Pretty as a Picture

December 6, 2011 at 7:57 pm (fashion, history, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , )


Charlotte Frost, author of Sir William Knighton: The Strange Career of a Regency Physician, recently asked how I found the images, portraits, miniatures I had been uncovering. In a word: SEARCHED. Hours, sometimes, of painstaking searching for names, different combinations of names and estates (you trying looking for people named SMITH!), and sometimes just sheer luck: looking for something totally different you unearth a little piece of GOLD.

Charlotte’s Sir William was uncle to my Richard Seymour — husband of Fanny Smith, Emma’s younger sister. And it was while transcribing Richard’s 1836 diary that I came across mention of what seem to be two portraits:

At the end of April, 1836, Richard laments his lack of time – he is taken up with parish duties, “sitting to Ross & the claims of friends”. He is in London and it is easy to disregard the comment, although the phrase “sitting to” is self-evident.

Then, in September 1836, come two further comments about Mr Ross. The first reads, “Mr. Ross arrived this evening to paint dearest Fanny’s miniature“.

Really?! The connection of ROSS and MINIATURE immediately brought to mind the delightful miniature of Maria Smith (Lady Culme-Seymour) auctioned at Bonhams.

And then the suspicion — always a habit when dealing with primary materials — IS the image really of Maria? Or, could it have been misidentifie,d and it’s really Fanny??

Just from the look of the eyes — always described as too “light” by Mamma Smith — and the youthful impertinence, I have come to love and think of this picture as Maria. So Maria she remains.

The question therefore arises: WHERE is miniature of Fanny Seymour? Where is the seeming “companion” miniature of Richard Seymour??

That Richard and Fanny are home, in Kinwarton (Warwickshire, not far from Stratford on Avon) — Richard’s comments on Ross’s arrival — leads me to presume that they may have housed the man for the few days he sat at work.

Ross arrived the evening of the 22nd, and he “finished a miniature of dearest Fanny – w:h quite satisfies me” on the 28th. Richard then comments that he paid the man £26, 5 shillings for the portrait; and £3, 15 shillings for the frame & case. There are moments when you just fall in love with Richard, and this is one of those moments, when he writes, “This piece of self indulgence will I hope be pardoned in me–“.

A little digression: Jane Hawker — AKA Lady Seymour — was Richard Seymour’s mother. She was also mother to John Culme-Seymour (eventual husband to Maria, pictured above), Michael Seymour (of the Royal Navy), and Frances Seymour. Frances married Emma/Fanny/Maria’s middle brother Spencer Smith — so THREE Smith siblings married THREE Seymour siblings! And Michael? he married his cousin, Dora Knighton — daughter of Dorothea Hawker (Jane’s sister) and the very same Sir William Knighton mentioned above.

Due to Maria’s portrait — sold in a lot that also included the Seymours’ mother — Richard’s “Mr. Ross” can only be (Sir) William Charles Ross, RA (1794-1860) — at the time not yet a “sir” and not yet a Royal Academician…

You can view Lot Details of Maria Lady Culme Seymour and Jane Lady Seymour, from Bonhams.

While it’s wonderful to see the cost of such a treasure, how could Richard say nothing about the portrait — a description of Fanny’s clothing, for instance, would have helped identify it. Oh, it is hard not to wonder if the two fluffy sheep in the background of Maria’s picture are KINWARTON sheep!

It breaks my heart to read of such portraits leaving the family (these two were first sold by Sotheby’s in 1972); I can only hope the two purchases went to the same purchaser…

Needless to say, should anyone know the whereabouts of Richard and Fanny’s miniatures by Mr Ross please do let me know!

* * *

To read more about Sir Wm Chas. Ross, RA:

It kills me to think one Unbekannte like this lady (c1832) could be Fanny:

When you view a page such as this one from BING you see how daunting a task finding Fanny could turn out to be (not all images are ROSS miniatures).

2 Comments

  1. Sabine said,

    Miniatures are true treasures! I can only imagine how overwhelming it must be – any time – to get a glance of one of the faces/persons, you’re already so very familiar with through your research. The same feeling of happiness when the artist back then revealed the finished miniature to the orderer.
    Thank you very much for sharing the excitement.

    Sabine

    P.S. Hopefully I’ll find some more time soon to study your whole blog thoroughly and achieve a deeper insight about the life of the “two teens”!

    • Janeite Kelly said,

      Hi, Sabine — I have a booklet-length “biography” of young Fanny Smith Seymour; I’d be happy to email a copy, if you’re interested in reading it. I’m on the lookout for a few “readers” to give me reactions to it. It’s undergoing a few last-minute tweaks (isn’t there always something to ADD?!), but you’d see why I’m so interested in them ALL! email me at the gmail account, if you’re interested.

      k

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