Maria Culme Seymour, miniature by Ross

July 28, 2013 at 12:50 pm (diaries, fashion, history, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , )

I’ve written before about finding this darling miniature of Maria Smith AKA Lady Culme Seymour; but last night I took the opportunity to RELOOK at Bonhams auction site, because a letter I’ve given scant attention to actually mentions THIS VERY image!

It is the end of November, 1844; Maria and John Culme Seymour have been married since February; the visitor is Mamma Smith, and she is writing, jointly, to daughters Emma and Eliza:

“Maria sang too; she … played her part [ie, of hostess] very well; conversed with animation, was polite to all, & looked happy: she looked young & pretty, with Curls; looked quite like Ross’s picture.”

That comment alone tells me that Mamma thought the portrait a fair likeness of her youngest daughter!

As you can see, when you go to Bonhams, they have a “similar items” area in the lower right corner; in this case, other portraits done by Sir William Charles Ross, RA.

Among them is this portrait, simply described as “of a Lady”. As you know, such terminology kills me.

Ross_a Lady-closeup

A sweet, yet slightly melancholy face, wouldn’t you say. The description is short: “A Lady, standing in a landscape and wearing black dress and white underslip, a pink rose at her corsage [sic?], jeweled belt, olive green shawl draped about her shoulders, her hair upswept into a knot, the front centrally parted and curled in ringlets framing her face, holding periwinkles in her right hand. Gilt-mounted within brown leather travelling case lined with velvet.” She sold for £2000 in a May 2013 auction (and was earlier sold through Christie’s, in 1979).

Who could she be??

_I_ am looking for a “missing” Ross portrait: of Fanny Seymour. Richard Seymour (who also sat to the artist in April 1836), wrote in his diary of Ross’s visit to Kinwarton on the 22nd to paint Fanny in September 1836; and on the 28th, he says:

“Mr. Ross has finished a miniature of dearest Fanny – w:h quite satisfies me – and I have just paid him £30. viz: £26..5 for the Min: and £3..15 for the frame & case, yet to come. X Giving him a £5 note and checque on Curries for £25. This piece of self indulgence will I hope be pardoned in me –”

Now compare the above to Maria, which Mamma seems to agree is a good likeness:

Maria Culme-Seymour2

Not the same person, but could they be sisters? And yet compare to their Sister-in-law Frances (Seymour) Smith (Spencer Smith’s wife), another miniature by Ross dating to the mid-1830s (this a later “copy”):

Smith_FrancesSeymour-MagdalenaRoss_1836-1911copy

While not as engaging as this slyly-smiling Frances Smith, one almost wonders a bit: Could it be her?

Ah, I mourn that the sitter of the Bonhams Ross miniature may go through life forever more as “A Lady”. If only Richard had written something about what Fanny wore, or how she  was posed.

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Such a pretty picture

May 12, 2012 at 11:10 am (fashion, jane austen, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , )

A reader of Two Teens in the Time of Austen, SUSAN, has sent this photo. She adores this print — and who wouldn’t?! But she’s also curious to learn MORE about the picture.

Can other Two Teens readers help??

Of great interest is the Spencer jacket; the curled hair; the delicate gloves – one on, one off.

I am convinced — since it’s a print — that it must be based on some portrait or miniature. But by whom? Of whom?

Susan and I are all ears to hear more!

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Early Photography: Chasing images

March 21, 2012 at 7:14 pm (history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

How do you identify an image of a person – one painted or photographed long, long ago?

By what’s written on the back! if you’re lucky.

This miniature of Maria Smith, aka Lady Culme Seymour, was ID’ed as her; I take it to have been her mainly because the provenance claims a family descent.

It sold, at auction, with her mother-in-law’s miniature — Jane, Lady Seymour.

My task lately — and a daunting one it has been — is to ID a couple of photographs. Are they Maria? are they a sister? or (worse thought) have they been mis-identified????

Time WILL tell.

