Miss Mary A. Leigh

January 18, 2013 at 8:30 pm (jane austen, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , , )

mary augusta austen leighs

As mentioned a few days ago, Paul Frecker’s website includes a photo by Camille Silvy of a woman identified as “Miss Mary A. Leigh” — my immediate thought: Mary Augusta Austen Leigh?

Truthfully: I just don’t know!

On the left is Frecker’s sitter, ID’ed as sitting number 10,508 taking place on 10 July 1862 – which puts her in Silvy’s Daybook 8. The National Portrait Gallery has an extensive “gallery” of the Daybooks. They, however, are not exceptionally enlightening on this young lady.

Mary Augusta Austen Leigh (right) was a younger daughter of Emma Smith and Edward Austen Leigh (see their portraits); she was born on 2 February 1838, her aunt Mary’s 38th birthday! It is a curious fact that Emma’s diaries all have pages cut out whenever she delivers a child. 1838 is no different. These pages are missing, and a small notation in pencil “2d Mary Augusta born” on a remaining page.

On the 21 March, Emma writes, “Baby was christened by the names of Mary Augusta — Ed: christened her — Her Sponsors were Mrs. Lefroy  Lady Smith (Julia her proxy) & Denis (Mr E. Lefroy his proxy).”

Mrs. Benjamin Lefroy was the former Anna Austen, Edward’s half-sister. Lady Smith – my Mary – was surely the person for whom “Baby” was named. The Augusta could be for either Emma’s sister (died 1836) and/or mother. Baby’s third sponsor was Eliza Smith’s husband, Denis Le Marchant.

Looking around for mentions of Mary A. Leigh and Mary Austen Leigh, I found notice of a portrait listed in the Royal Academy of Arts: exhibited in 1856, #954 “Miss Mary Austen Leigh” painted by Edmund Havell, Jr (1819-1894). I asked to have the identity of the painter of the little portrait, which is young Mary Augusta Austen Leigh, but no signature can be detected. Could this be the Edmund Havell  portrait? — UPDATE: 1/25 I’ve seen a more detailed photograph of the little portrait (it’s gorgeous!), it seems a drawing with chalk highlights and pastels. I know very little about Havell, but suspect he painted in oils — unless this was a preliminary sketch for a full work in oils. Without more information about the 1856 exhibition’s work, and without more knowledge of the original (above) portrait, all is supposition, I’m afraid.

I have one vote against Miss Mary A. Leigh being Mary Augusta Austen Leigh. I want to think it the same person, especially after viewing this pair of portraits of Catherine Anne Austen (daughter of Frank Austen, [follow the arrows under the photo to read Frank’s entire entry]).

Help! What do YOU think?

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UPDATE: transcribing some pages from the 1856 diary of the Rev. Richard Seymour, there comes a visit from “Emma and her 2 daughters”. Then he notes their departure: “Emma  Amy – Mary Leigh left us for Bray” = note the use during this period of the sole familial name: LEIGH. He was not alone in that designation.

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Lady E. Compton

January 16, 2013 at 7:54 pm (portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , )

A bit of a puzzle has come up and I’m curious if anyone has any clue(s) that would help.

lady e comptonPaul Frecker has this photo designated Lady E. Compton – is this woman any member of the Comptons of Compton Wynyates / Castle Ashby / Marquess of Northampton family?

My own Lady Elizabeth (daughter of the 1st Marquess) married in 1829 — Emma writes about her cousin’s marriage to Charles Scrase Dickins. Therefore, by the time Silvy was active, she was Lady Elizabeth Dickins.

(Sitter #628 would date to 1860 — see the Silvy Daybook 1 at the National Portrait Gallery, where Adelaide Kemble is sitting #586 and Vicountess Jocelyn is sitting #657; images that are not represented online seem not to have their sitting number provided.)

Lady Marian Alford is sitting #631 (at NPG and Frecker; both claim to have the same sitting number).

It would have been nice had this been her sister, Margaret-Mary-Frances-Elizabeth. Why? Poor Lady Northampton (the former Margaret Maclean Clephane) died weeks after this daughter’s birth in 1830. But the daughter too had a short life; she evidently died in childbirth in 1858.

UPDATE: Thanks to Philip, I know more of the history of this youngest child of Margaret Maclean Clephane: she contracted measles from her brother and died soon after her son was born.

I don’t know who this Lady E. Compton might have been, but sending Philip a portrait, by Augusta Smith (the daughter), of Aunt Northampton, I swear I see the same nose!

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Photo Frustrations

January 14, 2013 at 2:14 am (fashion, history, jane austen, news, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

wwknightonThis past weekend I have been looking through portraits by the famed Camille Silvy. I found several “new to me” portraits at Paul Frecker’s website, including William Wellesley Knighton (right; son of Sir William Knighton, uncle of Richard Seymour of Kinwarton), a second picture of Captain Seymour (probably Ned Seymour, Richard and Fanny’s son), Henry Le Marchant (son of Eliza and Denis), and a couple of puzzles – “Lady E. Compton” and “Miss Mary A. Leigh“. (Without more information, these last two remain tantalizing names).

