Portrait of a Lady in a White Dress
Pencil, stump and watercolour, heightened with white chalk, signed and dated 1784
Image size: 8⅛ x 6½ inches
John Downman was born in Ruabon, North Wales, in 1750. His father, Francis Downman, was an attorney and his mother, Charlotte Goodsend, was the daughter of the private secretary to George I.
After studying in Liverpool for a short period, Downman moved to London in 1769, where he enrolled
to study as one of the first thirty-six pupils at the Royal Academy under the tuition of the prominent
figure Benjamin West, the president of the institution at that time. He exhibited his work at the
Academy for the first time in 1770 before setting off in 1773 for a two-year tour of Italy in the company of the famous portraitist Joseph Wright of Derby.
The artist returned to England in 1775 and spent some time working as a portraitist in Cambridge and Exeter before moving back to London in 1779. Downman and his contemporaries Hugh Douglas Hamilton and Henry Edridge had much commercial success producing small intimate likenesses, which had an elegant lightness that perfectly captured a growing taste for sentiment in portraiture.
By around 1780, Downman had devised a method of working in chalks and watercolours, which allowed him to capture a likeness within a short sitting, from which he could easily reproduce a number of copies. The
small intimate scale of the works made them an appropriate form of keepsakes for family and loved
ones and Downman’s works were declared to be ‘universally admired and sought after by the first
people of rank and taste’ (Morning Post, 4th of May 1786). He soon gained the patronage of some of the
most esteemed figures of the day, including the Duchess of Devonshire and the Royal Family.
This attractive half-length portrait of a lady is typical of the artist’s work. The sitter is seated almost in profile in front of a blue curtain, dressed in a ruffle-fronted white dress and headdress. Downman believed that contemporary fashion should be recorded and preserved in portraiture. Unlike many earlier portraitists, he did not depict his sitters in standard or studio costumes, instead the sitters wore their own clothes and thus the portrait served as a form of snapshot of a particular fashion and period within the sitter’s life (see Lloyd, S. and Sloan, K. (ed.), The Intimate Portrait: Drawings Miniatures and Pastels
from Ramsay to Lawrence, London, (2008), p.229).
Downman was elected an associate Royal Academician in 1795 and continued to exhibit at the Royal Academy until 1819. In his later life he moved to Wrexham in Devon where he died in 1824. A large number of his works are kept in the British Museum and Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, where an exhibition of his work was held in 1996.
- Lloyd, S. and Sloan, K. (ed.), The Intimate Portrait: Drawings Miniatures and Pastels from Ramsay to Lawrence, London, (2008).
Circle of Pieter Harmensz Verelst, Late 17th Century
Portrait of a Young Man
Oil on Panel
Image size: 7½ x 5¾ inches
Ripple moulded frame
The Dutch Golden Age painter Pieter Harmensz Verlest was born in the Netherlands in 1618. He painted a variety of subject matters, including a number of portraits, but is perhaps best known for his depictions of daily life including street and tavern scenes from Dutch and Italian villages. He died around 1668, leaving three sons, Simon, Herman and Johannes, who all followed in their father’s footsteps and became artists.
This small and intimate portrait dates from the late 17th century and was painted by a member of the
circle of Verelst. It depicts a youth standing in front of a doorway looking out onto a flat landscape. A large proportion of the landscape is made up of a dramatic cloud-streaked sky and the sitter’s large averted eyes display a woeful, melancholic expression, which is echoed in the dark clouds brewing in the distance behind him.
The painting’s composition is made up of several alternating contrasts between light shining across the
sitter’s right arm and face, and the flash of bright blue sky towards the top of the picture, against the blacks and murky browns of the distant fields and the deep shadows behind him. The contrast between light and dark is used particularly effectively in the artist’s skilful handling of the youth’s baggy shirtsleeves, which are criss-crossed with tiny crumples and folds.
