Photo credit: City of London Corporation
The date must be wrong as Emslie was born in 1848.
Comments from George Hunt (City of London Corporation):
Thank you for the enquiry. Here are my initial thoughts, but any further comments welcome.
I can confirm that the portrait faces the viewer’s right, as in the Art UK photograph. The Wikipedia photograph is wrong. https://tinyurl.com/53t25a83
The Lawrences in question are:
1. William Lawrence (Sheriff 1849, lived 1789–1855)
2. William Lawrence (Sheriff 1857, Lord Mayor 1863, lived 1818–1897)
This portrait is of a Sheriff (three stranded chain), so an 1863–1864 date is not correct and it could not be 1857 either due to Emslie's age at the time. See for instance Illustrated London News - Saturday 7th November 1863 (p.457) for a portrait of Lawrence (1818–1897) as Lord Mayor.
Whereas, I believe this portrait matches this photograph of Lawrence (1789–1855) as Sheriff in Family History of the Lawrences of Cornwall (opposite p.7). This photograph faces the opposite way to the painting. This publication also says (p.17) that his portrait was painted by A. E. Elmslie (typo?) in 1907 (error?). Our accession register clearly states that the work was bequeathed by Lawrence (1818–1897) in 1897. I believe the acquisition method on Art UK (“presented by the artist”) is incorrect.
I have also attached a copy of the artist’s signature from this work. It does not seem to match the signature from his work ‘A Sonata of Beethoven’, which is also in the Gallery collection, but it does appear to be similar to the signature on ‘Dinner at Haddo House’ in the NPG. https://tinyurl.com/yhn5nnxt
This does not seem to resolve the date of the painting. One idea is that the painting is a copy by Emslie of the photograph attached or an earlier painting.
Can we ask GH if he knows when the portrait came into the Corporation's possession and who / where from.
I’ve ordered the sitter’s will.
His portrait was at the R.A. in 1864 (55). The artist was J. P. Knight, R.A.
Perhaps Emslie copied it.
Here’s a link to works by Knight:
This information on Art UK is corrected by George Hunt above, and the label on the frame says Bequeathed by Alderman Sir William Lawrence 1897.
The will of the sitter's son Sir William Lawrence might also be informative.
I ordered the will of Sir William Lawrence (d. 18 April 1897). Probate was granted 16 August 1897.
Marcie, the 1864 portrait by Knight shown at the RA was of the younger Lawrence (1818-1897) as Lord Mayor, not as Sheriff, so it cannot be our portrait.
Alderman William Lawrence (d. 1855) did not mention any specific works of art in his will dated 8 October 1855 (PROB 11/2225/183). He bequeathed his pictures to his wife Jane.
Jane Lawrence (née Clarke)(d. 14 February 1874) did not mention any specific works of art in her will dated 8 February 1874. She left cash to her sons Alfred (d. 9 June 1875) and Edwin (d. 21 April 1914), and cash, jewelry and small items to her daughter Jane (d. 2 May 1897). She willed the residue of her estate to her sons (Sir) William Lawrence and Sir James Clarke Lawrence (d. 21 May 1897).
Neither the will of Sir William Lawrence (d. 18 April 1897) dated 16 August 1890 nor the codicil dated 23 April 1894 mentions specific works of art (see extracts).
The portrait was produced as an engraving in 1851: https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1943-0410-1393
The print says 'Drawn and engraved by Joseph Skelton' and that's Joseph John Skelton: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_John_Skelton
The engraving is similar but not identical to our portrait, and there are a number of differences, such as the hands. Skelton was an engraver, not a painter, and the "drawn by" means he was either the intermediary draughtsman (who made a drawing of a painting, which he then used as a model for engraving) or that he drew the sitter from life and then engraved from the drawing.
If the date on the print was meant to be 1851 (as opposed to 1857), then the man depicted cannot be the WL who was High Sheriff in 1857 and must be his father, who was High Sheriff in 1849.
The BM, by the way, gives the wrong biographical information for the sitter, whom it conflates with Sir William Lawrence (1783-1867), who was not a politician but a medical man.
