William Ellis Gosling moves to El Paso, Texas!

May 25, 2013 at 11:52 am (books, news, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , )

IMAGINE my utter surprise to see the following turn up in a December 2012 Newsletter for the El Paso Museum of Art:

william ellis gosling portrait

They’ve purchased my William Ellis Gosling’s portait!!
(by Sir William Beechey)

Designated the “Members Choice 2012 Winner”, it has been at Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts, having once hung (but been ‘deaccessioned’ in 2000) in West Bend, Wisconsin. Ah, little does anyone know what they had, and El Paso now has.

William Ellis Gosling, the eldest child of banker William Gosling and his (first) wife Margaret Elizabeth (“Eliza”) Cunliffe, was born in the summer of 1794. The painting, exhibited in 1800, is surely of a child younger than age 6. Mention is made of “Master Gosling” (p. 72) and the family sittings (p. 244) in the 1907 book Sir William Beechey, R.A. (I don’t know why you can’t search the “read online” copy and find Gosling anymore…)

I will finish this post – with some information about dear William Ellis – later. Off to the library at present! (pouring rain…)

6.49 pm – have returned; and it’s STILL pouring out.

William Ellis Gosling was the eldest of seven children. Mary’s earliest diary, from 1814, is a door-to-door travel memoir of her trip from London to Oxford — to see her brothers who were at the university. For the 29th of June, Mary wrote,

“Tuesday [sic: Wednesday] morning having been invited by William to breakfast in his room accompanied by Robert we walked to Brazennose where there was a very sumptuous Collation prepared for us, Dr and Miss Burton partook of it, afterwards Papa, Mrs Sandoz my Sister my two brothers and myself went in a four oared boat to Nuneham  William and Robert rowed us and as they could not get any other young men to row us they got two fishermen and Miss Burton’s butler steered us.  Mama Dr. and Miss Burton were in the open carriage”.

A few years later, in September 1818, William is mentioned as having been at trial over a pick-pocket; the young man, Thomas Gardner – only 21-year-old) – was found guilty and sentenced to transportation. The short transcript of the Old Bailey proceedings says, in part,

“THOMAS GARDNER was indicted for stealing, on the 25th of June, from the person of William Ellis Gosling, one pocket-book, value 3s; one half-sovereign, and one 1 [pound] bank note his property.

WILLIAM ELLIS GOSLING, ESQ. I am a banker, and live in the Strand. On the 25th of June I was in Bear-street, Leicester-fields, at the time of the election, about half-past four o’clock, looking at the state of the poll, which was up in a shop-window, and felt somebody touching my right-hand coat-pocket. I turned round, and saw the prisoner with my pocket-book in his hand. I charged him with taking it, which he denied. I took him into a shop, and sent for a constable.”

Groan! a red morocco “pocket book”! So perhaps William kept a diary, like his sister, if this was something like The Daily Journal…

Between 1823 and 1828 William commissioned (one presumes) two portraits by Sir Edwin Landseer… of his dogs: Bob (a terrier) and Neptune (a Newfoundland). Both works went on to be engraved by Landseer’s brother Thomas. (full color of each dog: Bob; Neptune) Mary’s husband Charles notes in his diary for January 3, 1829: “Went with W:m Gosling to see Landseer’s pictures  he is a most admirable artist”.

Spotting William in Mary’s diaries is easy; he is frequently mentioned, coming for visits (and going), dining; when not in company with one of his brothers, he accompanies Spencer Smith, Charles’ younger brother. After Charles’ death, William often is her man of business, coming when the rents were due. William is also mentioned in this capacity in the diaries of Susannah Smith (Charles’ great-aunt, the widowed Mrs Thomas Smith).

Dreadful news comes in Mary’s entry for the 30th of December, 1833:  “Received an account from my Mother to inform us that William had got the Scarletina, but was going on well.” And on the following day, “Went to town, and saw my Father who was much the same. Made many inquiries about William but I could not learn many particulars.  he dined at Richard Gosling’s on the 29th and complained before dinner of having a sore throat, during dinner it became so much worse that he was obliged to return home… on Monday morning Mr Tupper pronounced it to be Scarletina… he expressed it as his opinion that none of the family should go up to him, as he considered it an infectious complaint.”

The next FIVE years of Mary’s diaries are missing…

While I can chart – somewhat – the last illness of Mr Gosling (the father), in the diary for 1834 kept by the Rev. Richard Seymour (some sections of the diary have been cut out, probably removing sections about Richard’s distress about the family of his brother John), nothing is said of the death of this young man, which occurred on the 3rd of January, 1834. Richard records that Mrs Smith (“Mamma”) asked him to visit Mr Gosling on Sunday, January 12th; he calls the next three days. One more visit is recorded (what missing might once have existed is of course unknown) before notice of his death: “Heard from Lady Smith of the death of her poor Father Mr. G – wrote her a note of comfort – & by her request went to them at 4.” (27 Jan 1834)

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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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