Follower of Giovanni Battista Lampi, Late 18th Century
Portrait of a Gentleman in Levantine Dress
Oil on canvas
Image size: 19¾ x 16½ inches
Carved gilt frame
Painted during the late-eighteenth century, this striking and colourful portrait depicts a middle-aged gentleman richly dressed in an exotic Levantine costume. The portrait is highly accomplished and strongly reminiscent of the work of the 18th century Austrian-Italian portraitist and history painter Giovanni Battista Lampi, otherwise known as Johann Baptist Lampi the Elder.
The son of fresco painter Matteo Lampi, Giovanni Battista Lampi was born in Romeno in 1751. He
studied under his father from an early age in Salzburg and Verona before moving to Trento in 1773 to
complete his training. In 1786, he was appointed as professor at the Vienna Academy by the Habsburg
Emperor, Joseph II, and went on to gain great acclaim as a portraitist to royalty over his career,
working at the royal and imperial courts in Vienna, Warsaw and St. Petersburg.
This fine work displays the same luminescent qualities that can be seen in paintings by Lampi and the
artist appears to have been well aware of the master’s style. The skin tones have been carefully blended
over strong red undertones to create a luminescent and life-like depiction of flesh. The artist also displays a keen eye for perspective and has picked out all the different elements of the man’s costume and the way they catch the light in beautiful detail, particularly the turquoise plume on the top of his turban and the golden fastening chain of his fur-lined cloak. The fashion for dressing in Levantine costume was extremely popular in courts across Europe during the 18th century: the sitter is evidently a man of considerable means, who was keen to display his wealth and worldly knowledge through the fantastical magnificence of his costume.
- Ribeiro. A. Dress in Eighteenth-Century Europe: 1715-89, London, (2002).
(See in particular pp.264-272 for a discussion of the popularity the of Turkish costume in Europe.)
- Ribeiro A. ‘Turquerie: Turkish Dress and English Fashion in the Eighteenth Century’, in The Connoisseur, vol. 20, (May 1979).
- Williams, H. Turquerie: An Eighteenth-Century European Fantasy, London, (2014)
Portrait of a Girl
Oil on panel, signed and dated
Image size: 24½ x 20 inches
18th Century gilt frame
Gilbert Jackson was an accomplished English portrait painter, active between 1621 and 1643.
Little is known about Jackson’s life; he was probably a London based artist but he seems to have travelled around various parts of England, painting members of the local gentry and their families. He was made a freeman of the Painter-Stainer’s Company in 1640.
This charming portrait displays many of the features attributed to Jackson. In contrast to his foreign
contemporaries Daniel Mytens, Sir Anthony Van Dyck and Paul van Somer, who were working at the court around this time, Jackson followed a more traditional English style, reminiscent of works from the Elizabethan era. The way that the sitter’s face quietly recedes into the background of this portrait is reminiscent of the naïve charm of earlier portraits, yet the face is saved from flatness or stiffness by the
delicate, knowing expression which Jackson has brought to the eyes, and by the well observed line of
the mouth, which brings life to the girl’s confident smile.
Other features of Jackson’s work are the detailed way in which he depicts costume and, in particular,
his bold use of colour. Here the artist has chosen a teal background, which is strikingly bright next to the sumptuous scarlet of the sitter’s gown and the ribbon in her hair. Jackson’s skill is evident in his handling of the light as it catches the lace on the dress and passes through the fine material of the intricate collar, and in the way that he brings across the light, wispy texture of the girl’s hair in contrast to the hard, smooth surface of the pearls at her ears and around her neck.
An inscription at the top of the painting gives us part of the artist’s signature, as well as the initials and age of the sitter. The sitter is most likely the daughter of a noble family, painted during one of the artist’s trips outside London.
Jackson’s works are present in a number of important national collections including the National Portrait Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Museum of Cardiff.
We are grateful to Sir Roy Strong for his assistance attributing this work.
Follower of Benjamin West
Late 18th Century
Portrait of a Gentleman in a Wide-Brimmed Hat
Oil on canvas
Image size: 30 x 25 inches
Contemporary carved gilt frame
This elegant half-length portrait, painted in the style of West, depicts a seated gentleman wearing a black hat and green coat with his left hand resting on the spine of a large book clasped under his
Benjamin West was one of the most prominent artists of his time. President of the Royal Academy from 1792 until his death, he received many commissions from George III and other English patrons, and at the same time served as teacher and advisor to three generations of American artists in London.
