Photo credit: West Suffolk Heritage Service
I was browsing the catalogue for the auction which the Dorotheum in Vienna will be holding on 18 December 2019 (‘Old Master Paintings’), when I came across a painting which is remarkably like this one. It is Lot 399, entitled ‘Portrait of a Lady with her Daughter and a Page’, attributed to the North Italian School, second half of the 17th Century, with a tentative attribution to Pier Francesco Cittadini (1616–1681).
Perhaps this information could help firm up the attribution?
The catalogue: https://bit.ly/2r4I2nI
The picture from the catalogue: https://bit.ly/2rLChf5
The donor of this and another work in the same collection (‘Elizabeth Risby, with John’ https://bit.ly/2Pwmud5 ) was A. D. Harrison. The manors of Brook Hall and Maidenhall remained in the possession of the Risby family until nearly the middle of the 18th century, when the male line died out, and the manors passed in the female line to the Fiskes and then to the Harrisons. See ‘The Risbys of Felsham’ https://bit.ly/2r0DXkh
The donor was most likely one of those Harrisons, but perhaps this could be verified?
The 1992 accession number is not a clear indication of when the object came into the collection. 1992 was simply a year when much of the collection was given the accessions numbers they have today. They may have come from one of the local authority’s other buildings such as the old council offices, the Athenaeum or even the former clock Museum.
The Suffolk picture is obviously a copy of the Dorotheum picture. Who was Elizabeth Risby? Here's a comparable Cittadini:
Thank you to the collection for the attached photographs of the pendant portrait of Elizabeth with John, and of the back of the painting. The label reads: ‘Elizabeth Risby with Elizabeth/ 1992.9.333/ BSE: Ref P333’.
There's some info on this old post about who Elizabeth Risby was: http://gallery.nen.gov.uk/asset652092-.html (although I've not checked it for references or anything)
The servant appears vaguely Oriental, and the woman certainly appears more Italian than English.
Yes, the servant would fit Native American better than someone from India or China, but if this is Elizabeth Risby, how (or where) would Cittadini have painted her?
Yes, Jacinto's last question was my question. I looked up Cittadini's biography (admittedly in Wikipedia) and he seems never to have gone to the UK, or even left Italy. So unless Elizabeth Risby went to Italy at some point (which might have been the case if she had been a man - doing the Grand Tour), I really don't see how the two ever connected. From which I deduce that either the painting is not of Elizabeth Risby, or that the painting being sold tomorrow at the Dorotheum is not by Cittadini but by an artist who made it to the UK - or some painter saw the original Cittadini painting and made a copy of it, and this copy made its way to the UK and somehow it was thought to be of Elizabeth Risby.
Turning the question around, and focusing for a moment on the page, while I could see an Englishwoman ending up with a Native American page - through the colonies - I have difficulty understanding how an Italian woman would have ended up with such a page, which argues against the sitter being an Italian woman.
Best keep an open mind on the servant's ethnicity based simply on facial appearance: the dress and the shaved head look more oriental and if it (and the other painting) are by or after Cittadini then there are some other geographical circles to square: was Elizabeth Risby in Italy there, was Cittadini or followers in England, or is it really Elizabeth Risby at all. In the absence of hard evidence, identities (not least 'non-European' ones, as we've seen elsewhere) are often a minefield of wishful-thinking.
If both Suffolk pictures show Elizabeth Risby, it seems rather extravagant for minor gentry to have had both an Oriental or Native American servant and also an African one.
It is, of course, possible that neither servant was an actual person but a type, used as an exotic decorative touch not unlike the birds.
Over the past ten years, we have tried to do quite a bit of research into our two paintings and never really come up with anything definitive. Suggestions such as the slave being an Iroquois Indian (based on the haircut) have been mooted. Ultimately, I have never come up with any reason why this should be Elizabeth of Risby, or whether she had New World links beyond our apparently being told by the donor. The link cited earlier in the feeds (http://gallery.nen.gov.uk/asset652092-.html) was provided by a former colleague of mine, but I'm not sure I would agree with the New World statement. Elizabeth, I believe, was recorded as being the sole heir of Francis Cornwallis, which means her familial ties to the New World Governor Cornwallis' family are removed, despite their being a local family based at Culford Hall, but there is no suggestions she had estates in the colonies. I'm also not entirely sure her Son was called John, as the second picture states. I agree that I have no idea how an Italian would have come to paint minor Suffolk aristocracy. In short the only reason our pictures are attributed to being Elizabeth Risby is because they came from her one time house, albeit, probably over two hundred years after her death. I think it more likely our two paintings are a copy of (possibly) an Italian subject matter.
