A History of the Harp

March 25, 2021 at 3:42 pm (entertainment, jasna, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , )

While writing my chapter for the edited book Women and Music in Georgian Britain (soon to be under review), I found this FASCINATING video by Simon Chadwick, “The Erard Grecian pedal harp, and the history of the harp in Scotland. Talk at Hospitalfield House

Simon Chadwick’s YouTube channel gives listeners the opportunity to HEAR several harps. Tune in!

In “The Erard Grecian Pedal Harp” lecture, Chadwick mentions Margaret Douglas Maclean Clephane (after 1815, Lady Compton; from 1827 until her untimely early death, Lady Northampton). With her marriage, Margaret became my diarist Emma Austen’s cousin. Also touched upon is Elizabeth Grant (the “Highland Lady”); and the daughters of Sir Walter Scott. For the last, because Chadwick’s talk slightly pre-dates some *breaking* information from Abbotsford, see “A Tale of Two Harps” on the Abbotsford website (from 2016).

Because Chadwick’s is a filmed talk, the amount of information given out is outstanding; and viewers get to see and hear so much. The portrait of Margaret Compton, which he shows on the screen, you’ll find on my PORTRAITS page. To read more about Margaret herself, and her harp “recital” at Castle Ashby in 1815, see my article “Pemberley’s Welcome: or, An Historical Conjecture upon Elizabeth Darcy’s Wedding Journey,” published in JASNA Peruasions On-Line.

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Lady Northampton’s Album

January 2, 2021 at 3:53 pm (entertainment, history, news, portraits and paintings) (, , , )

At Christie’s in December 2020, this album compiled by Emma’s “Aunt Northampton” – featuring her own watercolors, but also those of others – including her teacher and friend, Miss Margaret Meen, and her sister Emma Smith.

Miss Meen‘s work is shown in these two specimens. Click on the picture to see all 10 illustrations. I hope the album went to a good home, and will stay in “one piece”, rather than broken up into 69 “for sale” Botanicals.

I have seen some of Lady Northampton‘s work in the flesh; they are stunning.

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Sheila Hancock presents…

August 20, 2020 at 3:32 pm (entertainment, history, news, portraits and paintings) (, , , )

30 August 2020 – technical difficulties (thanks, WordPress) in displaying “ginormous” images and the rest of the blog crowding in on the posts. SICK of the block editor – so a project I will come back to. But it impacts the last few block posts. Used to display JUST FINE.

Two exceptionally interesting “documentaries” (from circa 2011 and 2013) hosted by Sheila Hancock are what I bring to your attention today. Youtube comments are super-positive about her style, delivery, and information. I heartily concur!

The first I found and watched is, The Brilliant Bronte Sisters.

Brilliant Bronte

It was a tough day with _NO_ TV reception (all our channels here in northern Vermont are powered by the same antenna atop Mount Mansfield). I went youtube hunting – but I wasn’t sure WHAT I wanted to watch, other than something interesting. This program on the Brontë Sisters ultimately fit the bill. I especially loved the items we, the audience, were shown – drawings and paintings done by the sisters; portraits of the sisters; interviews with scholars like Juliet Barker (I have her Brontës biography and volume of family letters).

The other program is Sheila Hancock Brushes Up: The Art of Watercolours.

Art of Watercolours

Her father was a watercolourist – and her enthusiasm translates well to her audience. In my research, which you (dear reader) glimpse on this blog, Two Teens in the Time of Austen — there are so many artists! I, on the other hand, have never dabbled (paint-by-numbers, maybe counts). So seeing and hearing about these pieces (and, of course, their artists) was exceptionally informative.

I join others in saying I wish there were more documentaries from Sheila Hancock. Very well done!

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Putting a Face to a Name: Mr. Dixon

February 10, 2020 at 2:57 pm (people, places, portraits and paintings) (, , , )

About a month ago I bought a letter online. Written from the estate Chicksands Priory, in December 1825, it happened to have been sent days after Mrs. Smith and her daughters Augusta and Emma left! Alas, no mention of the Smiths…. But I hadn’t expected to be THAT lucky, to be truthful.

Still, it made me do a little digging about Chicksands Priory itself, and that was when I turned up this portrait of Charles Dixon of Stansted (the estate he later purchased).

