Beechey’s Decolletage

May 26, 2013 at 11:17 am (fashion, history, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , )

Images are EVERYTHING in a project of this sort. The stress of KNOWING items were painted, drawn, sketched… But “Where are they NOW?” is THE question. On Memoirture, Calista asked me if I had an image of Mary. Maybe? was the best answer I could give. For the famous Beechey portrait of Mary and Margaret Elizabeth Gosling seems found – and, yet, how can it be so?

The dilemma stems from the 1958 sale at auction (sold to “Leger”) of the Suttons portrait, and the acquisition of the known-Beechey by the Huntington Museum (West Virginia) occurred prior to that date.

Beechey-MaryAnd 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).

*

Read my two earlier posts about this Beechey, “The Sisters,” Portrait:

Calista’s inquiry, however, had me looking at other Beechey female portraits; were their decolletage all that ‘on view’? I’ll leave it to you to judge for yourself that Elizabeth Christie could have had more to cover up on other Beechey portraits!

beechey_portrait girl

Portrait of a Girl, c1790

beechey_MissHarrietBeechey

Harriet Beechey (undated)

beechey_ElizabethBeresford

Miss Elizabeth Beresford (undated)

Beechey-LadyClintonWalters

Lady Clinton Walters (c1810)

beechey_lady_elizabeth_cole

Lady Elizabeth Cole (undated)

beechey_portrait lady

Portrait of a Lady (1825)

beechey_frances addington

Frances Addington (c1805)

beechey-AnnLee

Miss Ann Lee (undated)

beechey_Miss Abernathy

this last might have made Victorian-era Elizabeth Christie blush:
Miss Abernathy (undated)

Permalink Leave a Comment

Music to my Ears

February 2, 2012 at 10:51 am (books, diaries, entertainment, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

To most people, today (Feb 2nd) is Groundhog Day — when the end (or not!) of winter is “predicted” down in Punxsutawney, PA. It’s a very grey day, here in Vermont; but I guess even I would see my shadow.

Yet after reading Eliza Chute’s 1800 diary one fateful day, and seeing her comment that,

“Mrs Gosling brought
to bed of Mary”

on Sunday, February 2nd, this day has always represented Mary Gosling’s birthday, 212 years later!

I have mentioned, in previous years, how unusual Eliza’s comment seems; typically it should have read “of a girl”, never naming the child at this point. My only conclusion is that Eliza G must have told Eliza C “If it’s a girl, she will be MARY, after my mother and my sister.”

The Goslings’ elder daughter was named after her own mother, although perhaps with the names inverted: Mother was Margaret Elizabeth — always called Eliza, she signed her letters, at least to Eliza Chute, MEG. Daughter may have been Elizabeth Margaret or Margaret Elizabeth (I have found evidence of both, though tend to think the later is correct). She was always called Elizabeth by the Smiths, yet never referred to in writing by Mary as anything other than my Sister. Finding a letter of Elizabeth’s — whether signed Elizabeth Gosling or Elizabeth Christie — would be a great FIND!

I am still at the preliminary stage of tracking down the dual portrait of the sisters, done by Sir William Beechey. I have an excellent description of it, via Elizabeth’s daughter Charlotte. Mary is seated at a pianoforte; Elizabeth, seated beside her, holds a piece of music composed for her by Cramer.

Mary mentions, I believe only once, having the piano tuner in. Emma’s diaries, written in the midst of lessons and family performances, makes frequent mention of music. Often concerning herself and elder sister Augusta.

I adore music, although I never took lessons. (I blame it on an ever-so-slightly older cousin who did not stick with the clarinet; it was thought I wouldn’t stick with an instrument either. One music career blighted before it even began!) It is my deepest regret, despite trying to teach myself, that I have no facility for reading music. In serious books on music history, I have no choice but to skip over illustrations and lengthy descriptions. However, I have quite the collection of music history and biography, especially about Mozart.

It has been some weeks since I grabbed off my shelves a book I read when first purchased, about 1998 (when it was published): The Mozart Family: Four Lives in a Social Context, by Ruth Halliwell. I thought it an excellent book then, and am still enjoying it — more than 430 pages later! I haven’t stuck with a big book this long in a long while…

(BTW, this is the type of scholarship Austen Studies needs; something which looks at the whole family unit; also a scholarly edition of the entire family letters, setting Jane’s alongside the correspondence of others. See the original Mozart Briefe for what I’m talking about.)

One item which struck me was given very early (pages 42-3), in which I found myself saying, Emma commented on this for her musical education. Given that I’m reviewing Gillen D’arcy Wood’s Romanticism and Music Culture in Britain, 1770-1840 for JASNA News, this passage from Halliwell brought home just how much an “amateur” had to accomplish:

“…Rieger {a biographer of Nannerl Mozart} appears to underestimate the creative nature of keyboard playing in the eighteenth century. To be able to play a fully-written-out piece accurately and in good taste was only one part of it. Most keyboard players, even amateur ones, also needed to be able to accompany solos and ensembles, and the accompaniments were not written out — only the base-line was provided, and the harmony notated below it in shorthand by figures. Because figured bass accompaniment is no longer practised by most keyboard players, it is difficult to … appreciate just what this meant in terms of skill and creative imagination.”

