, is supported by Lord Fellamar and Lady Bellaston. Courtesy of the British Museum.

On returning to England William lived in London and married Mary Brown on the 15th August 1758 at St Mary’s, Lambeth. By this time he excelled at this trade and was earning a handsome income of around £3,000 a year from the sale of his engravings. He was also left shares, by a friend in the Liverpool waterworks, valued at £10,000.

Lambeth Palace and St Mary's Church with St Paul's; William Marlow; Government Art Collection
Lambeth Palace and St Mary’s Church with St Paul’s; William Marlow; Government Art Collection

On his return to England, soon after the accession of George III, he was commissioned to engrave Allan Ramsay’s full-length portraits of the king and of the Earl of Bute, which had been declined by Sir Robert Strange, and afterwards that of Queen Charlotte with the infant princess royal, after Francis Cotes, R.A. He thus secured the patronage and friendship of George III, and received the appointment of engraver to the king, with an annual salary of £200.

Queen Charlotte with Charlotte, Princess Royal by Francis Cotes, 1767. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Charlotte with Charlotte, Princess Royal by Francis Cotes, 1767. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

With his new found wealth Ryland enjoyed the good life of a gentleman, but soon tired of it. He decided to open a print shop in Cornhill with a business partner, but by December 1771 he was in debt and declared bankrupt.  After a while he resumed business as a print-seller in the Strand, but before long he retired to a private residence at Knightsbridge, from which he was to disappear on the 1st of April 1783.

Lettered, in black ink, lower left under image: "Painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds."; lower center: "Samuel Foote Esq,,r | Publish'd June Ye 4.th 1771. accor.g to Act of Parliament by W. W. Ryland in Cornhill. ~ "; lower right under image: "Engrav'd by J. Blackmore."
Lettered, in black ink, under image: “Painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds.”; “Samuel Foote Esq,,r | Publish’d June Ye 4.th 1771. accor.g to Act of Parliament by W. W. Ryland in Cornhill.” “Engrav’d by J. Blackmore.” Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

The Whitehall Evening Post of the 1st April 1783 recorded that a reward of £300 (approx. £20,000 in today’s money) would be made to whoever apprehended him. He was described as being about 50 years of age, 5 feet 9 inches tall and wore a wig, he had a black complexion, thin face with strong lines, his common countenance very grave, but whilst he speaks he appears to smile and shows his teeth and has great, great affability in his manner.

It took police a whole two weeks and numerous newspaper advertisements before he was apprehended. Police were given a ‘tip off’ by a shoe maker at the Brown Bear tavern, in Bow Street informing the constable that Ryland was at a house in Stepney.  According to the General Evening Post, 115th April 1783 –

‘On arriving officers found him sitting at a table ‘in a serious posture with a book in his hand and upon turning his head and seeing them he seized a razor which lay before him and cut his throat. The wound was sewn up and the unhappy man put to bed.  In the meantime an express was sent to Bow Street in consequence of which Sir Sampson Wright and  ___ Gilbert Esq. immediately set off for Stepney where they found the prisoner in a very improper state for examination and the danger the wound he had given himself Ryland remained at Stepney, his hands being confined and being watched by six men lest he should tear open the wound in his throat or by some other means put an end to his life.

Yesterday, Ryland was carried by post-chaise and four from his lodgings at Stepney-green to Bow Street for private examination, and afterwards committed to Tothill fields, Bridewell.’

The Daily Advertiser, 28th April 1783 contained Ryland’s name, being late of Knightsbridge as he was declared bankrupt.  Friday 6th June 1783 he was found guilty of forgery and imprisoned. The Morning Herald, 10th July 1783 reported that whilst in prison Ryland finished a very fine engraving of ‘King John delivering the Magna Charta to the Barons on which he has employed himself during his confinement’.

The Ratifying Magna Carta by King John.  Engraved by William Wynne Ryland.
The Ratifying Magna Charta by King John; below image at center, “Pubd Jany 1.1781”; below image at right, “W.W. Ryland Sculp.”; on back of print, the following handwritten inscription is taped onto the lower left corner, “Left unfinished in [?]te on the death of Ryland and afterwards finished by F. Bartolozzi.” Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund
On Saturday 26th July, Ryland was convicted of ‘uttering and publishing as true, knowing it to be forged, a certain bill of exchange, bearing date in India October 15, 1780 and purporting to be drawn upon the Directors of the East India Company for the payment of £210 with a forged acceptance thereon with intent to defraud Mss. Ransom and co’.