The Suffolk painting is substantially smaller than that in the Vienna auction which, together taking into account the truncated composition and its lesser quality, suggests it is a copy. Whether the Vienna painting is the original - and was also accompanied by a companion work - is another matter.
There are elements in these which remind me of Flemish rather than Italian works. If that were correct, it would provide a link between a painting in Suffolk - with its trading links to Flanders - and Austria.
Cittadini, the purported author, was influenced by Flemish artists living in Rome and is best known now for his many still lifes.
There was a Chinese servant at Knole in the 18th century, who was painted by Reynolds, but Knole was a much grander establishment.
So I think there is consensus that the "Elizabeth with Elizabeth" painting is a copy of another painting, either the one that was being sold today at the Dorotheum or of another painting of which both paintings were copies. I suppose it is still of interest to know who painted the original painting and who was the sitter, since that might explain how "Elizabeth with Elizabeth" ended up in Suffolk. Although Jacinto Regalado suggests that neither the servant nor the birds (parrots, I would assume) might be real but were used as exotic decorative touch, I would think that they were chosen as having some sort of link to the sitter. Looking at the global range of parrots, I could imagine either a South American link (the page then being an Amerindian) or a South-East Asian link (the page then being from S-E Asia); the range of parrots doesn't stretch to China, so I would rule out a Chinese link. In turn, this to me suggests that the sitter was either Spanish or she was Dutch.
Turning to the "Elizabeth with John" painting, which very likely is neither of Elizabeth or of John, what I am intrigued by is the house which one can see (not very well) in the background. It seems to me to have an architecture that I would associate with the UK or Northern Europe. Or is that too fanciful?
What also intrigues me is the little flag which the woman is holding. It seems to be showing a heart with two arrows through it. Does this mean anything?
The architecture you mention, Edward, looks vaguely classical but non-specific as to country, at least to me. The picture also looks like a copy, and not an especially accomplished one.
In the light of the last St Edmonsbury comments, might it not be better to start by confirming the artist? (1) Is this Cittadini or at least after him ? (2) If so then one next needs to know if he habitually painted identifiable portraits (though the sitters may in these cases be unidentifiable) or just elaborate but anonymous figure subjects.
Further to Edward Clarence Smith's comment, I have often wondered about the flag with the heart. If anyone has any ideas I would be really interested.
To Bury St Eds Mus--- What I see is a servant holding a tray of flower blooms and the Lady attaching a flower to the little girls hair.Does that make sense??
That is exactly as I would describe it, yes.
A potential problem with the Cittadini attribution is the missed opportunity for a much more elaborate and impressive floral still life, which was a Cittadini speciality, whereas the flowers here are fairly basic and workmanlike, particularly in the vase.
As has I think already been nooted it may be 'after' in a slightly modified form, but the issue remains primarily whether it is a portrait of named people (the Risbys) or just a genre piece: i.e. an Itanate import to which circumstance has misleadingly attached British sitter names. That's the simple explanation to be proved wrong. Identifying the artist as probably 'Cittadini or after' is itself an advance.
Barring better evidence than that currently at hand, it seems quite unlikely for multiple reasons already mentioned that this is a portrait of minor English gentry, and the same applies to its presumed companion picture with the black servant.
Regarding my preceding comment about the flowers, compare to those in this Cittadini:
Going back to Pieter van der Merwe's question - "might it not be better to start by confirming the artist?" - I've been trawling the internet to see as many paintings by Cittadini (or attributed to him) as I can find. So far, I've looked at about 60. I have to say, I find the Dorotheum's attribution more and more difficult to believe. Assuming that the painting in question is a portrait, Cittadini's portraits are much more formal, clothing is richer, the setting is always an interior, there are few "props". I attach a selection of the ones I have come across. There's also one Cittadini portrait in the Art UK database.
