Art Detective: the portrait of Catherine Clemens and her son, John Marcus Clemens

This post is very much about art and family connections, but I have a slight query with this first one, which is a miniature by Richard Cosway, that I first came came across on social media.

Cleveland Museum of Art
Cleveland Museum of Art

Being a big fan of miniatures, especially those by Cosway, I wanted to find out more about the sitter and her child, but with no real success, as yet, despite contacting The Cleveland Museum of Art, who own the miniature , and according to their website it is dated c1800 or possibly c1790.

They directed me to further information on their website which described the portrait, but it still provided no clues as to  who this Catherine Clemens or her son were. They were unable to tell me anything more and recommended I should buy their the book, British Portrait Miniatures: The Cleveland Museum of Art, which would tell me all I needed to know. I duly did this, in anticipation of it learning about these two people. However, when it arrived, like their website, it told me about the miniature, absolutely nothing about the sitters, so whilst, I am still not certain of my findings, I do now think I know know who they are, so let’s see where it leads and maybe one of my readers can shed some light on the mystery.

The online book, Portrait Miniatures: the Edward B Greene Collection, tells us it was painted c1790, so assuming the child was about five at the time, the gap between the website and their online book is quite a large gap given the appearance of the child.

Firstly, despite having read everywhere that Catherine and her son were named Clemens, I believe that somehow, over time, their surname has lost the letter ‘t’ and that it should be Clements. Why do I think that?

I began my search looking for anyone in the world named John Marcus Clemens who would have been born around 1785 – 1800, with a mother named Catherine, and not a single person appeared, despite a variety of searches, which struck me as very strange.

There was, however, a John Marcus Clements, born in 1789 in Dublin, to parents, Henry Theophilus Clements and his second wife, Catherine née de la Poer Beresford. It strikes me that this is ‘our’ Catherine and her son, but proving it is far more difficult.

If am I correct, then Catherine (1761-1836), was the daughter of John de la Poer Beresford (1737-1805), an Irish statesman, Barrister at Law, First Commissioner of the revenue board, Knight of the shire for Waterford, and second son of Marcus, Earl of Tyrone

A watercolour portrait of John Beresford, M.P. by Richard Crosse. Gallery of Ireland
A watercolour portrait of John Beresford, M.P. by Richard Crosse. Gallery of Ireland

and his French wife, Mademoiselle Anne Constantia de Ligondes, who died towards the end of 1772, when Catherine was about eleven, leaving John with nine children to raise and needing a new wife as quickly as possible to help with his offspring.

Along came his second wife, and stepmother to Catherine, the celebrated beauty, Barbara Montgomery (1737-1788), who was immortalised in art, as one of the Montgomery sisters (Barbara, Elizabeth and Anne), in the famous painting by Joshua Reynolds, ‘Three Ladies Adorning A Term of Hymen.’

Reynolds, Joshua; Three Ladies Adorning a Term of Hymen; Tate

John and Barbara were married in 1774 and went on to produce a further eight children, so 17 known children in total – that was quite some family to support.

Returning to Catherine, in August 1778, aged just 16, she married, and married very well, her husband being the widower, Henry Theophilus Clements (1750-1795), son of Nathaniel Clements (1705-1777) and his wife, Hannah Gore (1710-1781).

Nathaniel Clements and Hannah Gore

Nathaniel had risen through the political ranks to become the main financial manager of the British and Irish Government in Ireland and Minister for Finance from 1740 to 1777.

The Viceregal Lodge in Phoenix Park, Dublin dated 1849 by Henry Newton. Royal Collection Trust
The Viceregal Lodge in Phoenix Park, Dublin dated 1849 by Henry Newton. Royal Collection Trust

Nathaniel was appointed to the office of Chief Ranger of the Phoenix Park and Master of Game and built the Ranger’s lodge to his own design in 1751, which is now Áras an Uachtaráin, the official residence of the President of Ireland.

Phoenix Park
Phoenix Park

He also had an extensive property portfolio, including Abbotstown, County Dublin, estates in County Leitrim and County Cavan and was a developer of property in Georgian Dublin, including part of Henrietta Street. Nathaniel was described one of the richest commoners in Ireland.