On Friday 29th August 1783 William Wynne Ryland was hanged at Tyburn leaving behind a wife and six children, his execution being delayed some time by a violent thunderstorm. He was buried on the 3rd September 1783 at  St Dunstan’s Church, Feltham, Middlesex where his parents were also buried.

Mary, finding herself without her husband and with several children set up a print shop in Oxford Road. His daughter became a teacher of drawing, and instructed the Princess Elizabeth and others of the royal family.

Header image: The Mansion House, Lombard Street and Cornhill, London; City of London Corporation

Meissonier, Jean Louis Ernest; An Artist Showing his Work; The Wallace Collection

Richard Wright, Liverpool artist and his family

A Squadron of British War vessels in a Mediterranean Port with Captured French Vessels During the Seven Years War.
A Squadron of British War vessels in a Mediterranean Port with Captured French Vessels During the Seven Years War.

Whilst writing the life story of courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott we have been reviewing the will of Sir John Eliot, her former husband, which shows that apart from leaving money to a variety of illegitimate children he also left the following interesting legacy:

I leave and bequeath to Miss Wright daughter of the late celebrated Mr Wright painter at Pimlico who is herself of no inferior talents an annuity of ten pounds during all the days of her life to be paid to her half yearly the first half years payment to be made to her six months after my death.

As usual we were curious to learn more about this father and daughter and although we have unfortunately still been left no nearer to finding out why Sir John would have left such a bequest, unless it was that he quite simply admired their work, we thought it might be interesting to give some information on the Wright family of painters. Searching around the newspapers of the day revealed the sale by Mr Christie, in April 1787, of all of Sir John’s art collection, after his death.

scan0001

His furniture and personal effects had already been sold earlier in the year, the entire collection being sold for much more than was initially anticipated in front of a crowded auction room. The Times reported that the auction house was so full that within an hour of opening it was difficult for people to be seen by the auctioneer. It would be interesting to know whether his ex-wife attended!!

Listed in the catalogue of paintings for sale were several paintings by father and daughter – Richard Wright and Miss Elizabeth Wright including this pair by Richard Wright. The listing shows a painting by his daughter ‘A Landscape with Huntsmen and dogs, after Barret‘ which, as yet we have not managed to trace.

Defeating Thurot off Isle of Man by Richard Wright via Art History Reference.
Defeating Thurot off Isle of Man by Richard Wright via Art History Reference.
Victorious English Frigates with French Prizes by Richard Wright via Art History Reference.
Victorious English Frigates with French Prizes by Richard Wright via Art History Reference.

These two paintings were listed in the catalogue and are representing a naval battle under the command of a Captain John Eliot, possibly a relative of Sir John’s or maybe simply a namesake?

Richard Wright was baptized 4th April 1723 at St Nicholas church, Liverpool, just one year before his long time friend the artist George Stubbs was also presented there for baptism. Richard went on to marry Louisa and together they had 3 children – Edward who, according to the parish records was born 19th March 1746, but curiously there is also what looks like a corresponding burial for him 23rd September 1752, (so it appears unlikely that this is the same son; perhaps the first son died and a later, second son was given the same name), and two daughters –  Nancy born 29th May 1748 and Elizabeth 21st March 1751 both in Liverpool.

Richard initially trained as a house and ship painter with no formal training as an artist but moved to London around 1760  and in 1761 Wright painted several pictures of the storms encountered on the return journey to Harwich of the royal yacht Fubbs that conveyed Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz to England to marry George III. These are now held in the Royal Collection.

Queen Charlotte's passage to England 1762 Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2015
Queen Charlotte’s passage to England 1762
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2015

The following year Richard had managed to prove his talent and exhibited at ‘The Society of Artists’ where he continued to exhibit until 1773, showing in all 27 works.  In 1764 The Society for the Encouragement of Arts held a competition to find the best picture of a sea view – the winner was none other than Richard, who gained 30 guineas for his work.