But that brings into the mix, several early photographers. Yes, these were certainly the types of people, with money enough, who would have been interested in having their portraits done. Interested, too, in pursuing photography for themselves, in the end. A photo album connected to the Gosling family resides at a Surrey archive; among portraits are also what can only be described as travel photographs! Imagine what you had to tote around to photograph your adventures away from home back in the 1870s!

One portrait of Maria is by the famed photographer Camille Silvy (1834-1910). The National Portrait Gallery’s website about him calls Silvy “a pioneer of early photography and one of the greatest French photographers of the nineteenth century. Maria seems to have been photographed in 1860. (She was born in 1814. You do the math.) Silvy moved to London in 1859. Her nephew, Mary and Charles Smith’s son, Charles Cunliffe Smith — along with his wife Agnes, Lady Smith — are represented in Silvy’s books, but far later in number. How fascinating to go through these book NPG has and see all the people photographed by Silvy!

But there are other family photos, but other photographers. One that has surfaced is a family group, plus some individual photographs, by William Claridge (1797-1876). He began photographing in the Berkhamsted area in the 1850s.

A third photographer, one with ties — at the very least — with the Comptons and Dickens families, is William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877). The Metropolitan Museum of Art has an online article entitled “William Henry Fox Talbot and the Invention of Phography“. I’ve come across mention of Dickens family pictures, and online have found Fox Talbot’s letters, which have him giving several wonderful descriptions of Lord and Lady Compton, while they lived in Italy.

Such valuable resources — in images and words.

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Tales of Noses & Ears: Portrait Mysteries

January 5, 2012 at 8:44 am (portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

In the midst of all the changing thought on Paula Byrne‘s “Austin” portrait, I thought I would write a few words on my own little mysteries. It is because of these “thoughts” that I can commiserate with Paula! and why also I found the show, Jane Austen: the Unseen Portrait? a great viewing experience. Let me explain, from “a beginning”.

When I first began working with these diaries and letters, I was — of course! — presented with really NO images of anyone. I came across a photograph taken of Emma Austen Leigh in older age (6os), then began to find early drawings and silhouettes of her. All were identified — so problem solved! Or so you might think. At least once (an oil painting, seen in a photo), I found an image that looked unlike the others. Just a bad artist? Just more like her than the others? How to answer that question??

While watching the Amanda Vickery show about The Many Lovers of Jane Austen (which I also enjoyed; quite returned me to Fort Worth! But am I alone in thinking the show deserved a bit less-titillating title??), there flashed up on the screen a COMPLETELY new image of James Edward Austen Leigh; I can’t say (having seen a photo, again taken when he was in his 60s) it looks like some of the drawings I have, although it quite seems an off-shoot of another drawing.

Here is the Vickery special’s picture:

There’s just something about it, between the “wind-blown hair” and the “glum” look that makes him look less-than-sober! (Sorry, Edward.) Anyway, except for its identification as “Jane Austen’s nephew, James Edward” I’d not quite recognize him. No clue who has this image. The more I stare at it, while typing… perhaps it’s meant to look “Byronic” or “Romantic”. Will have to look through the letters and diaries. There was ONE image Emma mentioned (by Mrs Carpenter, I belive) that she criticised as “not very like”. But I thought that one covered by an image in Life in the Country! (ie, the book of James Edward Austen Leigh silhouettes, with Jane Austen quotes.)

Today, I was delighted to get a photograph, thought to have been taken in the 1860s, of a Seymour brother. The archive and the person who sent me the photo are unwavering that it represents Sir John Culme Seymour. For several reasons (which I won’t go into here), I believe that — yet wonder: Could it be a different Seymour brother?

So tonight I was looking at the EAR. I’ve a later photo (definitely 1867) of John Seymour, though he is facing the OPPOSITE direction. Oh my! While the lips seem a bit downturned in the ’67 photo, and upturned (a smile?) in the ’60s photo; I’ve long looked at the noses; and now also the ears. The ears do seem to match — rather smooth, as opposed to one brother who has a bit of a pendulous lower lobe.