Immediately upon reading the likes of this I was transported back to c1818, where Emma writes of lessons in Thorough Base!

My girls were so lucky — no one nipped their musical interests in the bud.

So, honor my Mary, by grabbing a favorite beverage (a cup of tea, in my case) , and settling down to listen to a lovely Mozart piano work. And remember: Six more weeks of winter!

Permalink 1 Comment

Where are these items?

November 10, 2010 at 5:14 pm (people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

One of the glories — and frustrations — of this project is the amount of material that has been saved, found, and ultimately consulted. But what about items that once existed, may exist still, and may be hidden away in a cellar, closet or attic??

Fortunate for me, the first diary I found — that belonging to Mary Gosling (aka Lady Smith) and now ‘living’ at Duke University — young Mary had emblazoned her name at the front of the note book! More typically, NO ONE puts their name in a diary (Charles did once  put ‘C. Smith Suttons’ in a pocket book journal!); though they often write out names, either in full or with first initial last name, on letters.

So what do I KNOW to be missing?? What precious relics of the Smiths & Goslings might be out there, but unidentified because there are few searchable names? They are mentioned in oh-so-many-sources:

Regarding Drummond Smith (Emma’s brother):

  • Tour (Italy) Journal of Drummond Smith; mentioned in his sister Emma’s (January) 1833 diary.
  • The beginning of anotherDrummond Smith travel narrative was copied into Jeremy Catto’s Letterbook: a journal of the tour Drummond took with Mary and Charles Smith, Fall 1829.
  • Manuscript book outlining Drummond’s life, from babyhood to young man; mentioned by Mary Augusta Austen Leigh, in the biography of her father James Edward Austen Leigh [see post on a similar book for Maria Smith / Lady Culme Seymour]

Regarding Emma Smith / Emma Austen Leigh:

  • Tour Journal of Emma Smith, begun and either abridged or abandoned (see letter 1822).

Regarding Augusta Smith / Augusta Wilder:

  • “Foreign Journal” of Augusta Smith (aka Augusta Wilder); presumably covers the same tour (1822-23) as Emma’s begun/abandoned journal (see Mrs Smith’s letter dated December 1826).

Regarding Charles Joshua Smith:

  • Sir Charles Joshua Smith, letters from abroad during his Continental Tour, 1820-21 (surely retained in the family; originally addressed to Emma Smith).

Regarding the Gosling family:

  • William-Ellis Gosling, “MS Volume of his reflections and notes”; mentioned by Charlotte Brookes (c1919) as being in her possession – Christie of Glyndebourne (privately-printed book).
  • Elizabeth (Gosling) Christie’s “Honeymoon Diary” (c1829); mentioned by Charlotte Brookes (c1919; see above) as being in the possession of Mrs F.L. Wilder (presume the widow of Francis Langham Wilder, the former Beatrice Hibbert, who died in 1955).

Regarding the Compton / Northampton / Dickins family:

  • Letters and/or Travel Journal of Lady Elizabeth Compton (later, the wife of Charles Scrase Dickins or Dickens); mentioned in a letter from Augusta Smith (Wilder), 1824 (as the recipient), while the Comptons were in Italy: “I received, last week, your journal written after the ascent of Vesuvius and I thank you very much…”. Augusta also mentions wanting to see Lady Elizabeth’s drawings from this trip.

Regarding the Seymour family:

  • “Journals, Letterbooks &c” of Sir Michael Seymour, cited as sources for the DNB biography (1897 edition) of Sir Michael Seymour, son of Sir Michael and brother of the Revd. Richard Seymour.
  • Diaries of the Rev. Richard Seymour; extracts published by A. Tindal Hart (see, for instance, The Curate’s Lot and The Nineteenth Century Country Parson) in the 1950s. The Warwickshire Record Office has microfilm of these diaries, but they are unable to copy the film without permission of the present owner; whereabouts of the actual diaries or their owner is currently unknown.

Books:

  • Scenes from Life at Suttons, 1825 & 1827. This was published by Spottiswoode in 1926. The authors are Eliza and Drummond Smith; artwork by Augusta Smith. UPDATE: June 2011 — FOUND on eBay!

If you know the whereabouts of any of these items, if they sound familiar to you, please contact me.