Charles Dixon of Stansted

Read about the portrait’s “recent” history (from 2016): “Rediscovered” this lost portrait returned to Stansted.

In the 1820s, however, he and his first wife, Harriet (née Wilder), were tenanting Chicksands Priory. Harriet Dixon was paternal aunt to Henry Wilder, who would marry Augusta Smith at the end of the decade.

Dixon 22Aug1801 marriageThe Dixons’ marriage announcement;
they married on 22 August 1801
(Gentleman’s Magazine)

Once the face of someone who had been only a name is seen, they take on new life in the mind of the researcher. Prior to this I had only seen a silhouette, which possible was produced by Augusta, who was adept at “taking shades.” But more amazing than seeing Dixon’s face, was reading about his philanthropy. Here are a few online articles that I found of interest:

Charles Dixon married, as his second wife, the widow of his former brother-in-law, George-Lodowick Wilder. You will find all the Wilder generations here, in Burke’s Landed Gentry.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sanditon purloins “Lord Compton” portrait

January 13, 2020 at 11:25 am (entertainment, jane austen, portraits and paintings) (, , , )

Last night, the heroine of ITV’s Sanditon Charlotte Heywood (and viewers peeking over her shoulder) first encounter love interest Sidney Parker by gazing upon this portrait:

Sanditon

I had to do a double-take!

This isn’t any fictional character – it’s Spencer, Lord Compton (Emma’s cousin).

This well-known portrait that has already graced the cover of a Georgette Heyer novel. Now it’s purloined for the Andrew Davies television series.

You judge the similarities for yourself:

Spencer-Sidney Sanditon

 

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Dido Belle

September 22, 2019 at 11:06 am (books, diaries, portraits and paintings) (, , , , )

Dido Belle

Click on the picture to see the Wikipedia entry on the painting and its two sitters, Dido Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray (Finch-Hatton).

Although aired in 2018, I just watched last night the FAKE or FORTUNE? episode that identified the portrait’s painter (once thought to be Zoffany) as David Martin. The Mansfield archives even has a ledger, with payment to him – though, of course, NO mention of the work, just his name.

It was while looking at the close-up (above) that I was struck with the thought: Dido Belle must, in many ways, gives clues to the appearance of the last governess of the Smiths, Miss Ashley. There were two west Indian sisters, Sarah and Eliza Ashley. Interestingly, there are book chapters of the grandmother of these girls, known as The Queen of Demerara.

One book is Enterprising Women: Gender, Race, and Power in the Revolutionary Atlantic (by Kit Candlin and Cassandra Pybus); very well-written and quite informative. I came across it because of the chapters on Dorothy Thomas and Mrs. Sala, a performer and music teacher, who, when in London, Emma writes about in her diaries.

The Smith family in general have left a fair amount of letters and diaries.

It is quite obvious that the Smith family’s governess Miss Ashley is Eliza Ann Ashley (cousin George Augustus Sala names her Elise – I have located one letter; the signature almost looks Elize). Her sister, when named, is Miss S. Ashley or in later years just “Sarah”. Her full name being Sarah Edmonstone Ashley. The family, (seemingly anyway), make it easy to differentiate the sisters.

Emma Smith was actually older (by about two years) than Miss Ashley.

(Emma was the third child, of nine; born in 1801.)

Miss Ashley came to the Smiths in May 1824. It is *exciting* to wonder if she traveled from Demerara in company with Dorothy Thomas, her grandmother. How she came to be employed by the Smiths, I do not know. Emma’s diary for 1824 exists, but she merely states,  “Miss Ashley the children’s new governess came.” Her mother, Mrs. Smith (Augusta Smith, senior; the widowed Mrs. Charles Smith of Suttons and 6 Portland Place) has left some diaries. Again, 1824 merely mentions Elise Ashley’s arrival, nothing about how or through whom Mrs. Smith learned of her (a very active grapevine often obtained applicants for jobs, and also found jobs for needy applicants). I’ve not (yet) tracked down anything in letters from 1824 that more fully explains Miss Ashley’s arrival.

That these sisters are related to Sala I have no doubt. There is enough in the diaries that reference Mrs. Sala, Mr. Sala’s fatal illness, an unnamed aunt’s death, etc. to confirm they are the women George Augustus Sala wrote about.

