Jane Austen Pillow @ NPG

August 26, 2015 at 12:02 pm (jane austen) (, )

The things you find when you aren’t LOOKING! Today, among the gifts at London’s National Portrait Gallery, it is this little JANE AUSTEN CUSHION.

cushion_austen

The “portrait” is that which appeared in Edward Austen’s book on his aunt, written late in life (c1870). Measuring 45cm (approximately 17-inches square), it’s described as being of a “super soft faux suede” that’s machine washable. A bit pricey for those paying with dollars: £35. Comes with “cushion pad” which I assume is the pillow insert.

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Great George Street, Westminster

July 16, 2014 at 11:56 pm (books, chutes of the vyne, estates, london's landscape, research) (, , , , )

I have been living in the 18th century lately, and in looking for the Smiths at No. 29 Great George Street, Westminster, came across this Newspaper advertisement in 1802, when No. 15 (across and a bit up the street from the Smiths) was for sale:

“No. 15, SOUTH SIDE of GREAT GEORGE-STREET,
WESTMINSTER

To be Sold by Private Contract, by Mr. CHRISTIE,

A Singularly elegant LEASEHOLD HOUSE, with two coach houses, roomy four-stall stable, &c. … with views from the balcony into St. James’s Park and Westminster-bridge, from which a most perfect free circulation of air rendering the premises chearful, airy, healthy, &c.  The premises have, on the parlour floor, a library, dressing room, and elegant dining parlour, spacious entrance hall, with folding doors, paved with marble; first floor, a suit [sic] of three spacious apartments, the two principal ones laid together occasionally by folding doors, the windows of the front room opening down to the floor into balconies; four spacious bedchambers and patent water closet on the second floor; five excellent bedchambers on the attics, principal staircase of easy ascent, and back staircase; basement story, butler’s pantry, housekeeper’s room, store room, and excellent wine cellars, servant’s hall, detached kitchen, wash house, and laundry, capital arched vault for pipes of wine. the premises have been recently put into the most elegant and complete repair, fit for the immediate reception of a large family. The locality of the premises to both Houses of Parliament, St. James’s Park, Westminster Bridge, and within one shilling fare of Court, Places of Amusement, &c renders the premises particularly eligible. — To be viewed with tickets, and further particulars known in Pall Mall.”

george street

No. 29 is prominently marked “XIX”; No. 15 is the first on the right, right below the letter “T” in Street. Reading letters from the 1790s, when three men were living at No. 29 — Joshua Smith and his sons-in-law Charles, Lord Compton (of Castle Ashby in Northamptonshire) and William Chute (of The Vyne in Hampshire) — were ‘bunking together’ you get the impression of it being a NO PLACE FOR LADIES! Too little room? too many additional servants? Hard to tell the exact reason why. All three men were in Parliament; and a ‘bachelor establishment’ was probably just not the most conducive place to be!

In the mid-1790s, “the Ladies” would have included:

  • Sarah Smith – Joshua’s wife
  • Lady Compton – Charles’ wife (Joshua’s eldest daughter)
  • Spencer and Elizabeth – the two Compton children
  • Eliza Chute – William’s wife (Joshua’s second eldest daughter)
  • Augusta Smith (Joshua’s third daughter)
  • Emma Smith (Joshua’s fourth and youngest daughter)

That’s SEVEN more people, never mind maids and nursery staff.

From such a list, how could one possibly pick and choose?

I’ve long looked at the excellent series of BRITISH HISTORY ONLINE, but have also looked at the book SURVEY OF LONDON (from 1926) online at the University of Toronto (Great George Street is in vol. 10), which has many in the series. Must confess, it gives the entry an entirely different “feel” to see the BOOK!

“DEMOLISHED” is such a horrific word to see…

I sure hope the bits & pieces said to be “preserved” in the Victoria and Albert Museum still exist!

* * *

EXTRAS:

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Make Mine a “Kit Kat”

August 3, 2013 at 12:37 am (history, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , )

No, not talking about the candy bar, but portraiture.

Have been thinking today about the Gosling portraits painted by Sir William Beechey (discussed oh-so-long ago on this post). Talk of three-quarters and half-lengths… There were all sorts of rules as to whether hands were shown, and how much of the body, all of it governing how much you paid.

You can see from the 1817 payments that three paintings (one of the two girls; separate ones of Mrs Gosling and Mr Gosling) cost the family £210.  A not-inconsiderable sum, and yet imagine the man-hours the painter put in for that sum.

Joshua Smith

Joshua Smith (detail)
by (a follower of) Thomas Phillips

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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?

* * *

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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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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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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More Jane Austen Portrait News

June 12, 2012 at 3:17 pm (jane austen, jasna, news, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , )

Kate in Norfolk sent the following link, about the Rice Portrait: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2156805/The-teenage-Jane-Austen-Fresh-evidence-divisive-portrait-13-year-old-girl-really-loved-author.html

TheDaily Mail’s story undoubtedly gives the family some encouragement about authenticity. Although, it also sheds light on the possible artist!