I was MOST intrigued by seeing members of the family of Sir John Mordaunt. Especially by a photo Frecker alludes to as “Lady Caroline Mordaunt“. Here, Frecker has a lengthier bio to accompany the picture. She was the daughter of a bishop, wife of a baronet. Her obituary (1913) consistently calls her “Lady Mordaunt” — which is the name the Rev. Richard Seymour uses for this lady’s mother-in-law, the Dowager Lady Mordaunt (née Marianne [Mary Ann(e)] Holbech). Richard wrote exceedingly highly of Lady Mordaunt and her daughters, Mary (born c1811) and Emma (born c1813).

Was “Lady Caroline Mordaunt” Silvy’s designation? As the wife of a baronet she should be Lady Mordaunt; maybe Lady (Caroline) Mordaunt. But if this incorrect appellation comes from Silvy … How does that fact affect the two photos at the National Portrait Gallery that has, in someone’s hand, “Lady Louisa Seymour” emblazoned across the top. NPG used to call this sitter Maria Culme Seymour (ie, Emma’s youngest sister). She, too, was married to a baronet – she shouldn’t be known as anything other than Lady Seymour or Lady Culme Seymour. And Maria was a mere year older (born in 1814) than this Lady Mordaunt (born in 1815).

Maria Culme-Seymour2I had previously inquired of NPG how they came to equate “Lady Louisa Seymour” with my Maria Louisa Culme Seymour. Their answer was basically “process of elimination”. Evidently no one else could be found. At the time I had compared it to another family photo, of Lady Marian Alford (daughter of the Smiths’ cousin, Spencer – the 2nd Marquess of Northampton). Lady Marian (or Marianne) was born in 1817; yet in her portrait by Silvy she seemed matronly. So how could “Lady Louisa Seymour”, a fresh-looking young lady, be Maria Culme Seymour?

And now comes THIS portrait of Lady Mordaunt – another “fresh-looking” lady. (All three are in the neighborhood of being 45-years-old.) It genuinely has me wondering yet again about the Maria picture. I have nothing, however, to compare it to – except this portrait miniature (left).

It is ESPECIALLY hard to “compare” a drawing to a photo. See, for instance, this pair from Ronald Dunning’s website JANE AUSTENS FAMILY, which depicts Catherine Anne Austen, later Mrs Hubback.

Also on Two Teens in the Time of Austen:

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Fascinating news: Speaking of old photographs, I just HAVE to make note of this news story: “100-Year-Old Photos Found in Antique Camera“. Anton Orlov recently purchased a 1911 Bellini Jumelle camera — which was found to have World War I-era photos still in it! I’ve not watched the video yet, but the eight photos found inside are a wonder of accidental re(dis)covery!

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National Portrait Gallery: reduces reproduction fees

August 25, 2012 at 9:30 pm (portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Charlotte Frost (Sir William Knighton: The Strange Career of a Regency Physician) sent the following link, knowing I had had my eye on a few portraits at London’s National Portrait Gallery. The article is entitled “NPG Changes image licensing to allow free downloads.”

Anyone who has visited (via website or in person) and wanted something reproduced, or simply for personal study, is sometimes looking at spending big bucks. It’s great to see some entity like the NPG responding to the needs of the non-commercial and academic user. May others soon follow suit.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever discussed here my own interaction with the National Portrait Gallery. An online acquaintance wrote to say that he had asked to see a “preview” before purchasing a portrait of the wife of his biographical subject. I had been waiting and waiting to see two portraits by the photographer SILVY purported to be of Maria Culme Seymour (née Maria Smith). Following my friend’s lead, I wrote – and waited; getting no answer. Wrote to a different email address and did hear back. Hurrah!

In return I was sent two tiny pictures. I fell in love with one of them – and yet the NAME on the photo puzzled me: Lady Maria Seymour. The inclusion of a first name, for a baronet’s wife, was highly unusual, even if Silvy, a Frenchman, was unaware of custom. My NPG contact said the identification was a process of elimination: no one else of that name.

I am still suspicious. I’d LOVE it to be Maria — Emma’s youngest sister — but believe the young woman portrayed probably is a daughter of the Seymour-Conway household. A young lady soon to be married, rather than a wife and mother.

Why my doubt?

Beside the name, there is a contemporaneous photo of the daughter of Maria’s cousin, Spencer, 2nd Marquess of Northampton. This daughter, Lady Marian Alford, is younger than Maria by a couple of years — yet she is the epitome of the “Victorian Matron”.

Weeks after receiving the small images from NPG, and declining to buy better (larger) images due to the uncertain nature of their identification, I was beginning to tell some people who had helped me in this project my reservations; I invited them to take a look for themselves — and that was when I found quite large (and very satisfactory!) images had been posted online! I still shake my head, wondering why I hadn’t been sent these same scans – and I suppose too (as I was told NOT to even KEEP the images sent me) puzzled as to why they posted them online at all.

I invite you, too, to look over the images of “Lady Maria Seymour” (portrait #655; portrait #656) — can YOU ID her??? and Lord Northampton’s daughter, Lady Marian Alford (sitter #631).

“Family” who are represented at NPG, in addition to Lady Marian:

Looking, tonight, I see that “Maria” is no longer ID’ed as Maria Culme Seymour! Wish someone had said…

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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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