West worked primarily as a painter of historical and religious subjects, and as a portrait painter as patronage required. The first pictures he exhibited in London at the Society of Artists in 1764 were subjects from Renaissance literature. George III then commissioned the artist, marking the beginning of royal patronage of West, who painted some sixty pictures for the King.
West is best known for his painting, The Death of General Wolfe, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1771. A milestone in English and American art, this was the first major depiction of a contemporary event with figures in modern clothing.
As George III withdrew his support in the 1790s, William Beckford became an important patron, and commissioned religious paintings and portraits for his Gothic Revival country house, Fonthill Abbey.
Americans who studied with West brought his style and techniques back to America, providing a foundation for the growth of the arts in America and creating a style of considerable sophistication.
Portrait of a Crossbowman
Oil on oak panel
Image size: 27 x 35 inches
Contemporary style frame
This early work, depicting a gentleman holding a crossbow winder, was produced in the Low Countries
in the first quarter of the 17th century. The man is dressed in black, the colour of choice in the Low
Countries during this period. To the modern eye, his clothing appears to be relatively sombre, but on
closer inspection, it is apparent that the artist has conveyed the elevated status of his sitter through
bringing out the differing textures of the material that make up his costume.
The Gentleman’s golden jewel-covered belt is particularly well painted and indicates that the sitter was
the holder of some form of civic position, perhaps linked to the crossbow, which is referred to both in
the coat of arms in the top right hand side of the portrait, and the crossbow winder in his hand. The
crossbow was a popular weapon of choice on the continent and it is possible that the sitter served as a
prominent member of one of the many crossbow guilds in towns across the Low Countries, as an officer
in a civic militia.
Continental School, Early 17th Century
Portrait of a Gentleman with a Crossbow Winder
Oil on panel
Inscribed ‘AETATIS SUAE 32’
Image size: 35¼ x 26¾ inches
Circle of Hyacinthe Rigaud
Early 18th Century
Portrait of a Gentleman in a Fur Hat
Oil on canvas
Image size: 20½ x 16¼ inches
Period gilt frame
Hyacinthe Rigaud (1659–1743) was the leading French portraitist of the late 17th and early 18th Centuries. The son of a tailor and painter in Perpignan, Rigaud trained in Montpellier under PaulPetzet and Antoine Ranc.
He moved to Paris in 1681, where he trained under Charles Le Brun, and in 1682 was awarded the Prix de Rome by the French Academy in Rome. Rigaud was inspired by the works of other great masters whose paintings he studied and collected.
His style encompasses thedignity and pose of the works of van Dyck, as well as the realism of Rembrandt, to create themajestically superior and naturalistic images which so appealed to his decidedly high-brow clientele.The artist’s work proved to be extremely popular amongst the aristocracy, and his talent was soonnoticed by Louis XIV.
He became the principal painter to the king under Louis XIV and paintedmany portraits for the royal family under the Sun King and his successor Louis XV, including his mostfamous work, the iconic image of Louis XIV in his state robes (1701).
This handsome portrait, painted by a member of Rigaud’s circle, dates from c.1725-50 and depicts arefined gentleman, dressed in an informal costume referred to as ‘undress’. A gentleman would wearsuch an outfit whilst at home or when paying a visit to the coffee house in the morning.
The sitter’s garments are of a very high quality and serve to reflect the sitter’s wealth, status and elegance. During this period, gentlemen often shaved their heads in order to facilitate the wearing of a wig, which wouldbe worn with a suit. Here the sitter has been depicted in a luxurious turban-like cap lined with lynx fur,a highly fashionable and expensive material at the time.
Over his shirt, he wears a velvet fur-linedgown adorned with decorative clasps fashioned from silver braid. The elegant informality of hisappearance can be seen in his unbuttoned shirt and the unfastened black ribbon hanging from hisbuttonhole, which has been artfully arranged into a fluttering drape by the portraitist.
Literature:- Ribeiro, A. Dress in Eighteenth Century Europe, London, (2002).