ArtUK was sent a link to another version of the companion to this painting https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/elizabeth-risby-with-john-10540. It was appearing at an auction in France late last year but the link no longer works https://www.interencheres.com/meubles-objets-art/tableaux-anciens-mobilier-et-objets-dart-281920/lot-25517970.html - unless someone else can find the lot online.
The catalogue entry mentioned that the work for sale was by the same hand (Genoese) as a series on the senses at the MBA Marseilles - they are not illustrated on Joconde https://www.pop.culture.gouv.fr/notice/joconde/000PE014202
Cittadini was active mainly in Bologna, not Genoa, though he spent some time in Rome.
Is the apparently formal garden seen at lower right in the Dorotheum picture consistent with one of the Risby seats?
Thanks, Alistair Brown, for putting life back into this string! I must say, I had rather given up on it.
I've tracked down a link to the catalogue of the auction in France which works (at least for me): https://ader.auction.fr/_fr/lot/ecole-flamande-du-xviie-siecle-portrait-d-rsquo-une-dame-de-qualite-coiffant-sa-16983658
It's clearly the same painting that I saw being auctioned by the Dorotheum in Vienna in December (and where it went unsold).
The catalogue entry in this case claims the painting to be Flemish school 17th Century, which I think makes more sense than the Dorotheum's claim of North Italian school - see in the string above.
As Alistair said, the catalogue goes on to compare the painting to a series of paintings on the theme of the five senses held by the Musee des Beaux Arts in Marseilles, and it gives a rather small copy of black-and-white photos of four of these paintings (which, rather confusingly, were taken from a printed catalogue of the museum's Italian paintings - so Italian or Flemish?). I've sent an email to the museum to see if better photos are available somewhere, and to see if they know more about their attribution.
This might be an improvement on the Five Senses images:
The one at lower left is certainly similar in kind and style to the picture under discussion. This lead should be pursued.
I think there were good reasons early in this discussion to rule out Cittadini as our artist. The reappearance of the 'Dorotheum' painting at the Ader auction rooms in Paris on 29/01/21 with their description of 'Flemish School, 17th century' gives support to views expressed here previously that our painting might be Flemish or connected to the Flemish School. If we consider not only the present Risby painting, but also the companion picture held by West Suffolk, it is evident that the house(s) depicted are very grand indeed and rather out of keeping with the means of local English gentry. Also the background to the right of the 'Dorotheum/Ader' painting suggests a Northern European location. The rugged terrain in that painting is rather more pronounced than the background in the 'Risby' painting. From the images provided the West Suffolk 'Risby' is a quite a close copy of the 'Dorotheum/Ader' example but it is evident that the quality of the Risby painting is quite inferior. For example the way in which the child is painted in 'our' picture bears little comparison to the quality of execution of the 'Dorotheum/Ader' work although superficially similar. Logically, the West Suffolk painting(s) must be copies after earlier originals probably by the hand of a noted Flemish School painter, working circa late 17th or early 18th century in date. I found it interesting that large fir trees in 'Dorotheum/Ader' had been replaced with more English looking trees in 'Risby', whether by accident or design. My feeling is that art dealers of the era marketed copies of Flemish paintings in the English 18th century market, being 'vanity' pictures suggesting wealth, position and taste on the part of the new owners (for instance, grand houses, servants from far off lands, and beautiful tropical birds, etc). If this is correct, we will not be able to identify the 'Risby' artist as we are probably looking at copies that may be catalogued as 'Anglo / Flemish School, after a late 17th/early 18th Century Flemish artist'. That is quite close to the existing description as recorded by West Suffolk Heritage Service.
I have been Googling images of parrots. Surely someone who includes two birds in a painting must have painted birds in the past. I have landed on Jakob Bogdani. I don’t see any of his paintings with people in them, but I do see lots of birds. This painting, for example, at the Hungarian National Gallery, includes birds that are similar to those in the mystery painting.