Read the article, then visit the “Rice Portrait” website. For more on Paula Byrne’s “Austin” portrait, see her website.

Art History News discusses “written” IDs on works, which rather echoes my own thoughts – especially after the Byrne portrait’s incongruous handwriting (see earlier posts on that portrait for a picture of the inscription Miss Jane Austin).

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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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Portrait Pricing in Regency England

January 3, 2012 at 10:37 am (jane austen, jasna, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , )

The end of my 2011 JASNA AGM paper, “A House Divided? How the Sister Arts Define the Dashwood Sisters,” briefly examined the discrepancy between the earnings of Musicians and Artists, in an effort to illustrate that — in keeping with their interests — Marianne Dashwood’s naming a competence of £2000 could only cause an outcry by Elinor for the sum to signify wealth to her.

In my research, with its attempts to track down portraits and miniatures mentioned in Smith&Gosling letters and diaries, it’s sometimes possible to place a price-paid upon a work: for original sums are sometimes recorded.

In the program Jane Austen: The Unseen Portrait? it is mentioned that 30 guineas might have been asked for a miniature, 300 guineas for an oil portrait. Surely, those are high-end amounts.

To illustrate:

In her 1820 diary, Emma mentions that she and elder sister Augusta go “with the Goslings to Sir Wm Beechey’s”.

Beechey’s account books, published in 1907, has a notation for payment on 26 March 1820: “Of Mrs. Gosling, for Mr. Robert Gosling (last half)… 26£ 5s 0d”

Earlier (and later) notations of payments are then found:

1817 –

1 April: “Of Mrs. Gosling (as half), for a half-length of her two daughters and three-quarter of her own…105£”

8 August: “Of Mrs. Gosling (as last payment), for the Miss Goslings, and three-quarter of Mr. W. Gosling…105£”

[Question: Was Charlotte’s own portrait given over to William Ellis, her eldest step-son? Or is there a payment missing?]

1818 –

21 April: “Of Mr. Gosling (first half)… 26£ 5s 0d”

[Question: Did Robert’s portrait really wait two years (until 1820) for payment? Mr Gosling should be William Gosling, the father; Mr W. Gosling, the eldest son William Ellis Gosling; Robert and Bennett Gosling the remaining two elder brothers]

1823 – Beechey’s prices have risen, a bit:

24 February: “Of Mrs. Gosling (as half), for Mrs. Bennett Gosling… 31 £ 10s 0d”

Even a rudimentary bit of math comes up with sums well under 300 guineas per picture. Typically, “half portraits” cost less than “three-quarter” lengths.

Sir William Beechey, having painted the Royals and been knighted in 1798, would not have been an unknown itinerant artist.

Blog readers who live in London, can visit the National Portrait Gallery and view the Sitters Book of artist Margaret Carpenter. One Carpenter-Wilkie Collins-Charles Dickens researcher did just that, and found that Mrs Carpenter received a mere 4£ 4s 0d from Dickens, “whether of him or someone in his family isn’t clear”. The same reader notes that Mrs Carpenter was “patronised by most of the more prominent personages”.

{note that readers reply on that website wondering if the sitter is the Charles Dickens — never thought about it: 1820, the sitter could be my Charles SCRACE Dickens!}

My intention here, is to bring forward the notion that not all portraits were made for engaged couples, or exceptionally pricey. Emma herself writes in an 1825 letter,

“Augusta has told me about Mary Gosling’s picture but I should really extremely like to pay for it and have it {my conclusion: Mamma was willing to pay; or else, Mary was offering her friend this, paying for it herself} – I am sure I could very well afford it for you know many expences are cut off this year & it would be a great treasure to me — I will write to Mary Gosling tomorrow–“

So family are not the only contenders for the purchase or the acquisition of a portrait: friends might also have received a memento!  But: As I’ve written before, there are so many pieces out there merely titled “Portrait of a Lady”… Some gift of Jane or Cassandra Austen to, say, Alethea Bigg, may be out there, yet never properly ID’ed.

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On this day

January 27, 2011 at 12:02 am (chutes of the vyne, estates, people, places) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

In 1793, young Eliza Smith (Eliza Chute as she would become in October) is writing in her diary. She is in Great George St, London, her father’s residence:

27 January “…Out in the morning. Admitted at L:y Arden’s Mrs Jelfe & L:y Cunliffe… Farquhar came to Fanny  We read together 2 vol. of the Benevolent Quixote a novel  Alone I began Mad:e de Sévigné’s letters & read Pope’s Moral essays”

My favorite mentions in this entry are Lady Cunliffe — who was mother to Eliza and Mary Cunliffe, the future mother and aunt of my Mary Gosling; and of Madame de Sévigné — whose letters I have read with great interest. Madame’s old Paris home is now the Musee Carnavalet, which, alas, I appreciated more for her past presence than for its value as a history of Paris museum. (The Wikipedia entry has a link to some evocative photos!)

Eliza Chute’s own London home, in Great George Street, was a former home of another national museum: the “infant” National Portrait Gallery. See details (and some wonderful pictures of this demolished residence) at British History Online.

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