German 1893 - 1970
Portrait of a Boy
Oil on panel, signed and dated 1934
Image size: 20 x 12 inches
Martin Mendgen a painter and art teacher, was born in January 12th 1893 in Trier, Germany.
Attributed to Augustus Leopold Egg
1816 - 1863
Portrait of a Girl
Oil on canvas
Image size: 14 x 12 inches (35.5 x 30 cm)
Contemporary gilt frame
1701 – 1779
Portrait of Mary Wharton
Oil on canvas
Image size: 29 ½ x 23 ¾ inches
Original gilt frame
This fine portrait of Mary Wharton displays many of the classic characteristics of Hudson’s work. The bright and luminous sheen of the lady’s silver silk dress and pearls serve to accentuate her fashionably delicate complexion, and the bloom of her cheeks is echoed and reflected in the powder pink of her wrap, bringing a pleasant balance to the painting as a whole. The sitter’s pose is confidant, and her gaze direct, and Hudson has captured the hint of a smile playing across her lips.
The Honourable James Campbell of the Clan Campbell was an officer in the Royal Scots Army and the British Army, politician and unsuccessful kidnapper. In November 1690 Campbell conspired with Sir John Johnson to abduct the thirteen-year-old daughter of the late Philip Wharton (cousin of Lord Wharton) worth £1500 and heiress to Goldsborough Hall in North Yorkshire from outside the home of her mother in Westminster.
Her aunt and cousins who had been in the coach with Mary testified in court that after having returned from dinning with a Mr Archibald Montgomery in Soho they saw a coach drive hurry past them. On stopping, three men jumped out and in the process of forcing Mary into the six horses coach knocked the footman down and pushed one of her cousins into the gutter.
Mary was taken to Watson the coachman’s house where despite being in tears and protesting she was coerced in to marrying Campbell.Disturbingly evidence from the Old Bailey trail also suggests that she tricked into sleeping in the same bed as Campbell by his female accomplice, Mrs Clewer whether or not Mary was raped by Campbell can’t be ruled out but is not inevitable as often girls married before their 14th birthday would sleep in the same bed as their husband on their wedding night but actually consummate the marriage a few years later.The next day Campbell compelled Mary to write a reassuring letter to her aunt telling her that she was happily and safely wed and that they would soon visit. Whilst Mary and Campbell were having breakfast, Mary felt ill and was taken to an apothecary where her family finally found her and removed her from Campbell’s clutches by order of the Lord Chief Justice.
Although Johnson was convicted of abduction and sentenced to death, Campbell escaped due to a plea of ignorance of English law. Apparently in Scotland at the time abduction was a conventional method of obtaining a wife and he was falsely led to believe by Johnson that such practices were also accepted in England. Even though his excuse was accepted as reasonable by the powers that be it does sound a little dubious to me.The marriage was annulled on the 20 December of that year and Mary later married her guardian, the son of her aunt. Hopefully after undergoing such a horrible ordeal Mary went on to have a happy and successful life.
Thomas Hudson was one of the most celebrated portrait painters of the mid 18th century. Born in Devon in 1701, he studied under the artist Jonathan Richardson and later went on to marry Richardson’s daughter against her father’s wishes. He was friends with many of the circle of prominent artists that met at the Old Slaughter’s Coffee House throughout the 1740’s, including William Hogarth and Francis Hayman, with whom he travelled to Europe in 1748. He also visited Italy with the sculptor Louis-François Roubiliac in 1752.
Hudson’s style of portraiture proved so successful that for a decade from 1745 to 1755 he was London’s most popular portrait painter and made a fortune painting the cream of London society and members of the Royal Family. Due to his popularity and high volume of commissions, like a number of other fashionable artists of this period, including his contemporary Allan Ramsay, Hudson employed others to paint the drapery and clothing in his portraits. He often collaborated with Joseph Van Acken, a specialist in painting costume and prominent artist in his own right, thus allowing Hudson to focus his full attention on the fine details of the sitters face. The dramatic positions in which the sitters in his portraits are posed and the employment of rich and often striking costumes is a notable feature of his work and one which has led to comparisons with artists such as van Dyck.
