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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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:

* * *

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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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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Happy 2012!!!

January 1, 2012 at 11:52 am (entertainment, research) (, , , , , , , )

Mary, Emma and I wish everyone

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

I’m looking forward, in 2012, to acquainting readers with the history of the Smiths&Goslings – they lived through SUCH an extraordinary period. I light to think of my girls (born in 1800 and 1801) as going from the horse and carriage age, through the steam age and into the train age. Plus they knew and met some extraordinary people.

Yet it is their own histories, the every-day lives they and their families and friends lived that remains most compelling.

Their stories can only be told through their own words, bolstered by media reports extant public evidence, and illustrated by their own images and artwork.

I was reading some letters from 1825 — an important year, in that Belinda Colebrooke, Lady Smith (Charles’ first wife) died in January; Emma’s diary for that year is missing — and came across one from Mamma Smith, it is simply signed; just:

ASmith

I can well imagine some letters out there, which people have little idea who wrote them, or who they were written to. Especially if a letter is mailed to Miss Smith! For one letter I recently read, had Emma apologizing to Fanny for addressing her letter as usual, to Miss Fanny Smith — when she now (thanks to Augusta’s marriage) deserved the title Miss Smith.

It is really easy to see, from the list of items at the Hampshire Record Office, how several items passed to Emma. Therefore, other items — earlier Mamma Smith diaries; later Aunt Chute diaries — must have passed to Eliza Le Marchant, to Fanny Seymour, to Maria Culme-Seymour. Perhaps even to Spencer Smith, the sole-remaining brother.

I also like to think that some of Mary’s items still exist – perhaps subject to dispersal by her sister Elizabeth Christie. Those items at the Essex Record Office I think once belonged to her daughter Augusta, Mrs Lawrence Capel Cure.

So here’s some wishes for some new items — either in Archives (but unknown to me, like the wonderful Macklin Album, brought to my attention recently by Robin Jenkins) or in dribs-and-drabs in someone’s private collection. I’ve Richard Seymour’s diaries to work on, and some diaries and drawings that are across the country to investigate more fully.

I hope readers will comment and interact! You are my lifeline, sometimes — and I appreciate the friends I have made through this blog.

As they say in Austria — for the radio plays the Vienna New Year’s Concert: Prosit Neu Jahr!!

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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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Puzzle piece leads to more Puzzling

October 15, 2010 at 12:00 pm (news, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Great thanks to Jacky, in Maidstone, England, for contacting me — she has some exciting pieces of the Smith puzzle!

But one piece in particular I want to blog about today. Jacky writes:

The journal about Maria by Augusta {Mamma Smith} … talks about Maria’s development, particularly the development of her character, but also how she is doing with her lessons and with learning skills such as music and drawing.

There is much in family letters about young Maria’s struggles in Music and Drawing (after all, she had FIVE elder sisters to compete against, including the ‘perfect’ Augusta).

Maria was 15 years younger than the eldest, Augusta, and a young teenager and woman when her sisters were young wives and mothers. She ended up being pretty much alone with her mother by the mid-1830s, and obviously at times felt the “baby” of the family, wishing for ties to the siblings who somewhat had left her behind because of their own children and spouses.

But the very existence of this journal — a Georgian “Baby Book,” if I may so term it — raises the specter of just such a manuscript mentioned in the biography (by his daughter, Mary Augusta Austen Leigh) of James Edward Austen Leigh, this, however, about Edward’s brother-in-law, the youngest Smith son, Drummond:

In a MS. book describing Drummond from his birth onwards, his mother writes…

WHAT MANUSCRIPT BOOK?!? Was my reaction at the time of reading this sentence. I rather forgot about it, when talking about so much else that either I know is out there (seen and as yet unseen…), as well as what I expect to find, as well as what I know is currently “missing”. So much material! And thank God there’s so much material!

Jacky believes Mamma all along meant to present this little journal to Maria. And, in 1911, young Mary Augusta Austen Leigh had access to that book outlining Drummond’s youth — including some concluding paragraphs, written by Mamma after hearing of his death:

His arrival at home for the vacations was hailed with the greatest delight and affection and seemed to infuse new animation within the Family. His constant good temper and cheerfulness and his powers of conversation made him the most charming inmate and companion; in the larger circle of acquaintance he was valued and caressed because he was so agreeable, but in the inner circle of his near Relatives he was loved to a very great degree because he was so amiable and warmhearted. He was quite free from conceit, though his abilities were certainly above the ordinary level, I do not think he was sensible of it. . . . His conversation had a peculiar charm from the originality of some of his ideas, from the sudden, yet apposite allusions he would bring in unexpectedly, from his good spirits, and above all because it was so natural and so entirely without study or display. . . . It happened to be his lot to live much with an excellent clergyman, his Brother-in-law, Mr Austen, and all that I hear from him of my dear Drummond’s character raises my hope that our good and great Creator has not cut him off from life thus early in punishment, but in mercy; to take him from evil to come, to shorten his probation.

I must admit, not being overly religious myself, to being affected by the great store Mrs Smith put in her faith as she lost (at this time) more family: in 1825 Belinda, her daughter-in-law; in 1831, Charles, her eldest son; in February 1832, her sister-in-law Judith Smith and in November, her youngest son Drummond.

I can only wonder, however: ARE THERE “BABY BOOKS” OUT THERE FOR EACH OF HER NINE CHILDREN? From an era when such documents of baby were begun with gusto, only to be abandoned before baby was more than a couple years old, especially if a sibling joined the family (my own baby book didn’t even get THAT far!), it is amazing to me that Mrs Smith pursued this route. Emma, Mary and Augusta document the physical growth of their children, in their journals — but I’ve never come across anything like this “Maria Journal”. How grateful I am to know of its existence!

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