What I do not know is whose children they were; whether there were more siblings; and how they were related to Sala – he calls them cousins, which leads me to presume, like Mrs. Sala, they were daughters of a daughter of Dorothy Thomas. But which daughter (and from which relationship)?

Miss Ashley’s tenure with the Smiths was twofold.

She ceased working for the Smiths when the youngest daughter, Maria, “aged out” of needing a governess (late 1830s). There is enough in the letters to put her in the employ of the Duchess-Countess of Sutherland. But by the 1840s she is back. She appears in the diaries of Mary Gosling (Lady Smith), giving music and drawing lessons. After Mary’s death in 1842, Miss Ashley was clearly hired by Mrs. Smith to be the governess with her two now-orphaned granddaughters (children of Sir Charles and Lady Smith). The names of Miss Ashley or her sister occasionally appear in letters over the next three decades, including news of Miss Ashley’s death (1874).

I’ve found Eliza Ann in two census reports. I’ve also located a SILHOUETTE clearly identified as ‘Miss Ashley.’ Emma’s eldest sister, Augusta Smith junior, was well-known for her “heads”; she probably created this group of family silhouettes.

As you might imagine, governesses in general are an important topic to pursue when looking at the history of a wealthy London-based family in the 19th century; it is intriguing, though, to contemplate not only their love for Miss Ashley, but also her influence upon the family, coming from a background so far removed from their own.

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London Silk: Garthwaite & Rothstein

March 17, 2019 at 11:38 am (books, fashion, history, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , )

I am just starting to read Zara Anishanslin’s Portrait of a Woman in Silk. This is the fascinating “entwined” story of a silk designer, a Spitalfields silk weaver, a Philadelphia woman, and the artist hired to paint her portrait.

Woman in Silk

Anishanslin makes mention of the contributions by Natalie Rothstein to the information we have about the eighteenth-century English designer of this silk’s pattern – Anna Maria Garthwaite. Rothstein is a very familiar name, for she gave us A Lady of Fashion: Barbara Johnson’s Album of Styles and Fashion.

Barbara Johnson

[click the photo below for more on the book A Lady of Fashion; and see also my post “Fashion News, Regency Style“]

It is with sadness that I read of Natalie Rothstein’s death in 2010. Her obituary, in The Guardian, makes for interesting reading – and mentions the title of her main work on Garthwaite: Silk Designs of the Eighteenth Century in the Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum (1990). Rothstein was quite prolific, publishing much about the collection she knew best (i.e., the V & A). This lengthy obituary features an equally lengthy bibliography.

johnson3

It was finding online information (and images!) of Garthwaite’s designs that made me want to share with you. Especially, this beautifully presented Waistcoat (1747) from the Met Museum; details and overview images. A lengthy blog post on the Courtauld Institute of Art‘s website is well worth a read. All this history of the Spitalfields weaving industry might also inspire you to visit Dennis Severs’ House at 18 Folgate Street. I think I blogged about it long before my own visit, so entranced was I by the “story” of and behind the “museum”. (But I wasn’t prepared for the locked front door that had to be knocked on and answered!)

The thrill is also over the Victoria and Albert sharing images of Garthwaite’s designs. Although I didn’t look at them all, 44 pages came up [some _are_ tagged ‘unknown’ artist; most are Garthwaite’s designs] when I searched for ‘Garthwaite’!

There’s even a Pinterest page dedicated to her designs and Garthwaite has her own Wikipedia page.

Some of the less intricate designs of flowering tendrils remind me of the Botanicals painted by the women in the Smith family (two generations, including the future Emma Austen, my diarist) [see the page Artwork Done By], which I have long thought would make for beautiful fabrics. As a “companion” piece, if the Botanicals at the Royal Horticultural Society interest you, you might dip into “Further Thoughts on Four Sisters” to acquaint yourself with the four sisters of Earl Stoke Park – Emma’s mother and three aunts, who, with Miss Margaret Meen, their teacher in the technique, is represented in the RHS collection.

