A lesson in knowing your art!

I was trawling the internet today, looking for subjects to include in my next blog, and I came across this painting on a UK auctioneer’s website.

copy-killigrew

I immediately recognised him as Sir William Killigrew, uncle of the artist Anne, who featured in a recent blog entry. This is clearly a later copy of Van Dyck’s original, now held at the Tate Gallery:

van-dyck-killigrew

It’s definitely the same man, isn’t it? Or perhaps not, according to the gallery which sold the first picture as “A French Cavalier”. A cavalier, maybe, but certainly not French! It’s listed as a portrait by the 19th century English school.

I know we should give smaller auctioneers some leeway when attributing paintings, especially when they may not be specialist in a particular era or genre, but the Van Dyck is hardly an obscure or unknown picture. Perhaps if they’d known they were selling an admittedly poor copy of a Van Dyck original of a member of a well known English family, rather than some random French bloke, they may have got more than £190 for it!

Spotted at auction…

This is quite exciting! Two portraits said to be by John Hayls recently went up for auction together in the US. I have found records and images of only a handful of Hayls paintings, many of them merely attributed to him rather than confirmed works, so these are a lovely addition to the list, especially as they have managed to stay together where other couples have gone their separate ways over the centuries.

hayls couple

They are inscribed with the following:

 “Michael Warton Esq Son in law of John first Lord Poulett Hales Pint”, and “Susanna daughter of John first Lord Poulett and Wife of Michael Warton Esq of Beverly in Yorkshire Hales Pint”.

 

We are told that Susanna (b. pre-1649), was daughter of John 1st Baron Poulett (1585-1549) and Elizabeth (daughter of Christopher Ken of Ken-Court). She married Michael Warton Esquire (1623-1688) circa 1646, Michael being the son of Sir Michael Warton (1593-1645) (who died in the Great Siege of Scarborough Castle) and Catherine Maltby, co-heiress of Christopher Maltby of Maltby-in-Cleveland. The listing also says that the most recent provenance was in the estate of a man in Atlanta, Georgia. I’d be fascinated to know how and when this pair travelled so far, and would hope, as I always do with such sales, that one day a future owner might bring them back home to Britain. I can dream!

Here are the descriptions from the sale listing:

A pair of formal portrait paintings each depicting one of a couple from the noble class of 17th and 18th century Great Britain comprising Susanna standing turned slightly to left wearing a deep blue and pale blue silk gown off the shoulder with a string of large pearls to her throat, drop earrings to each ear, and a jeweled headpiece in her dark curled hair, the figure reaching one hand to grasp a fruit on tray carried by a finely dressed black girl at left adorned in rich red silk dress with golden jewels to her neck and ears; and Michael standing turned slight to right in mirrored stance to his wife and wearing light armor and tied lace collar with his left hand perched on a stone and right arm bent forward with hand clutching a cylindrical wooden handle, the figure set before a dark rocky outcropping covered in moss with colorful landscape in view to right.

 

I wonder how many other husbands and wives from this era remain side by side today? Two portraits of William Dobson and his wife Judith were still hanging together as late as the mid-2oth century until a house sale split them up, with Judith ending up on her own at the Tate Britain (rarely on display, sadly). Happily for the Wartons, though, they were sold as a single lot, and so will hopefully remain together for a good while yet!

 

Ahlers & Ogletree auction

Books

In my study of the English Civil War and its art, I’ve picked up a library of invaluable books, many now out of print, that are a goldmine of detail and images not always available in modern publications. I wanted to share some of the best ones, in case they may be of use to others in their own research. I’ve also found they’re very useful in establishing provenance, as they list past owners of paintings that may have since been sold. They’re not so out of print that they’re impossible to find, and you can probably source a cheap copy somewhere like http://www.abebooks.com or Ebay.

  • A History of British Painting – Ernest Short –  What it says on the tin, with a good section on the Stuarts and mid-17th century art.
  • British Portraits – Royal Academy of Arts – Produced for an exhibition at the RA, 1956-7. A good catalogue with many black and white plates, and a small selection from Charles I’s reign.
  • Endymion Porter and William Dobson – William Vaughan, for The Tate Gallery – Published for an exhibition of the same name at the Tate Gallery, 1970. Dobson’s portrait of Porter is one of his most recognised paintings, and can today be viewed (hopefully, unless it’s been stored) at the Tate Britain in London. Includes biographical sections on both Porter and Dobson, many pictures, maps and illustrations, and a section about the conflict itself.
  • The Age of Charles I – Tate Gallery – Published for an exhibition in 1972-3. Many illustrations, including William Dobson, Robert Walker, John Hayls, and other lesser known painters. Unusually, it includes ECW miniatures as well.
  • An Illustrated Souvenir of the Exhibition of 17th Century Art in Europe, 1938 – Royal Academy of Arts. Again, what it says! Mostly black and white plates, with a few from the ECW period.
  • The Life and Times of Charles I – D.R.Watson – not strictly an art book, but full of paintings, maps, illustrations and a guide to the ECW.
  •  Last but not least, an essential book on the subject  (and my ‘bible’) – William Dobson, 1611-1646 – National Portrait Gallery, 1983. As well as both colour and black and white images of Dobson’s works from the exhibition, including detailed provenance and biographies of the sitters,  there’s an excellent biographical section that forms the most extensive research on Dobson published to date.*

Let me know if you have any other recommendations!

 

*A new biography of William Dobson is due for publication in 2016. More details soon.

 

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