The Fishery by Richard Wright, c.1764. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
The Fishery by Richard Wright, c.1764.
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Tragedy struck the family as according to the St James’s Chronicle dated 29th June 1773 Richards only son Edward had died at their family home in Pimlico aged just 20. Edward was also an acknowledged artist, so much so that at the tender age of 16 he was also known to have been exhibiting work at The Society.

According to The Walpole Society 1917-1918 ‘Sometime before his death, according to Edwards, Wright made an exhibition of his works at York during the race week. The result was disappointing, so much so that according to our chronicler, with the aid of a cold ‘hurried him to his grave.’ He adds that he was adversely affected by the death of his son’.

Richard’s death and burial are proving elusive and sources have his year of death as anywhere between 1773 and 1775. We are assuming that it was 1774 as we have placed one of his daughters at their address in Pimlico in that year. The following year the mother and daughters go their separate ways.

Elizabeth moved to 24 Somerset Street Portman Square, the home of long time friend of her father’s the artist George Stubbs, her mother Louisa to 29 Marsham Street, Westminster, the street where the Snow family lived (parents of Sophia Baddeley).

452px-George_Stubbs_-_self_portrait
George Stubbs, self-portrait.

 Quite what happened to the family after 1775 we have no idea as yet, but will provide an update as and when we find anything more. Whatever became of Elizabeth at least we know that she received a small annuity from Sir John Eliot for the remainder of her life.

The Will’s of the Sharples family

We have just found copies of wills for the whole family so thought it would be a good idea to summarize them on here for those of you who have taken such an interest in the family.

Of course, as you know, James was the first to die in America in 1811. We were quite surprised to find though that his will was actually located in England. James described himself as being of the city of New York.  He left the ‘lions share’ to his wife Ellen, later described in his will as his ‘faithful and much respected wife, fully confiding that she will act with that fidelity and discretion in respect of the future disposal of the rest of his property with which she has conducted herself through every condition of life’. He left around £5,000 plus $5,000 deposited in a New York bank. He made provision of £200 for his son George Sharples, by his first wife, but said that George had also financially benefited previously.  To his son Felix, by his second wife he left £500 having already assigned over to him about 1,800 acres of land in the state of Pennsylvania.  To both Rolinda and his other son James he bequeathed each of them £1,000. His will was dated 28th January 1811 and proven in London on 23rd July 1811 by his devoted wife Ellen.

The next will we found was that of Rolinda which was written 4th September 1837 and proven around six months later on 7th March 1838.

Rolinda never married so left all her worldly possessions to her mother Ellen and her brother James for them to ‘share and share alike‘. She did however leave her shares in the Great Western Rail Road to brother James. Her shares and other interest in the Clifton Suspension Bridge she left to her mother. Rolinda’s will was very brief unlike that of her mother.

Son James’s will was dated 12th June 1839. He described himself as an artist in the parish of Clifton Country of Gloucester, bachelor. He left his mother Ellen all the property he possessed in the three per cent consolidated annuities and also in the new three and a half per cent consolidated annuities. He also left her a quarter of a share in the Clifton Suspension Bridge. These were things he had clearly inherited from his sister. His will was also proven by his mother Ellen.

So by this time Ellen was alone, her husband and two children had both died. When Ellen died she had no close relatives to leave her estate to. On the 9th September 1847 Ellen wrote her will. She described herself as a widow of Saint Vincent’s Parade in the parish of Clifton in the City of Bristol.

She left her faithful servant Maria Johnson (if living) with £500, one share of £100 and two quarter shares of £25 each in the Great Western Railway Company and also all her wearing apparel, household furniture, musical instruments and music, books, plate, linen, china, household stores, wines and liquors.  Apart from some small bequests there was one curious bequest made to a Mrs Elizabeth Sharples of Great Barlow Street London one annuity of £25 during her life. Ellen offered no explanation as to who this Elizabeth was.

The rest of her estate she left in trust to John Scandret Harford and Philip William Skynner Miles Esquires such books, pictures and drawings which had been annotated by her with the names of any individuals for the persons respectively with whose names the name may be so marked.  The remainder, where possible was left for the benefit of The Bristol Academy for the provision of the fine arts.  Her will was proven on the 17th May 1849.