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Additional reading:

A Dress of Spitalfields Silk” – lengthy essay and some splendid photographs of an actual garment

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Portraits: Jane Austen & Gilbert White

February 23, 2019 at 4:49 pm (history, jane austen, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , )

An old (May 2017) article on Smithsonian.com by Brigit Katz assesses the “Six Portraits” that were on display during the 200th anniversary year (1817-2017) commemorating Jane Austen’s death. It asks the question, Was Austen demure, sardonic or glamorous? (based on no one portrait looking like any other in the group) while acknowledging that actually the “Six Portraits Deepen the Mystery of Jane Austen.”

NPG 3630; Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen

Without going into the good / bad points of individual portraits,* I will outline the portraits that were displayed:

(*I briefly commented on “the wedding ring” image ten years ago; it continues in heavy usage. I did touch on several portraits, though, in 2013)

  • The pencil and watercolor sketch of Jane by her sister Cassandra Austen (circa 1810) [National Portrait Gallery]
  • the hollow cut silhouette by an unknown artist from circa 1810- 15 [National Portrait Gallery], “L’aimable Jane
  • watercolor of Austen in blue dress, bonnet [rear view], also by Cassandra Austen, circa 1804
  • the 1869 James Andrews watercolor portrait [had been up for auction in 2013] and the frontispiece of her nephew’s biography, A Memoir of Jane Austen, published in 1870, based on the Andrews watercolor
  • portrait said to represent Jane Austen, in album belonging to James Stanier Clarke, librarian to the Prince Regent
  • the ‘Byrne’ portrait

No clue as to why the ‘Byrne’ but not the ‘Rice’ portrait.

The lack of portraits – though not the lack of ‘contenders’ – depicting Jane Austen echoes the story of Gilbert White of Selborne, another late-18th century Hampshire resident.

A riveting 1987 article by J.E. Chatfield actually “summarises verbal descriptions of the Selborne naturalist, the Reverend Gilbert White (1720-1793) by his contemporaries and discusses the background to each of the illustrations which have been suggested as possible likenesses of White.” After citing a group of portraits comes the notice (similar to what Jane Austen enthusiasts might typically read): “The only proven authentic likenesses of Gilbert White are two small pen and ink sketches drawn inside his copy of Alexander Pope’s translation of Homer’s Iliad now in the British Library.”

It was the growing fame of his book The Natural History of Selborne that (naturally) made “further information on [White’s] life and personality” of interest to its readers.

Under Descriptions of White: “There are relatively few recollections of him from members of his own family, in spite of the vast numbers of nephews and nieces which Gilbert White refers to in his journals.” Also mentioned, that at the time of centenary editions of the National History of Selborne (originally published in 1789) “there was no suggestion or knowledge of any portraits or sketch of White.”

Sound familiar?

It was after the sale of The Wakes (White’s home) in 1844 to Prof. Bell, “who was working on his edition of The Natural History & Antiquities of Selborne,” that a White nephew passed on recollections. The “Reverend Francis White who remembered his uncle Gilbert well, although he was only twelve years of age when White died…., provided the information on White’s physical appearance – only 5 feet 3 inches in stature, of a spare form and remarkably upright carriage.”

Nineteenth-century editions of Selborne have included “Recollections of White by older villagers.” If only such a census had been made shortly after Austen’s lifetime! It was this kind of off-hand recollection that James Edward Austen Leigh (Jane Austen’s nephew and my diarist Emma’s husband) that Edward hoped to collate from those nieces and nephews still alive. His sources, however, proved a bit problematic. And some were quite uncooperative.

An interesting comment, from circa 1880, that could so easily be applied to Jane Austen: “‘White was thought very little of till he was dead and gone, and then he was thought a great deal of.'”

I invite you to read the Chatsfield article, look at the Austen portraits as well as Gilbert White’s, and reflect on the highly valid points made.

 

 

 

 

 

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Black Out @ Smithsonian

February 16, 2019 at 12:21 pm (books, entertainment, history, portraits and paintings) (, , , , )

There’s still time, if you act fast, to catch the closing weeks (until 10 March 2019) of BLACK OUT: SILHOUETTES NOW AND THEN, at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery (Washington D.C.).