The reason I bring these things up?? To outline, if briefly, that one DOES compare noses — and other bits and pieces!

Of the Seymour family, I’ve four photographs: three brothers and one sister. Do they look alike?? I can’t say they do!

I once was in church with a family of 8 or 9 siblings. There were short ones and tall ones; thin ones and fat ones; and facially, they really didn’t resemble each other either! Yikes! (I have no brothers and sisters; but I’ve cousins who rather resemble, in small ways, each other.)

When I first found the image of Emma — a photograph, remember — one of my first thoughts was: How much did she and Charles, her brother who died in 1831, look alike?? Did he have her nose? Yes, I found myself asking that Paula Byrne question!

When I first saw an 1860s photo of Mary’s brother Robert Gosling, again my thought was: How much did Mary look like him? — hard to say, looking at a very “Victorian” Gent in a stove-pipe hat! (Frankly, all I could think of was Abe Lincoln.)

Then there’s the REAL puzzle of the Beechey portrait — discussed in the post I’ve Found My Girl!?! – Oh, that one is difficult. The West Virginia museum that has it obtained it BEFORE the portrait at Suttons was sold at auction. That is the hard hurdle to get past. I can believe the costumes were perhaps “old” (c1803) to emulate their mother, who died in 1803. But this tale supposes there once was TWO portraits… And that’s hard to get around.

And yet…

And yet…

The Gosling girls are said to be 3/4-length, seated at a piano, with music in the hand of the elder and a frill painted (for modesty, it was painted years later by that same elder sister!) along the neckline of the younger sister. All those elements are there. You can view the Early Music magazine cover here. (It’s a PDF).

The hunt is on — but while Paula Byrne has one portrait to authenticate — and Sir Roy Strong may be correct in his prognostication that her chances are “Nil” — I’ve, let’s see… Two sets of parents, nine Smith siblings, seven Gosling siblings, four grandparents, a “Smith of Stratford” aunt, three “Smith of Erle Stoke” aunts, three uncles on the Smith side, and an uncle-in-law on the Gosling side, two Smith cousins, a handful of Gosling cousins, numerous in-laws, some children…

Ah! Exhausting just writing about them all. I do hope you’re not exhausted reading about them all.

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Miniatures on the Auction Block

December 11, 2011 at 12:24 pm (fashion, history, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , )

Soon after my last post, in which I discussed the *discovery* of Fanny Seymour having had her portrait miniature painted by Mr Ross (where is it??), I found a group of THREE miniatures of Fanny’s nieces:

This was a sale that just took place at the end of November 2011! A correspondent, who had photographed an album containing photographs of some of the Spencer Smith children, was VERY surprised — yet happy to note the threesome have stayed together. 

(side note: Yes, ultimately Spencer gave his children the name Spencer Smith; I supposed to differentiate his children from those of his brother, Charles Joshua Smith.)

The uppermost portrait is Augusta Frances Spencer Smith (born 1849); bottom row shows, on the left, Isabella Mary Spencer Smith (born 1846), and, right, Dora Spencer Smith (born 1845). Dora married the Rev. John Jenkyns, whose family has ties to Balliol College, Oxford University.

The miniatures are by Reginald Easton (1807-1893), painted in 1863.

Please disregard the lot’s “notes” — no way did Charles Smith (who died in 1814, and was Spencer’s father) marry Frances Seymour born in 1808!

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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).

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Anonymous Woman

May 18, 2011 at 9:24 pm (fashion, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Instead of humming The Guess Who’s American Woman, I should really be channeling These Eyes

Working on an article about the “London Season” in 1816 — or, should I say the Season that Emma Smith recorded — I was looking for any image of work by Mary Ann Knight. She is the artist whom Mamma Smith sits to that spring.

Miss Knight (1776-1851) painted the well-known portrait of Joanna Baillie (see the portrait at Scotland’s National Galleries) and evidently produced works in watercolor, miniature, and sometimes even oils. This leads me to wonder if the “miniature” once said to exist at Suttons of Mrs Charles Smith might not be this painted by Miss Knight. But that is mere speculation.

