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.