Still-life with Fruits, Parrots and White Cockatoo
According to Wikipedia:
“Jakob Bogdani (6 May 1658 - 11 November 1724), whose names are sometimes spelt Jacob and Bogdány, was a Hungarian and British artist well known for his still life and exotic bird paintings.”
Bogdany has many paintings that include large garden vessels but not many are adorned with decorative heads.
This painting includes a decorative head that protrudes from the surface of a pewter bowl.
“Fruit in a Pewter Bowl with a Parrot“
The following painting shows a decorative head that is similar to the one in the mystery painting protruding from a stone vase. The stone vase also has a similar curve at the top.
“Exotic Fowl in an Ornamental Garden beside a Stone Vase, a Fountain beyond”
Note that this painting also includes a fountain in the background that is similar to the one in the mystery painting. The bottom of the fountain in the mystery painting is the same as the middle of the fountain in this painting.
I have yet to find a person in a Bogdani painting.
The note that accompanies the following painting states that it is “[E]vidently the work of two hands, one a specialist painter of flowers in elaborate vessels and settings in the manner of Monnoyer, possibly the Hungarian, Bogdani”.
“Flowers in an Urn, with a Boy feeding Cherries to Two Parrots”
“possibly Jakob Bogdani (Eperjes (now Presov), Hungary c.1660 – Finchley 1724) and Jan van der Vaart (Haarlem 1647 – London 1721)”
I have been searching for bird cages that are similar to the one in the Vienna painting.
1. “A View through a House” by Samuel van Hoogstraten (1627–1678) has a similar cage but it has heavy vertical supports.
2. “A Woman Playing a Clavichord” by Gerrit Dou (1613–1675) has a similar cage but it has heavy vertical supports.
3. “A Lady with a Parrot on Her Left Hand” by Gonzales Coques (c.1614–1684) has a similar cage but it has heavy vertical supports.
4. “Interior with a Woman Feeding a Parrot, Known as ‘The Parrot Cage’” by Jan Havicksz. Steen, c. 1660 - c. 1670, is similar but has heavy vertical supports.
5. “Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria” by Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-1779) has a nearly identical cage that might have been an antique when painted.
I have been searching for chairs that are similar to the one in the Vienna painting. The four examples that I have found are 17th century Dutch and the chair that is most similar is dated 1642.
1. The chair on the right in “A Maid Asleep”, ca. 1656–57 by Johannes Vermeer, Dutch, is similar and the back is even at a slight slant.
2. The two chairs in “Woman Reading a Letter”, Johannes Vermeer, c. 1663 are similar but the heads at the top look like lions
3. This chair in the Rijksmuseum is similar but the heads look like lions. “Stoel van palissanderhout, bekleed met groen laken, waarop een versiering van oranjekoord, anonymous, c. 1610 - c. 1650”
(Rosewood chair, covered with green cloth, with an orange cord decoration, anonymous, c. 1610 - c. 1650)
4. This print at the Rijksmuseum “Zes stoelen en drie krukken, Crispijn van de Passe (II), 1642” (Six Chairs and Three Stools, Crispijn van de Passe (II), 1642) is most similar - it includes the fringe. Note the slant. The information box has more details and indicates the print was prepared in Amsterdam.
Perhaps the little flag the woman is holding in “Elizabeth, with John” was made from a playing card. It could be a “9” in the top right corner. She might have created the little flag to amuse her son.
See examples of Dutch cards with one heart in the middle here:
1. “The Card Game on the Cradle: Allegory, Johannes van Wijckersloot (attributed to), 1643 - 1683”
2. “Man and Woman Playing Cards
Anthonie Palamedesz. (1601–1673) (circle of)”
The companion painting “Elizabeth Risby, with John” might have been painted in 1643 when the Congolese Ambassador Don Miguel de Castro went to Amsterdam with two servants Diego Bemba and Pedro Sunda. All three men had their likenesses painted by J. Beckx (dates unknown). One of the servants, Diego Bemba, looks like the young black servant in “Elizabeth Risby with Elizabeth”.