Having opened in May 2018, there has been a fair amount of press:

  • National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian: Press Release
  • Washington Post: “Before Photography the silhouette helped leave an impression” (Philip Kennicott)
  • Hyperallergic: “An Outline of over 200 Years of Silhouettes” (Claire Voon) [great photos of the installation]
  • “Five Questions” with Curator Asma Naeem
  • Quarizy: “An Enslaved Woman’s Candlelit Shadow” {Portrait of Flora] (Corinne Purtill)
  • Frieze: “Out of the Shadows: A Contrasting History Lesson in Black and White (Evan Moffitt)

Also available: the book BLACK OUT: Silhouettes Then and Now, through the museum store, which helps support the National Portrait Gallery, as well as such exhibitions.

Black Out

ONE resultant article is a fascinating look at Sylvia Drake and Charity Bryant of Weybridge, Vermont! Their portrait images are from the Collection of the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History, in Middlebury. [The Sheldon Museum reopens on 2 April 2019.]

Dating from c1805-1815, the engaging pair of silhouettes, “entwined in braided human hair,” lift from the shadows a story of this same-sex couple. A quote from William Cullen Bryant (Charity’s nephew), in 1841, says: “If I were permitted to draw aside the veil of private life….” The Drake-Bryant silhouettes alone have lifted that veil (see below). Being placed on display, especially in such a prominent exhibition, “allow[s] these kinds of stories to be told” (to quote the curator in Roger Caitlin’s article for Smithsonian.com).

The pair of women have also made the local Vermont news:

  • The newspaper Addison County Independent‘s story on Sylvia Drake and Charity Bryant travelling down from Middlebury, Vermont to Washington D.C.
  • Seven Days picked up the story, and through that we learn of Bryant’s death in 1851; and that the Sheldon Museum also has “a wealth of archival materials,” donated by Drake’s family. These include “letters, diaries, poems and other ephemera.” Oooohhh…..

Fascinating to read that University of Victoria (BC, Canada) historian Rachel Hope Cleves, who researched the Sheldon’s collection of Drake materials “and basically made this case that these women were a lesbian couple living together.” Cleves published (in 2014) Charity & Sylvia: A Same-Sex Marriage in Early America.

Charity & Sylvia

The cover will whet your appetite to see the original silhouettes!! And the content, the story of Charity and Sylvia, will make you want to buy the book – which is available through the Henry Sheldon Museum as well as your usual book places.

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Rice Portrait’s Saga Continues

January 24, 2019 at 11:30 am (history, jane austen, news, portraits and paintings) (, , , )

The Guardian (23 January 2019) ran a story discussing a new piece of evidence about a portrait in the Rice family. The Rices have long contended that their portrait – seen as a frontispiece in two Austen-related books – is a youthful depiction of the writer Jane Austen.

The entire history is laid out in the website THE RICE PORTRAIT OF JANE AUSTEN.

ja_rice

I was asked last year if I had *any* idea who might have written a snippet found inside an envelope entitled “History of the portrait of Jane Austen”. Readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen will know that I deal with Emma Smith – who, in 1828 married James Edward Austen. It was their Austen Leigh children that I searched amongst for a matching handwriting sample. Most were wholly inconsistent; in fact, I told my correspondent at the time that I could more confidently say who had NOT written the history.

Running out of “contenders,” I wondered, while I typed, “Could it be a Lefroy.”

THE RICE PORTRAIT OF JANE AUSTEN came to the rescue: included was a small image of Fanny Caroline Lefroy’s handwriting (from a letter at the Hampshire Record Office), and there was the same handwriting!

The two letters are probably of an age. The snippet is undated. The letter is dated only by Month and date. A mention by F.C. Lefroy (as the letter writer signed herself) of her dashed hopes of having cousin Mary (probably Emma and Edward’s daughter Mary Augusta Austen Leigh) to stay during “the Congress” surely dates the HRO letter to October 1883. The Church Congress, which moved around the country in different years, was held in Reading in 1883 – and Fanny Caroline Lefroy’s letterhead places her at “Uppercross” in a ‘suburb’ outside of Reading.

Some of the most interesting evidence comes under the website categories DRESS and OZIAS HUMPHRY.

I must say, the misattribution of the artist in the 19th century reminds me of the persistence of George Romney as the painter of Mrs. Drummond Smith – later restored to the catalogue of Joshua Reynolds.  Indeed, it hangs in the “Reynolds Room” at Castle Ashby, the estate of the Marquess of Northampton (during Emma Austen’s lifetime, her uncle [1st Marquess] and cousin [2nd Marquess]).

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EXTRA:

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