Another Ellen Sharples update

Having continued our research we have just come across quite an insightful little article written in Western Daily Press Wednesday 11th January 1899.

Mrs Sharples was much struck, as she witnessed the dreadful reverse of fortune consequent upon the French Revolution, by the desirability that every woman should have, if possible, the means of earning her livelihood, if necessary, or to use her own words:-

“I had frequently thought that all well-educated females, particularly those who had only small fortunes should at least have the power, if they did not exercise it, by the cultivation of some available talent, of obtaining the conveniences and some of the elegancies of life, and to be enabled always to preserve that respectable position in society to which had been accustomed.

I decided, soon after our arrival in Philadelphia, where Congress then assembled, to make any drawing, which had been learnt and practised as an ornamental art for amusement, available to a useful purpose.  Mr Sharples was usually engaged drawing in crayon the portraits of the most distinguished Americans, foreign Ministers and other distinguished visitants from Europe. Copies were frequently required; these I undertook, and was, so far successful also have as many commissions as I could execute;  they were thought equal to the originals, price the same; we lived in good style associating in the first society.

On our return to Bath Mr Sharples again engaged in mechanical studies, I was particular interested in copying pictures in miniature, and applied with great attention and perseverance, most anxious to attain excellent in the art. I was too nervous to practice drawing original portraits, being always exceedingly agitated when I attempted them, although the few I executed obtained the greatest praise. Rolinda had not this failing, she conversed with a person sitting for a portrait with as much ease as if unemployed, and made her sitters equally at their ease”.

 The article ends by confirming her last addresses in England following her return with her son James and her daughter Rolinda – Sion Spring House, Clifton, Bristol; afterwards No. 2 Lower Harley Place, finally removing as a tenant to No. 3 St Vincent’s Parade, where she died.

Update – Ellen Sharples mother of Rolinda Sharples

As promised a brief update on the death of Ellen Sharples. One of the first rules you learn when researching anyone is to always check information and seek validation whenever possible. Regarding Rolinda’s mother, Ellen – lesson learnt, we naively assumed that the location of Ellen’s burial was Wybunbury, Cheshire as that seems to have been cited on several websites.

We did think it looked strange given that we knew Ellen had remained in Bristol, but of course we couldn’t trace the source of this supposition. Armed with only a year of death we checked the National Burial Index and nothing except for a curious entry for the burial of an Ellen Sharples at St Chad, Wybunbury.  At first we thought it must be her until we checked the date only to find that this Ellen was buried some two hundred years previously. This led us to check the Births, Marriage and Death records which confirmed that an Ellen Sharples had died early 1849 in Bristol – this must be the right one. So next we checked the Bristol newspaper for that year and bingo, we found her funeral details – quite a funeral it was too. It just goes to prove that you shouldn’t always believe what you read on the web and that you must check it out for yourself!

Bristol Mercury – Saturday 24 March 1849

The late Mrs Sharples:-  The funeral of this lady whose death is recorded in this day’s obituary, and whose memory deserves to be cherished by every lover of the fine arts in this city as long as Bristol endures, took place on Wednesday last, at Clifton church. Many of our readers will recollect that some five years since Mrs. Sharples presented to the trustees of the Bristol Fine Arts Academy the sum of £2000, for the purpose of founding and supporting that institution; and it now appears from the deceased lady’s will that, after deducting certain bequests and legacies, the residue of her property is bequeathed to the academy.  We may, therefore, reasonably hope that ere long we shall witness in our city the erection of a building exclusively devoted to art, which shall be an enduring monument of the munificence of the deceased, and one of the architectural glories of Bristol.  The funeral procession left St Vincent’s parade, the late Mrs Sharples residence, about 11 o’clock in the forenoon, in the following order:-

Chariot containing the officiating minister, the Rev. J Hensman,

 

Truncheonmen

 

THE HEARSE

Mourning coach, in which were J.S Hardford Esq, President;

P.W.S Miles Esq., 

The High- Sheriff, and G.H Ames, Esq., the Treasurer of the Fine Arts Academy;

The Hon. Secretary, Jere Hill, Esq., and Robert Bright, Esq one of the trustees of the academy, followed on foot, together with the members of the committee, and nearly all the resident artists of Bristol, in deep mourning

The private carriages of the High-Sheriff, of P.W.S Miles, J.S Harford and G.H Ames Esqrs, closed the procession.