The above is obviously not a woman in her 40s, but (as the title suggests) a “Girl in a White Dress“. When I found this miniature my first thought was that the nose rather looked similar to those portraits I have of Emma and her sister Fanny (the future Emma Austen Leigh and Fanny Seymour); the hair, with its ringlets curling around the face and the remaining hair swept up at the back of the head was reminiscent of the hair style worn by Fanny in a portrait her sister Emma or more probably Augusta may have drawn. Taking a short-cut I checked my “portrait wants” on this website. Alas! a mistake in typing a date lead me to wonder — to dare hope – that this Girl might be AUGUSTA SMITH (later Augusta Wilder). When I could not FIND Augusta’s sitting in 1817 (as I had typed) I went on a search of  the letters and diaries and finally located the sessions in 1822! Groan… (sloppy! the correct date was in my computer files, so it was a transcription error.)

The dating of this work is c1815; two years is one thing; but seven makes it very doubtful that this could POSSIBLY be my little Augusta.

Like SOOOO many portraits and miniatures, this one survived but is nameless: Who WAS THIS YOUNG WOMAN??? Those limpid eyes really grab me; making me wish I could give her an identity.

The artist, Miss Knight, is described as the daughter of a wealthy London merchant. She trained with Andrew Plimer — who later married her sister! “Knight’s surviving notebooks record some 696 miniatures which she painted between 1802 and 1835 and sold at two to forty guineas each.” The National Galleries think her “sketchbooks reveal an impressive range of sitters.”

Where ARE these notebooks?

More on Miss Knight’s biography in a later post.

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Another LOST Face

June 8, 2010 at 11:47 pm (news, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , )

Surfing, I found mention of a Sotheby’s sale — 7 June 2006 — which had this miniature (by George Engleheart) of the 1st Marquess of Northampton:

[Note how much it looks like the miniature held in Philadelphia!]

The truly s-a-d part: the Sotheby’s catalogue has only THIS image although the reverse of this miniature is also of interest to this blog; as well, a SECOND miniature was sold as part of this lot (#304). [I can also say, take a look at lot 307 -- which is a gorgeous miniature of the two Compton children, cousins to the Smith of Suttons children; but I say little about that one here because I had found that piece long ago...]

Anyway, the catalogue has this to say of the Marquess’ miniature:

“DESCRIPTION he with powdered hair en queue , wearing a blue coat, yellow waistcoat and a pleated jabot, sky background, within a plaited hair border, the reverse a portrait of his mother-in-law: Mrs Joshua Smith by Mrs Anne Mee circa 1795, with powdered and curled hair, wearing a white gown, sky background, gold frame.”

ARRRGGGGHHHH!!!!!! to see the description and NOT the portrait just kills me!

The amazing thing (the more I think about this piece) is that the two miniatures are done by two different artists. At some point I can only imagine that Maria (the Marchioness), set two portraits – one of her husband and one of her mother – in one “frame”. The HAIR seems to be two different colors (which must have been something to plait…) and must be from two different people: husband and wife? daughter and mother? I include below the Philadelphia miniature of the Marquess, so the hair might be compared:

EXCEPTIONALLY blond here; and obviously NOT the exact same picture (although also by Engleheart).

Sotheby’s gave a reference, and I’ve found the book on books.google – George Engleheart, 1750-1829: miniature painter to George III. Check out some of the other sitters: I see LADY CUNLIFFE, surely Mary, the “relict” of Sir Ellis (the year painted 1782, so without a first name, it’s impossible to know for sure from this one source, but my find of Mary being sold in a 1980 auction it MUST be the same piece). And there is mega-mention of the GOSLING family! Oh my gosh, look at them all:

under 1785: Miss Gosling   [could this be William's sister, the future Mrs Gregg?]

under 1787: Mr Gosling

under 1788: Mrs Gosling

under 1790: Mrs Gosling, Sen.

under 1793: Mr Gosling

under 1805: Mr Gosling

Oh! this is maddening! no first names, only dates of marriages to guess who “Mrs Gosling Senior” might have been. Another KILLER!