Hudson was a talented teacher, perhaps too good, as subsequently a number of his former assistants, including the great portraitists Sir Joshua Reynolds and Joseph Wright of Derby, went on to overtake him in popularity. Hudson retired in the late 1750’s and died in Twickenham in 1779. His most notable works include portraits of King George II and the renowned court musician George Frideric Handel, and his work entitled ‘Portrait of a Nobleman in Van Dyck Dress’.
His works are present in some of the most esteemed collections, including The National Portrait Gallery, The National Maritime Museum, Tate Gallery, Foundling Museum, and the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery.
- Miles, E., ‘Thomas Hudson (1701-1779) Portraitist to the British Establishment’, PhD thesis, Yale, (1976),
pub. University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor.
D M Saxton
British 20th Century
Portrait of a Sailor
Oil on canvas, signed lower right
Image size: 17 x 13 inches
The back of this painting notes that the it won the Royal Navy Painting Award. Unfortunately there is no record of the year.
Portrait of Isaac Barrow
Oil on canvas
Image size: 29 ½ x 25 inches (75 x 63.5 cm)
Mary Beale, (nee Craddock), is one of the most celebrated portraitists of the 17th century. The fact that she, as a woman, managed to reach the top of this male-dominated profession is highly unusual, (if not exceptional), and testimony to her skill and strength of character. The artist came from a puritan background and her father, John Craddock, was the reverend of Barrow in the county of Suffolk, where she was baptised in 1633. John Craddock was an amateur painter and he is recorded as being a member of the Painter-Stainers’ Company.
Little is known of Mary Beale’s training but it is possible that she received instruction from Robert Walker, a successful London portraitist who painted her father John Craddock in the 1640’s. She moved to Walton-on-Thames in 1651, after her marriage to Charles Beale, and then to Covent Garden several years after the birth of her elder son Bartholomew. Beale started to paint professionally in 1655, becoming the main source of income for the family after her husband lost his post as Deputy of Clerks at the Patent Office.
Charles devoted himself to supporting his wife in her profession, acting as her studio assistant and business manager and recording details of her career and working practices in over thirty diaries, of which one survives in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery. Her fame grew rapidly in London society and her work was much admired by her contemporaries, including fellow artists such as the renowned court portraitist Sir Peter Lely and miniaturist Richard Gibson.
Lely was an ardent admirer of Beale’s work and the two evidently enjoyed a very close relationship with one another. Lely allowed her the great privilege of observing him and studying his technique whilst he painted, even granting her permission to produce copies of his own works.As well as producing copies, Beale also worked hard to satisfy the high demand for her own work. She produced a large number of portraits, including many for the clergy and the nobility, as her husband proudly records in his diaries where he lists a great number of her sitters.
Many of Beale’s works have survived, including a large collection of paintings in the collection of the Manor House Museum in Bury St Edmunds, her portrait of her two sons in the Tate Britain collection, and a fine self portrait of the artist, which hangs in The National Gallery.
This fine portrait depicts Isaac Barrow (1630 - 1677), a Christian theologian and mathematician who is generally given credit for his early role in the development of infinitesimal calculus. Isaac went to school first at Charterhouse, where he was so turbulent and pugnacious that his father was heard to pray that if it pleased God to take any of his children he could best spare Isaac. He completed his education at Trinity College, he then resided for a few years in college, but in 1655 he was driven out by the persecution of the Independents. He spent the next four years in the East of Europe, and after many adventures returned to England in 1659.
Barrow was ordained the next year, and appointed to the professorship of Greek at Cambridge. In 1662 he was made professor of geometry at Gresham College, and in 1663 was selected as the first occupier of the Lucasian chair at Cambridge. He resigned the latter to his pupil Newton in 1669, whose superior abilities he recognized and frankly acknowledged. He was appointed master of Trinity College in 1672, and held the post until his death. Another portrait by Mary Beale of the same sitter can be seen at Trinity College, Cambridge.
Literature:- Barber, T. and Bustin M., ‘Mary Beale: Portrait of a Seventeenth Century Painter, Her Family andHer Studio’, exhibition catalogue, Geffrye Museum, (1999).