 

We hope in our next to be enabled to give a few particulars of the history of the deceased, and of her talented daughter, who died some years since, and many of whose paintings have now become  property of the Bristol Academy

 There have been numerous newspaper reports since Ellen’s death relating to the Academy, but one that stood out was in the Bristol Mercury, Saturday 20th May 1882 which confirmed that Ellen left a legacy of £4,500 to the Academy along with 97 pictures. The article went on to criticize Bristol for its lack of interest in the arts, demonstrated by the lack of donations made and worries about the future of the Academy.  A previous article dated  19th February 1853 gave the amount of her bequest as being £6,000; the article also said that the Academy should be for the sole use of artists and no-one else which caused problems as others felt that such a building should be made available for everyone to use; it’s not clear what the outcome of this debate was.

We will of course continue with our research and provide updates as and when we find out anything more about the family.

Rolinda Sharples (1793-1838)

Whilst searching for clues provided for us in old documents by the heroine of  one of our books, we inadvertently stumbled across the artist Rolinda Sharples (1793– 1838). Our heroine says that she had a self portrait painted by ‘the best female artist in Bristol’, around 1815. This led us to the conclusion that there could only be two possible candidates for that position – either Rolinda or her mother. So this of course led us to research Rolinda’s life a little more, to see if we could make any connection. Unfortunately for us there doesn’t appear to be any  record of her commissions, which leaves us unable to prove conclusively that we have found the correct artist. However, the Sharples family life was so interesting that we decided to carry out some further research, hence their place on our blog.

Rolinda was part of an amazing family of artists headed by her father James, who established themselves in England, travelled to America set up an incredibly successful practice there and then returned to England.

Portrait of the Artist by Rolinda Sharples, 1814; Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
Portrait of the Artist by Rolinda Sharples, 1814; Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

We begin Rolinda’s story with the birth of her father, James. James Sharples was born  into a minor landed gentry family from Lancashire. He was the son of George Sharples and was  baptized on 27th May 1748 at St Anne’s Church, Woodplumpton, Lancashire. The Sharples family were deeply divided between Catholicism and Puritanism, James’s side of the family being Catholic. His father was George Sharples and his mother was Ann Harrison, a widow when she married George. Her previous husband had been Richard Talbot of Lancashire, and from this marriage James had a half-sister named Elizabeth (1738-1803) who became a nun in the order of the Holy Sepulchre in Liege. With a fortune of £285 which she donated to the order in return for 17 florins a year for life she took the name of Sister Mary Hellen Aloysia.  She returned with the order as sub-prioress in the 1790’s when it returned to England and became the order of the Holy Cross. Besides his half-sister James had two full siblings, an older brother Henry (1740-1804 who became a successful timber merchant in Liverpool, and a sister Margaret who joined her half-sisters order. Margaret, who was admitted with no fortune at the age of 16 years and 8 months took the name of Sister Mary Felix Joseph and died in 1783.

Some sources say that James was sent to a Jesuit College in France to train for the priesthood, but quickly ‘opted out’ in favour of returning to England to become an artist where he became a pupil of George Romney. He was at the Jesuit College in Bruges in 1770 when his uncle William Harrison wrote to him.  James wanted money to return home, but was criticized by his uncle instead for being of a ‘fickle and unsettled disposition’.  James’ benefactor at the time was Lord Stourton, a Catholic relation of the Duke of Norfolk whose son was also at the Jesuit College at Bruges.  The Sharples family back in Woodplumpton had fallen on hard times; George had died in 1761 and his widow Ann who had carried on in business trading in cloth had been declared bankrupt once.  By 1774 he was exhibiting his work with the Liverpool Society of Artists.

By 1779 he had moved to Cambridge, then, in 1781 he moved again, this time to Bristol where he taught drawing – clearly his wanderlust was beginning to appear! We know that he was in Bristol at this time as a notice was placed in the Bristol Journal, ‘Mr Sharples from Bath, Portrait Painter in oils and crayons, begs leave to inform the nobility that he has removed from Hartwells to Mrs Jeffery’s , milliner, 28 Clare Street , where upwards of one hundred specimens of known characters may be seen.’ In 1783 he gave his address as 45 Gerrard Street in London.