“KMS9 Ubekendt (Dutch)
Jaspar Beckx (Dutch, Before 1627 - 1647), earlier ascribed to
Albert Eckhout (Dutch, 1610 - 1665), earlier ascribed to
Diego Bemba, a Servant of Dom Miguel de Castro
DATE Circa 1643”
This article is informative about the visit:
'Portrait of a Lady with her Daughter and a Page' was also in the Dorotheum auction of April 24, 2018 as Lot 106 but did not sell https://www.dorotheum.com/en/l/5137118/.
The book 'Portraits in Suffolk Houses (West)' by Rev. Edmund Farrer, FSA, 1908, discusses eight paintings that were at Thorpe Morieux Hall in 1907, including the two paintings that we have been discussing https://tinyurl.com/6a4wtkv4.
There are informative write-ups (attached) for the first four paintings – clearly they did not have titles in 1907. Page xvi indicates that “F.L.” is a full-length figure and “T.Q.L.” is a three-quarter length figure.
The note likely provides an explanation for the titles of the two paintings that we have been discussing:
"N.B. – The date of these pictures points to a period in which the Hall was occupied by the family of Risby, and according to the parish register, in 1661 (a date which is on a fine oak beam) it was occupied by John Risby and Elizabeth his wife, married in that very year. Elizabeth, their eldest child, was baptized 22nd January, 1662, and John, their eldest son, was baptized 5th March, 1663. There are four other pictures: (1) a Dutch painting of men playing at cards; (2) a Dutch scene with Teniers-like figures; (3) The Good Samaritan; (4) a battle."
In 1907, the paintings were reportedly the property of Mr. T. Courtenay Warner, of Brettenham Park. Here is his Wikipedia entry. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Courtenay_Warner
Pages 69 to 73 of this book contain information about the Risby family including transcripts of wills and the family tree. https://tinyurl.com/5z53wrz9.
I have attached the 1939 England and Wales Register entry for Alfred D. Harrison of Cosgrove (b. 1929), who is a possible A.D. Harrison for consideration. Finally, my first attachment shows that the Right Rev. Bishop Harrison lived at Thorpe Merieux Rectory in 1908.
Regarding the question of if Elizabeth had a son called John, Elizabeth's husband (also John) confirms that in his will:
https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=plTHDwAAQBAJ&lpg=PA71&ots=yEtHUb8QoK&dq;="elizabeth cornwallis" "risby"&pg=PA71#v=onepage&q&f;=false
Seems like John and Elizabeth were their oldest children
The attached obituary of the Right Rev. William Thomas Harrison, D.D., Bishop of Glasgow (22 Sept. 1837 – 11 Dec. 1920), who was born in Thorpe Morieux, is from the 'Chelmsford Chronicle'.
The donor of the Art UK works, "A.D. Harrison", was likely Annie Dorothy Harrison (26 Feb. 1871 – 17 May 1960).
Annie was the eldest child of the Right Rev. William Thomas Harrison, D.D., and his wife Elizabeth Baker Harrison (née Colvin)(1841 – 22 Apr. 1938). According to the 1881 Census, Annie was born in Thorpe Morieux.
The "SMH Family Tree" on Ancestry provides useful information about this family.
I have ordered Annie's probate records, her father's probate records, the two probate records of her mother, and those of her eldest brother Cyril Colvin Fiske Harrison (26 Aug. 1872 – 16 June 1937) in case paintings are mentioned.
I have contacted the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Marseille twice in the last year about the similar works in that catalogue but have had no response.
Earlier today, I contacted the Essex Record Office about obtaining a scanned copy of the item “manuscript draft of article 'Madam Risby of Thorpe Morieux'”by Miss A.D. Harrison that is in the bundle with the “document reference” D/DU 161/651.
I suspect that she named the two paintings after conducting her research. Dorothy was a published author.
One of her relatives also directed me to that record office.
I believe that the two Art UK paintings were based on the work ‘The Gallant Letter’ by Jan van Haensbergen (1642–1705).
Two composites are attached that show similar elements including: placement of people (note the slope of the shoulders of the Oriental servant and the elderly woman in my first composite), the boy’s hair, the dog, old buildings in the background, table edges, and the chair. The flag held by "John" is much like the letter in 'The Gallant Letter'. Perhaps the girl “Elizabeth” was originally depicted patting a dog.
