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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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)

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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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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!

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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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Long, Winding Road: One Month to JASNA AGM

September 14, 2011 at 2:26 am (books, jasna, news, research) (, , , , , , , )

It’s getting to the point where I can “count down” to the JASNA AGM. October 13th is the flight to Dallas/Fort Worth. My paper gets presented on the following day. Eek!

I like what it says, however, about music and art, about Elinor and Marianne. My thoughts are usually “history” based, and I begin with a Beechey painting and segue into a short discussion of “accomplishments”. I have a feeling — being a bit of a craftsperson/artist — that I think differently than many JASNA speakers about the actions behind the term “accomplishments.”

Sometimes there is so MUCH you’d like to say, but: you have only 40 minutes…

Sometimes, you just have to say “enough” and be done adding information.

Still, as much as I love talking about the era, I’d much rather talk about my Smiths&Goslings! So I’m not sure about future AGM paper proposals.

Lately, I’ve been looking at sketches, somewhat in anticipation of speaking about Elinor, done by Fanny Smith, Emma’s middle sister. I’ll blog about those sketches later.

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Portland now; next: Fort Worth!

October 30, 2010 at 9:45 am (books, jasna) (, , , , , , , , , )

This “Halloween” weekend, JASNA members and guests gather in Portland, Oregon for the Annual General Meeting; 2010’s Theme, as you can see, centers on Northanger Abbey.

Must admit, thinking about it, I still like my paper proposal which talked about bringing into society the two “Debs” of 1818: Catherine Morland, heroine of NA, and my own sweet Augusta Smith – who was presented at Court. Her sister Emma wrote extensively about Augusta’s court dress, as well as Mamma’s; and some conversation from the Queen (Charlotte, consort to George III) and the Princess Elisabeth — Augusta, Mrs Smith, Queen Charlotte and the princesses all had the same art teacher: Miss (later Mrs) Meen. They were instructed in the fine art of painting flowers. Catherine Morland’s debut, of course, came in entry into Bath society. Austen captures well the ‘crush’ of such social gatherings, as well as the hesitant demeanor of a young woman’s foray into society and the company of strangers.

But my thoughts don’t stay long with the 2010 AGM; no! 2011 — and my paper. The ideas swirl around, for I like audience interaction and want them to see and hear art and music from the period. One painting I will be sure to talk about: The Sisters, by Sir William Beechey (the Huntington Museum of Art, in West Virginia). Readers of this blog can find my posts about this work (post 1; post 2): for its description fits ALMOST perfectly a description of a Beechey work portraying Mary and Elizabeth GOSLING. But, the younger sister seated at the piano, the elder enjoying the moment of interaction with the viewer, this piece credibly could portray Elinor and Marianne Dashwood!

I’m surprised no publisher has planted The Sisters on an S&S cover yet…

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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); 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 {Jan2012 note:  new HMOA link, which seems to have removed the image of The Sisters}: March2019: The Sisters @ Google Arts & Culture) — 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!!!

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