At the back of the book, there is an index of miniatures and their owners (in 1902!), and there we see SOME of the first names: a Mrs RODWELL, of Eaton Square possessed those of FRANCIS and BARBARA GOSLING. But that only accounts for TWO out of SIX miniatures! Because of the dates one might guess this pair to be those painted in 1787 and 1788 (Francis Gosling II married Barbara Baker in 1777).

Mrs Gosling, Sen. I would all along guess to be William’s mother, the former Miss Houghton; but that might just be a “hopeful” guess…

Either of the other two could be William — or some other Gosling. Maddening! Maddening…

There are various Christie’s (though I cannot claim the Rev. Mr Christie to be of this family), various Colebrookes (ditto the idea that probably not all are relatives to Sir George Colebrooke).

Also maddening is that the Anne Mee miniature of Sarah Smith gets so little attention! If anyone has any picture of this work (yes, someday I will contact Sotheby’s to see what THEY have), do contact me.

Mrs Mee has several “little biographies” in this link (a Notes & Queries), and includes comments by none other than Algernon Graves!

To finish this post, I just comment on the second “missing” portrait, part of Lot 304:

“and another miniature of his wife Maria, Marchioness of Northampton, circa 1795, with powered and piled hair, wearing a white dress, cloud and sky background, cracked, gold frame, glazed hair reverse”

This last is also (I believe; swear I saw it somewhere) by Mrs Mee.

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George Engleheart Portraits

October 6, 2008 at 10:26 pm (portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , )

George Engleheart (1752-1829), an English miniaturist, turns up as the artist in this ‘snippet’ view of a SOTHEBY’S AUCTION CATALOGUE (date: 16 Oct 1980) from books.google.com. Here is the image from p. 161:

It reads: “George Engleheart, 1782 [lot] 135 Lady Cunliffe, wife of Sir Ellis Cunliffe, her powdered hair piled high and adorned with a lemon and blue scarf, wearing a matching lemon and blue jacket over a white dress, cloud and sky background set on the lid of a hinged navette-shaped ivory patch-box, the gold mounts bright-cut and the interior fitted with a mirror, the miniature oval 4.2cm…” It seems to have A PHOTOGRAPH above the description BUT I CAN’T VIEW IT! Nor can the remainder of the description be read.

I would appreciate if someone with access to this sales catalogue could copy me this page — especially if it contains an image of Lady Cunliffe’s miniature which sits atop this ‘hinged navette-shaped ivory patch-box’!

With hopes of finding more information on this piece (and also its current whereabouts), I came across the following miniature which is exceptionally intriguing for two reasons:

It belongs to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and is described as Lord Northampton, c1795. Could this be the Lord Northampton who was brother-in-law to Augusta Smith (Emma Austen-Leigh’s mother); or is it his father? Charles, the ninth Earl of Northampton became the first Marquess of Northampton in 1812. He was born in 1760, succeeded his father in 1796, and died in 1828, when the Smiths’ cousin Spencer Joshua Alwyne Compton succeeded to the title. The museum has this to say about the piece: ‘Pearls and the twisted lock of a hair, probably from a loved one of Lord Northampton, surround this portrait.’

If this represents the first Marquess in his younger days, then the hair might very well have belonged to his wife – Maria Smith, sister to Emma Smith, Eliza Chute and Augusta Smith. Was Emma Austen-Leigh’s mother a blonde?? Maria married Lord Compton (his title before his father’s death) in 1787. The couple eventually settled in Castle Ashby, an estate well-known and often visited by Emma Austen-Leigh.

Ohhh!!! I certainly know one place I will be visiting should my paper be accepted for JASNA’s AGM next October – the AGM to be held in Philadelphia! In the meantime, if anyone has more information on this piece, please contact me.

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