I am not suggesting that the Art UK works were by Jan van Haensbergen.
My link to the larger version of the 'Elizabeth Risby, with daughter Elizabeth' painting on the French website stopped working yesterday, therefore I used an image on the Mutual Art website in my first composite.
Miss A. Dorothy Harrison’s father bequeathed his pictures to his five children in his will dated March 17, 1908. Two of the properties that were bequeathed to Dorothy in his second codicil dated July 15, 1911, were described earlier in his will, as “the cottage at Thorpe Morieux in which the Schoolmaster lives and also the cottage at Thorpe Morieux inhabited by George Harper”.
Dorothy’s mother passed away intestate. Cyril Colvin Fiske Harrison’s will did not mention pictures. Dorothy mentioned two pictures in her will that has an illegible date in 1958: “I give to David Pelham Papillon of Headgate Court Colchester aforesaid the two portraits of John Eldred and Susannah Eldred (née Rawstorn) absolutely”. The probate entry for David Pelham Papillon (1911–1977) shows that he passed away at Olivers, Stanway, reportedly a former home of the Eldred family.
The duty archivist at the Essex Record Office informed me that this painting was mentioned on pages two and three of the draft article “Madam Risby of Thorpe Morieux”. I ordered the first three pages of the draft article but UK copyright rules prevent me from posting them. Fortunately, I am permitted to quote “short extracts” from the pages that I ordered.
“MADAM RISBY OF THORPE MORIEUX [underlined twice]
“ “If you think of us, we wake up”, Maeterlinck makes the dead grandparents say in the Land of Memory. So does Elizabeth Risby come to life who was born Elizabeth Cornwallis, and came to Thorpe Morieux in 1661 as the young bride of John Risby.” [new paragraph] “Thorpe Hall may be very different now from what it was when the same John Risby wrote of it as “my chiefe mansion house where I now dwell with the yards garden parke lands and grounds to the same belonging”, but …”
“A couple of pictures from Thorpe Hall are described in “Portraits in (West) Suffolk Houses”, and whether or not the principal figure in these groups represents Elizabeth Risby, Mr. Farrer reminds us that they date from her day. [crossed out: , and] He thinks the background is the terrace below the porch with glimpses of wood and water. At any rate the pictures suggest contemporary accessories …”
“Here may have stood the heavy oak table [crossed out: not so black as Jacobean furniture is nowadays by three centuries of oil and polishing] here a [crossed out: was the] carved [crossed out: wooden] chair [crossed out: of ecclesiastical pattern] with leathern pad across the back [crossed out: fastened with [illegible word] with brass studs] …”
“There a great pot of briary roses; richly coloured fruit [crossed out: stands] [crossed out: stood] on the dresser in [crossed out: dishes of] pewter dishes (– or are they silver?) a red macaw with downward-drooping tail perched where he would. Like the foreign servants - negro [crossed out: and] or Chinese [crossed out words show that this was originally “Chinaman”], he was a gay fashion of the moment.”
According to the duty archivist, the manuscript “consists of 20 pages probably taken from an exercise book and in quite large handwriting”.
The earliest recorded visitor from China to England was Shen Fu Tsong in 1687 so the presence of Chinese servants in the period seems improbable.
The Dorotheum painting was also in a Drouot auction.
The lot information includes the four images from that museum catalogue (Five Senses).
My first composite compares the Drouot version of this work to the lower left Five Senses image as suggested by Jacinto (01/04/2021 23:20).
The second composite compares ‘Elizabeth Risby, with John’ to the lower right Five Senses image.
The third composite is based on the lower right Five Senses image and a work on the MutualArt website that is by a “follower of Caravaggio”.
The many similarities interested me (knuckle of the man at the far left side, white feather on hat, face of the musician, position of the person to the right of the musician, pose of the man with his back to the viewer and dog's head on a lower corner). I’m not suggesting that the “follower of Caravaggio” created the original of the work now known as ‘Elizabeth Risby, with Elizabeth’.