Dobsons reunited at Tate Britain

Great news from Tate Britain this week! For the next three years, the gallery will be hosting William Dobson’s earliest known self-portrait alongside his own portrait of second wife, Judith.

WandJatTate

From at least the late 1700s, both portraits were hanging together at Howsham Hall, a stately home in Yorkshire. When the house and its contents were sold in 1948, the couple went their separate ways. They briefly came back together for the 1983 National Portrait Gallery exhibition of Dobson’s work, with Judith purchased by the Tate in 1992. William’s picture remained in private hands until it came up for auction last year, and although it was once again sold to a private collector, the current owner (in contrast to the previous one, who never lent it anywhere), has already shared it with viewers at the National Portrait Gallery, before moving it to the Tate for the new loan.

I’ll definitely be visiting the Tate soon, and look forward to seeing the Dobsons back together at last!  My only concern is that, last time I visited the gallery, specifically to see the artist’s wife, she was poorly displayed, high up on a wall with a shaft of light obscuring her face. Hopefully the curation will be better this time….

Judith was born Judith Sander, some time around 1609, in London. She became Dobson’s second wife in 1637, and their only surviving child, Katherine, was born in 1639.  Judith outlived her husband by a number of years, remarrying in 1648 and surviving until at least the Restoration of Charles II, when she was said to have discussed the King’s coronation outfit with antiquarian and friend, John Aubrey. It is not know when she died.

Tate are also planning a special display on Dobson next year. Hopefully they’ll have more details on that soon.

Portraits at the Tate

 

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Picture of the Day: Sir William Temple

Sir William Temple

This beautiful painting is at the National Portrait Gallery in London, labelled after Sir Peter Lely, and based on a work of circa 1660. A lot of ‘after’ works are very obviously  not in the same league as the original, but I think this really evokes Sir Peter, and the painter was in my (admittedly inexpert) opinion, an accomplished and talented painter in their own right.  Are there any Lely fans in the readership who know more about it, or have any idea where the original might be? No date is given, so it could be this version is not even 17th century, although I’d hazard a guess it is.

Sir William Temple (1628-1629), was born in London, the son of Irish lawyer, courtier and politician, Sir John Temple, and was himself employed as a diplomat, travelling around Europe on behalf of the crown, one of his achievements being the successful negotiation of marriage between the Prince of Orange and Princess Mary. Although he was much respected and consulted by Charles II on matters of state, Temple disapproved of the crown’s anti-Dutch course, and retired from court.

He died in 1699 and was much mourned, with Swift lamenting that “all that was good and amiable in mankind departed with him”.

A hidden portrait at Fawley Court

Some time in the mid-1860s, it is claimed, a civil engineer and a colleague began structural alterations to the roof and rooms of the ancient manor at Fawley Court, in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire.  Hidden in the oak timbering of the roof,  they found various items they believed had been concealed  by the family who lived there, stashed out of sight during the fighting and occupation of Fawley during the Civil War.  Behind some old oak panelling in the study, they found this painting.

William Whitelock

It is initialled “A.G. 1670 Sir William Whitelock Fawley Court”.

On the accompanying piece of paper, written in 1901, the unnamed engineer tells us that Fawley and another nearby manor,  Phyllis Court, were owned by the Whitelock family, its most famous member being the 17th century Parliamentarian and Lord Keeper of the Great Seal,  Bulstrode Whitelock.  Our finder says he compared the portrait with that of Sir William Whitelock, Bulstrode’s brother, and decided they were indeed the same man.  Sir William was in fact Bulstrode’s second son, not his brother, but given that the report was made in 1901, I think we can allow the writer – not a historian by trade – a little leeway!

Both the painting and its written history are on auction for £500 on ebay.

View sale

 

 

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