James was to marry twice before meeting his final wife and co-artist Ellen. His first two wives who both died young may have shared his recusant faith, and so records on them are not forthcoming. With his first wife he produced a son George, then, with his second wife, he fathered another son, Felix Thomas. Both of these sons became artists and possibly one of his former wives was a celebrated needlewoman. In 1783 a ‘Mrs Sharpless … Needle Worker exhibited a piece at the Society of Artists, giving her address as 45 Gerrard Street and being described as ‘Embroideress to Her Majesty’.  After the death of his second wife James went to live with his older brother Henry in Liverpool, renting a house on Everton Hill.

Whilst living in Bristol a ‘pupil and young lady of fashion’ caught his eye and became his third wife, she being Ellen Wallas (often shown as Wallace). Some reports say that Ellen was a Quaker, however, if she were a Quaker and James a Catholic it seems curious that they should have chosen to marry at St Mary’s Church, Lancaster on 5th January 1787. The proof of their marriage lies in the marriage register itself with Ellen’s signature – Ellen in fact, signed her name Wallas and not Wallace. The other curious piece of information is that there is a record in the baptism register of St Peter’s Church, Bolton Le Moors, for a child – James Sharples son of James and Ellen dated 22nd May 1785, i.e. prior to their marriage, so we can only draw the conclusion that James was born out of wedlock, although most sources give his birth date as c.1788.

Mrs Ellen Sharples (1769–1849) by Rolinda Sharples, 1814; Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
Mrs Ellen Sharples (1769–1849) by Rolinda Sharples, 1814; Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

The parish register for the 1st October 1793 at Bath Easton, near Bath shows the baptism of Rolinda Sharples, daughter of James and Helen (known as Ellen) Sharples, (some websites inaccurately say that she was born in America). The reality is however, that shortly after the birth, at the instigation of Robert Cary, a London merchant the family packed their bags and set off for America.

Their passage to America was somewhat arduous and early on their ship was captured by a French privateer and the family was interned at Brest for seven months. Later, in 1803 when James (junior) reported news of war with France, Ellen briefly recalls the terrible ordeal in her diary:

War! how dreadful the sound, whichever way contemplated misery precedes,
accompanies, and follows in its train. Our family have experienced; severely
experienced much of its misery, and much did we witness during our seven months
captivity in France, too heart rending to red [sic].

After their release, they continued their journey across the ocean and arrived in America to begin a new life. Records of arrivals in America show that James arrived in New York early 1796, his name being recorded as James Sharpless which, he decided was easier for Americans to understand.

James set about gaining commissions, with his most famous commission being that of a portrait of George Washington, the original being drawn in 1796. Sharples was literally a pastel portrait painter, almost the only serious artist using this medium in the USA at the time. His colours were kept in small glass vessels and applied with a brush; he made a collection of portraits for himself merely requesting a sitting for a portrait to add to his pictures. This was probably an ingenious plan to obtain patronage, for duplicates were generally ordered. He finished a portrait in about two hours and charged fifteen dollars for the profile and twenty for the full face.

George Washington by James Sharples. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.
George Washington by James Sharples.
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

The whole family engaged in artistic work and became copyists to James. Ellen appears to have been an amazingly independent woman and was one of the first professional female artists in America. With this in mind Ellen paid particular attention to her daughter’s education and development as an artist in her own right. Ellen held very progressive views on the education and independence of women. By 1803 Ellen had begun to encourage Rolinda to take an interest in art and taught her drawing and encouraged her by paying her small amounts for her work. By the time she was 13 Rolinda was a fully fledged member of the family business. She painted small scale pastel portrait of famous people and then copied them and sold them for a profit. Full accounts of the family life still remain in the form of Ellen’s diary, family papers, accounts, details of them building up a family business.

One story about the family tells how they travelled in a stagecoach near Middletown, Connecticut. The horses took fright and dashed off with Rolinda as the only occupant. Although she escaped injury James decided that it wasn’t a safe way to travel so built a large caravan drawn by one horse which they travelled about in from then on – quite the gypsy traveller!