Henry Theophilus and Catherine settled into married life and produced at least seven known children, several of whom died young, but it is their son, John Marcus who appears in the miniature by Cosway with Catherine.

Just four years before the birth of Catherine’s son, John Marcus, we have a portrait of her, which is now at the Lady Lever Gallery, ‘in the style of Thomas Gainsborough’. This portrait seems to have originally simply been title ‘Portrait of a Lady’ but subsequently identified as Catherine. As we can see here, she would have been aged just 24. Having contacted the gallery they very kindly sent me more information about this portrait which does in fact dispute that it was Catherine, rather that it was more likely to have been Henry Theophilus’ first wife, Mary Webb, who died c1777. It is difficult to age her, as the fashion of the day dictated that women wore hair powder, which perhaps makes her appearance seem older than she was was.

Gainsborough, Thomas; Portrait of a Lady; Lady Lever Art Gallery

In 1788, just one year before the birth of John Marcus, when Catherine was aged 28, her portrait was painted again, this time by George Romney. We know this to be Catherine from Arthur Chamberlain’s book of 1910, George Romney, which confirms that:

Among his portraits of 1788 were Mrs. Clements, a half-length, sent to Dublin.

To have been painted by such famous artists tells us that Catherine was not only regarded as a beauty, but that the family must have been very affluent.

The couple had eight known children, their first being Anne Barbara, born just a year after her marriage and named after Catherine’s mother and her stepmother.

Just as an aside, another of their children, Selina (1780-1805) went on to marry Sir William Mordaunt Sturt Milner (1779-1855). When I came across his name, it rang very distinct, if distant bells.

With further investigation I soon realised that he was the great nephew of Dame Mary Lindsay (née Milner), who was Dido Elizabeth Belle’s stepmother. This was not an avenue I was expecting to travel along for one minute, and it just goes to what a very small world it was at that time, with so many of the upper class being related by marriage.

Catherine’s husband, Henry Theophilus died in 1795, as did one of their sons, but Catherine lived until 1836.

Her will, as you can see, was exceptionally brief, just seven lines, in which she stated that she wished to be buried near her daughter, Selina, at Harrow Road (Kensal Green Cemetery). However, Selina was buried in 1805, at Bolton Percy, Yorkshire, home to the Milner family so that makes Catherine’s request somewhat strange, unless the Selina she named was her granddaughter who died 1834 and who was buried at Kensal Green, which would make more sense.

Her will confirmed that her surviving son, was a colonel in India, this would have been Henry John (1781-1843) who we see below in a portrait by Martin Cregan.

Colonel Henry John Clements by Martin Cregan. Sold by Christies
Colonel Henry John Clements by Martin Cregan. Sold by Christies

The son in the portrait with Catherine, John Marcus, having died two years previously, in 1834. John Marcus left a widow, Catherine Frances nee Wentworth, daughter of Godfrey Wentworth Esq. of Woolley Park, Wakefield, Yorkshire and two surviving sons.

Catherine specifically asked that her son Colonel Clements, to ‘see that Harriet Cogan does not want, until her bother returns from India when he will be able to take care of her should she be alive.’ Unfortunately, it is not clear from Catherine’s will who this Harriet was, it may be another of Catherine’s children, but so far, I can’t find any Harriet Clements married to a Mr Cogan, so another mystery.

To finish, I thought it would be interesting to group all three portraits said to be of Catherine together, to see whether they were all of the same person. I am not convinced.

We know for certain that the middle one, by Romney is definitely a Mrs Clements and is confirmed as such not only by the reference in the book, but also from the portrait itself, in which the sitter has a letter on her lap with the name Clements on it.

As stated earlier, the Lady Lever Gallery have not been able to confirm the attribution of their portrait, but a leading art expert, Dr Alex Kitson, doesn’t believe it to be a Gainsborough, either, leaving yet another mystery to unravel.

Sadly, despite the book by Cleveland Art Museum, providing no information about the sitters, I still can’t say for certain that I’m correct, but I am pretty certain that there was only ever one Catherine Clements living at that time with a son named John Marcus, and that was Catherine Clements – with a ‘t’, so I can only conclude that it must have been the woman in the one in the centre and to the right of that group.