* * *

Here’s a list of those items that have been located! Grateful thanks to those who have helped, allowed me access to, or contacted me about their items:

DIARY

  • Augusta Smith née Smith (Mrs Charles Smith of Suttons), 1798 diary; property of Mark Woodford (Chicago, IL)

TRAVEL JOURNALS

  • Emma Smith, 1792 and 1794; property of Jacky (Maidstone, Kent, England)

“BABY BOOK”

  • Maria Smith, from infancy to age 17, written by her mother Augusta Smith; property of Jacky (Maidstone, Kent, England); see the post about the existence of a similar book for brother Drummond Smith

LETTERS

  • Kinwarton letters; property of Alan Godfrey (Alcester, Warks, England)
  • Drummond’s Letterbook; property of Dr. Jeremy Catto (Oxford University)
  • Augusta Smith (Augusta Wilder), 1824 Letter; property of Angela (Alberta, Canada)
  • various letters, to and from Maria (Smith) Culme-Seymour; property of Jacky (Maidstone, Kent, England)

BOOK

  • Charlotte Brookes, Christie of Glyndebourne (privately printed, 1919). This book is referenced in the biography ‘John Christie of Glyndebourne’ by Wilfred Blunt (1968). FOUND! at the Lewes Library in Sussex.

* * *

See also the “portraits” page, for there are pieces of artwork I’m actively searching for — especially portraits of the Goslings (known to have been painted by Sir William Beechey).

Permalink 1 Comment

Light Housekeeping

September 12, 2010 at 11:17 am (research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Do take a moment to check out a few new *pages*. I’ve created one page about various “missing” parts of this research, as well as acknowledged those that have come to light in private hands (special thank you to people who have contacted me; and to Alan, who continues to send scans as he finds new letters).

Readers will find all the page links under CAN YOU HELP (see PAGES, to the right), but the most important is the one entitled Where are these items?

*

NB: I worked on these pages while listening to the LAST NIGHT OF THE PROMS, on Vermont Public Radio. Oh, to be in London again…

The Smiths & Goslings would have been EXACTLY the type to subscribe to such concerts year after year after year (lucky people, no?). One thought: the London Season in their day would NOT have been the hot summer months, but the winter months of January/February through spring (depending on when Easter fell); the plays, parties and operas continued for the Smiths & Goslings into the month of June.

Permalink Leave a Comment

I’ve Found My Girl!?!

April 13, 2010 at 3:03 am (a day in the life, books, fashion, news, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , )

Is this the face of MARY GOSLING, as she appeared in 1817???

The “missing” portrait, painted by Sir William Beechey evidently in the spring and summer of 1817, turned up on the cover of the journal Early Music in 1985. In the citation it is called “The Sisters” and information is given that it is in the collection of the Huntington Museum of Art in West Virginia. In their own brief description of the work, they name the sitters Ann and Augusta Coventry. But, for several reasons, I question this attribution.

The Beechey book does list payment by a Mr Coventry for his daughter or daughters. Mr Coventry’s first name is never mentioned, though (assuming it the same man!) once his initial, “J.”, is used. On March 16, 1808 is the first entry, which reads: “Of Mr. Coventry (as half), for a half length containing two portraits of his daughters.” Then, on June 29: “Of Mr. Coventry (as last half), for Miss Coventry’s portraits.”

Now there can be a case made for a misprint: Miss Coventry’s being in reality Miss Coventrys’ — but what if the first entry contains the misprint and there’s some one picture with two portraits of the same sitter, only one Miss Coventry?! That is my pet theory — and I’m sticking to it! Nevertheless, where are the names Ann and Augusta from?

To continue on with Mary and Elizabeth, however…

The Beechey book lists payment made for Mary and Elizabeth in 1817: on April 11th (first half payment) and August 8th. Mary, therefore, would be only 17 and Elizabeth, born in April 1798, just past her 19th birthday.

The online description of Beechey’s “Master Gosling” (a toddler portrait of the Gosling’s eldest son, William Ellis) quoted the description of the girls’ portrait as “Mary and Elizabeth Gosling sitting at a box piano”. The claim is that it was sold, at Sotheby’s, in 1958 (lot 54; sale of February 19, 1958 in London).

Having just received (thank yous will appear shortly!) a description of this work, as it was when hanging at Suttons in 1920, I have two further items of evidence to put forward. One, that Elizabeth holds a copy of music (as indeed is the case here, when you view the entire portrait [Early Music issue vol. 13, no. 1, 1985 on JSTOR; click on ‘Front Matter’ link for the cover portrait] (Early Music’s website [oct19: I couldn’t find the cover]); and two, that “frills” were painted on the low-neckline of Mary’s dress by Elizabeth (Gosling) Christie when Mary’s son Charles was young — and the “frills” remained, though Charles later spoke of having them removed. So here is a portrait, of two girls at a box piano; there is sheet music in the older girl’s hand; and there ARE frills on the younger girl’s neckline!!!

I’ve some additional digging to do (by contacting Sotheby’s and/or the Huntington– but that will come in future days and right now — right NOW! — I can’t sleep for having the thought that I’VE FOUND MY GIRL!!!

NOTE ON IMAGE:

Jan2012 note:  new HMOA link, which seems to have removed the image of The Sisters}:
March2019: The Sisters @ Google Arts & Culture (nice, if dark, image of the painting)

Permalink 2 Comments