In 1801 the family returned home, living in Bath, Bristol and London for some years.  A planned return to America in 1806 was hampered by fears of war with France, and only James Jr and Felix took passage.  James senior, his wife Ellen and daughter Rolinda finally sailed for America in 1809.

The Hot Wells, Bristol; British School, 1800; Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
The Hot Wells, Bristol; British School, 1800; Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

Tragically, on February 6th 1811 whilst in New York, James died, aged 59, according to the New York Evening Post, leaving an estate worth some thirty-five thousand dollars. After burying James at the catholic cemetery Ellen returned to Bristol taking Rolinda with her; the two boys James and Felix remained in America. George, James’s son from his first marriage did not appear to be with the family, but was mentioned in his father’s will.

Felix Thomas worked mainly in Suffolk County, as a pastellist. He was described as being extremely fond of his food and drink. Rumour has it that whilst working in Yardley at the home of the Winder family, Felix made a hasty departure in 1812, never to be heard of again. Various rumours suggested that he fell victim to small-pox, that he drowned in a shipwreck and that he committed suicide. However, the reality was that he joined the army. American records show him as having joined Gayle’s 61st Regiment, Virginia Militia, in 1812 reaching the rank of Corporal. He died in the 1830’s of natural causes and was buried at Yeatman Plantation Cemetery, Matthews County.

Felix Thomas Sharples

Rolinda, by this time was moving on from painting small portraits and earned her living painting portraits in oil and more ambitious genre and contemporary history paintings that depicted groups. In 1814, Rolinda painted a self-portrait, and in 1815 she completed a double portrait entitled ‘The Artist and Her Mother’.

The Artist and Her Mother by Rolinda Sharples, 1816; Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
The Artist and Her Mother by Rolinda Sharples, 1816; Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

Rolinda was elected an honorary member of the Society of British Artists in 1827 and was one of the first female artists to paint multi-figure compositions.  Her major works include ‘The Cloak Room, Clifton, Assembly Rooms’, ‘Racing on the Downs’ and ‘The Trial of Colonel Brereton’. Her works were exhibited at Bristol, Leeds, Carlisle and Birmingham.

The Cloak-Room, Clifton Assembly Rooms by Rolinda Sharples, 1818; Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
The Cloak-Room, Clifton Assembly Rooms by Rolinda Sharples, 1818; Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

One of her most famous paintings was that of ‘The Trial of Colonel Brereton‘ painted after The Bristol Reform Riots of 1831. The riots were a protest at the House of Lords preventing the Reform Bill from passing through Parliament. Lieutenant Colonel Brereton was court-martialled in January 1832 for sending his squadron away on the Saturday night in the midst of the chaos. Some people thought that Brereton could have done more to save the city from destruction if he had acted earlier and more decisively. For others, however, Brereton had been trying to hold his troops back from violence against the rioters. Many people thought that he was being made a scapegoat for the failure of the city magistrates to support him and give him orders to cope with the rioting. Tragically, Brereton shot himself four days after the trial began. Rolinda not only sketched during the trial, but also as some of those attending to sit for her. A slight element of artistic licence here – the lady seated at the bottom centre of the painting was none other than her mother, positioned in such a way as to appear to be overseeing the proceedings – very clever!

The Trial of Colonel Brereton by Rolinda Sharples, 1834; Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
The Trial of Colonel Brereton by Rolinda Sharples, 1834; Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

For the last few years of her life she lived with her mother in the Hotwells district of Bristol and died of breast cancer in 1838. There remains a plaque at Rolinda’s old house on Canynge Road in Clifton which reads “Ellen Sharples (1769-1849) and Rolinda Sharples (1793-1838) mother and daughter artists lived here 1821-1832”.

A year and a half after Rolinda’s demise James junior was also to die of pneumonia leaving just Ellen who spent her remaining years accompanied by her servant Maria Johnson at St Vincent’s Parade, Clifton, until her her death aged,80. She was to die leaving no heirs leaving no heirs so she decided to donate over 90 pictures to The Museum at Bristol, as well as her own and Rolinda’s and James Junior’s.

Jane Austen has been described as a ‘provincial novelist’ and Rolinda as a ‘provincial artist’. There appears to be a wide gap of public awareness between the two women, what’s your view of this?

Further information about  about Ellen Sharples and here