If anyone else can find a Catherine Clemens with a son named John Marcus Clemens, do please let me know.

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.

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.



The Connoisseur, volume XVI, 1906

Neil Jeffares, Dictionary of pastellists before 1800

Georgian ‘Bling’

lwlpr19411 Jewellery
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

How many of us can honestly say that we don’t feel good when wearing a beautiful piece of jewellery. The Georgians were no different, the bolder the better in many cases. So we thought we would take a look at the ‘bling’ of the day.

Archduchess Marie Christine, Duchess of Teschen

There were certain items of jewellery that were designated for certain times of the day. Day wear would consist of a necklace, small understated rings and the most important item which arguably would still be useful today – the chatelaine or chain, known as ‘equipage’ until the 1830’s, as shown below which would be attached to the waist of the dress.

Courtesy of the British Museum

Today this item seems to have been replaced by the familiar ‘bottomless’ handbag. In the 18th century is would have worn about the waist and would have been used to hold everything you could have possibly needed for the day – scissors, a thimble case, needles, a small purse, seals, a watch, a small booklet to write notes on, a pencil, etc.

Courtesy of The Cavalcade of History and Fashion

Eighteenth-century gents would display their status by wearing shoe buckles and buttons studded with gems such as these.

Man’s steel and gilt wire shoe buckles, England, c. 1777–1785 LACMA M.80.92.6a-b.

Evenings required a completely different type of jewellery – diamonds were the order of the day, the bigger and brighter the better, usually set in silver. Diamonds were often mounted in silver, rather than gold, with the aim being to enhance the stone’s colour and would have been an essential part of court life. To be at the height of fashion you would wear Girandole earrings.  These featured  a central bow from which hung three dangling jewels that resembled the chandeliers of the period. For those who chose not to have pierced ears, the Georgian era saw the advent of the clip-on earring.

Girondole earrings


During the French Revolution many women chose to wear a red ribbon as a choker in support of friends and family who had died during the revolution, or as a sign of their own close call with death. For those more affluent then rubies would have been the equivalent, both indicative of the blood shed at executions.

A slightly later period, but indicative of the red choker.

This item from the British Museum was too fascinating not to include.  The description reads:

Heart shaped pendant locket with a lock of hair, traditionally said to be that of Marie Antoinette, set under glass or rock-crystal with an inscribed card and mounted in a gold filigree setting. A small gold padlock is suspended from the base with a key on a chain attached to the suspension loop. The filigree in the form of tight spiral discs forming ‘spectacles’ shapes, placed within the flat wire rim.

  • Inscription Content

    A lock of hair of MARIE ANTOINETTE, Queen of FRANCE given by her to Lady Abercorn by whom it was given to her sister Lady Julia Lockwood, whose daughter Lady Napier gave it to W.S. 1853

  • Inscription Comment

    The inscription is wrongly transcribed in the catalogue of the Hull Grundy Gift: Lady Abercorn is given as Lady Abercrombie.

For more information about this item use the highlighted link to the British Museum web page.

Georgian bling

Moving on to possibly the most macabre items of jewellery, we take a brief look at mourning rings.  In many wills that we have read it seems commonplace for the deceased to leave enough money for some sort of mourning ring to be purchased as a keepsake, usually bearing the name and date of death of the person, and possibly an image of them, or a motto.

Littleton mourning ring found in Bridgnorth, Shropshire. © Birmingham City Council
Littleton mourning ring found in Bridgnorth, Shropshire. © Birmingham City Council
England, after AD 1794 A gold mourning ring with eye for Mary Dean Courtesy of British Museum

And finally we take a look at an item of jewellery that seems unlikely ever to return to fashion – Lover’s eye brooches or eye miniatures. It is reputed that they became popular in the late 1780’s when the Prince of Wales decided to send Maria Fitzherbert a token of his love for her. The idea that he should wish to do such a thing was frowned upon, so he commissioned Cosway simply to paint only the eye to preserve anonymity.