If the print had been after a painted portrait, the name of the painter would normally appear (if known). However, if the print (which faces right) was after the daguerreotype linked above (which faces left), Elmslie could have painted our picture (also facing right) after the print much later, changing some of the details. He certainly could not have painted our portrait from life or anywhere near 1849, so c. 1849 may well apply to to the daguerreotype, but not our portrait.
Here's a print by Skelton after a photograph:
For further biographical details of Lawrence father and son see the attached obituary notice for the latter from The Graphic of Saturday 24th April 1897.
See attached the signature composite from this painting and the artist's own as written by him on the 1911 UK census.
It might be worth noting that although Alfred Edward Emslie was most well known as a watercolourist and was an Associate of the Royal Watercolour Society, the list of his exhibited works at the RA shows that towards the end of the 1880s and throughout the 1890s he executed a number of portraits in oils.
The Wikipedia entry for William Lawrence (1818-1897) https://tinyurl.com/53t25a83 not only reverses the image of this portrait but uses it for the wrong William Lawrence.
Thank you to everyone who has carried out research and commented in support of this discussion. I have some thoughts and open questions below:
It is unfortunate that the family wills consulted do not seem to have mentioned this artwork. The "Family History of the Lawrences of Cornwall" (image in the original post) suggests that the work was presented by Edwin Lawrence (while still alive), so although this contradicts the evidence we have elsewhere, I wonder if that could be investigated.
Thank you to Andrew for linking the engraving and I agree with Jacinto that the painting must be after this. Does anyone know if the BM have a way to suggest corrections? Likewise for the wikipedia page - as we are certain that this is incorrect, can it be removed to avoid further confusion?
NPG list Emslie as a photographer, but were unable to give any further information. V&A hold one photograph by him: https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O220405/cottage-interior-photograph-alfred-edward-emslie/. Do we have anything else to confirm his interest in this media?
Emslie's signature is an interesting aspect, particularly as he seems to have used a number of different signatures. Is there a chronological pattern to these?
It could be that, following the publication of the Skelton engraving in 1851, and between his father's death in 1855 and his own death in 1897, Sir William Lawrence commissioned this portrait from Emslie, either as a copy of the engraving or after an original painting upon which the latter might have been based and with which Sir William did not want to part. It certainly would make sense in the given timeline.
More concretely, attached are some good biographical details on the sitter's life.
Emslie's father was an engraver. See https://tinyurl.com/bdhz2c6j
Most of Emslie's works on Art UK are portraits.
An interesting review in The Builder of 1919 states the following:
""Armageddon" at Walker's Galleries. Canadian Official War Photographs. - The interest at the exhibition at Walker's Galleries of paintings by the late A. E. Emslie, A.R.W.S., centres on his large symbolic canvas of "Armageddon", but it is by no means confined to this. Mr. Emslie was an artist of varied achievements. He had been a successful illustrator in America, the pupil of Carolus Duran in Paris, then a busy portrait painter, having in one year (1889) no less than seven...." (most likely, "works in the Royal Academy." - Osmund, your magic, please).
Emslie exhibited a large number of works at the RA over the twenty-eight years between 1869 and 1897:
His wife Rosalie, a noted miniaturist painter, was nearly as prolific with works shown at the RA between 1889 and 1904.
See also attached the interesting reference to his portrait of the Rev. James Martineau, from the Dewsbury Chronicle and West Riding Advertiser, of Saturday 29th April 1893.
Finally, this reference suggests that Emslie was educated at the Royal Academy Schools:
Although not mentioning photography, an interesting overview of Emslie's practice can be seen here:
Selected works are obviously fetching large prices!
The V&A hold two miniature portraits of Alfred, painted by his wife Rosalie:
In the above-linked-to record for the work by Emslie sold at Sotheby's, Pieter van der Merwe is correct in asserting that the title should contain the word "Binding" and not "Bending". The 1881 RA catalogue lists the work as "924. Binding Sail After a Gale".
I suppose it is conceivable that there were multiple photos taken at the same sitting, not just the one shown in the book cited by George, and that the print was after one of those photos and our picture after another one. Engravers typically follow their original fairly closely.