A left eye miniature traditionally identified as the eye of George, Prince of Wales , courtesy of

Our post would not be complete without including something light hearted from the Lewis Walpole Library, so if  finances were running low due to gambling debts a lady could always sell her jewels!

selling jewels
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole
George IV by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1821. © Royal Collection Trust

‘Happy Birthday’ George IV – born 12th August 1762

NPG D33075; Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz; King George IV when Prince of Wales by Richard Houston, published by Robert Sayer, after Robert Pyle
Queen Charlotte & King George IV when Prince of Wales

Today’s blog is a little different from our usual but we could not allow the birth of  George IV to pass without a little acknowledgement, especially as he was one of Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s lovers and  allegedly father of  her daughter, Georgiana Augusta Frederica Seymour, although Georgiana’s birth was not heralded in quite the same way as her alleged father’s entrance into the world. We thought we would celebrate his birth in the shape of portraits of him over the years, the majority being courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, as tempting as it would be simply to use the vast quantity of caricatures of him we’ve managed to resist temptation … well almost!

George’s birth was proclaimed in the London Evening Post  (August 10, 1762 – August 12, 1762) :

At seven this morning her Majesty was safely delivered of a Prince at the palace of St James, to the great joy of his Majesty and of all his loyal subjects, who consider the birth of this heir to the crown as a pledge of the future felicity of their posterity under the happy auspice of his royal family.

About half an hour after nine this inestimable blessing was made known to the nation by the discharge of the tower guns and at noon there was a great court at St James’s, when the foreign ministers, the great officers of state and all the nobility and other persons of distinction were admitted to pay their compliments to the King upon this mark of the divine favour to his Majesty and to his people.

Her Majesty and the new-born Prince of Wales are in perfect health and nothing can surpass the testimonies of joy and affection expressed by all ranks and degrees of his Majesty’s subjects for this great and desirable event.

It is worth of observation that her Majesty is brought to bed of an heir to the crown on the same day that our most gracious Sovereign’s great grand-father, King George the first, succeeded to the crown of these Kingdoms, by virtue of several acts of parliament for securing the Protestant succession in the illustrious house of Hanover.

The first portrait we offer is that of George was a young child with his younger brother Frederick.

George IV when Prince of Wales, with Frederick, Duke of York when Prince Frederick, c.1770 by Johan Joseph Zoffany.
George IV when Prince of Wales, with Frederick, Duke of York when Prince Frederick, c.1770 by Johan Joseph Zoffany. © Royal Collection Trust

The next shows George in his teenage years whilst he was busy having fun with the ladies of the ton such as Grace Dalrymple Elliott, amongst others!! Grace looks more than 8 years older than him, doesn’t she?

George IV when Prince of Wales by Richard Cosway, watercolour on ivory, circa 1780-1782
by Richard Cosway, watercolour on ivory, circa 1780-1782; National Portrait Gallery
Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough (Metropolitan Museum of Art).
Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough (Metropolitan Museum of Art).
George IV when Prince of Wales, 1782 by Thomas Gainsborough. © Royal Collection Trust
George IV when Prince of Wales, 1782 by Thomas Gainsborough. © Royal Collection Trust

NPG 5389; King George IV by Richard Cosway

Another Cosway portrait in 1792, aged 30

On the 8th April 1795 the Prince married Princess Caroline of Brunswick and somehow, despite unwillingness on his part, the couple managed to conceive a daughter who was born virtually nine months to the day after the couple were married – Princess Charlotte.

The Marriage of George IV when Prince of Wales by Henry Singleton, 1795.
The Marriage of George IV when Prince of Wales by Henry Singleton, 1795. © Royal Collection Trust

The portrait is George IV’s coronation portrait.

George IV by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1821. © Royal Collection Trust
George IV by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1821. © Royal Collection Trust

Well, we said we couldn’t resist a caricature image and this is our favourite, 1795 reflecting upon all his mistresses … is Grace amongst them? You decide!

Thoughts on Matrimony.
Thoughts on Matrimony. © British Museum

Mary Robinson aka Perdita

Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey

Anna Maria Crouch

Maria Fitzherbert

Pretty Milliner

Lady and Child – Grace Dalrymple Elliott, perhaps?