Dress and Textiles, London: Artists and Subjects, Portraits: British 18th C, West Midlands: Artists and Subjects 100 Could anyone provide information about the sitter, Dr Andrew Knox-Blackall? Could we identify the artist?

HSW_GMM_GM2007_32
Topic: Subject or sitter

What was the relation between Dr Andrew Knox-Blackall (sitter) and the Worcester Infirmary in the 17th–18th century, if any? His name appears neither in the infirmary records, nor in the national medical register which started in 1740. The painting itself and the plaque on the frame indicate that he might have been depicted giving a Harveian Oration, but no record of him has been found so far.

The research is being carried out on behalf of The Infirmary Museum, Worcester.

Anais Goorriah, Entry reviewed by Art UK

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100 comments

The lettering on the spine of the book reads: ‘Harvey/ De Motu/ Cordis’. Published in Frankfurt in 1628 by English physician William Harvey (1578–1657), the ‘De Motu Cordis’ (translated as ‘Anatomical Account of the Circulation of the Heart and Blood’, 1928) was the first complete and detailed description of systemic circulation. The Harveian Oration, an annual lecture at the Royal College of Physicians, London, was established by Harvey in 1656; it was delivered in Latin until 1865.

The picture hangs in the historic boardroom of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, which contains the portraits of eminent individuals who were important to the history of health and medicine in both Worcester and beyond.

From medicalmuseum.org.uk (‘Worcester Medical Museums/The Boardroom Paintings’):

‘Not much is known about Knox-Blackall. His stature and dress, medical books and the aorta behind him suggest he was an important medical man. However, no records about him seem to survive and he is not referred to in any histories of Worcester Infirmary. A call for more information on him from a doctor writing to the British Medical Journal in 1890 also went unanswered.

We do know that his portrait was likely not painted by Joshua Reynolds. As Joan Lane suggests, Reynolds only painted three portraits of medical men and Knox-Blackall was not one of them.’

Hat Jodelka,

The hypenated surname may be a very misleading factor. Hyphenation is a tedious problem when doing any research. Very often the hypenation has been added to a middle name (usually the mother's surname before the marriage) and father's surname much later when the person never used it at all. A quick google tells me the sitter's (or his son's) wife was Mrs Blackall, not Mrs Knox-Blackall . This has been the bane of my life researching two sides of my family as on both sides a single barrelled name has suddenly become double barrelled in official records.

Martin Hopkinson,

The very distinctive fingers should provide a clue as to the artist. I think that it dates from before the foundation of the Royal Academy, but an opinion from a dress historian would help

Isabel Morgan ,

To add to the comment on the problems of hyphenation - try also variations of spelling; this is still a period when surnames varied within families. Knox is fairly constant but it would be worth trying Blakehall, Blackhall etc

Martin Hopkinson,

Blackhall with an h can sometimes occur in Knox genealogies

Martin Hopkinson,

Indices of indexes to annual copies of The Gentleman's Magazine might reveal an obituary of our man

Martin Hopkinson,

The Blackalls were a prominent family in Ireland in the 18th century with houses at Killard, Gardenhill and Jovckeyhill - counties Clare, Munster and Limerick. The Irish Genealogist should be checked . Indeed the painting could by Irish

Cliff Thornton,

I wonder if this portrait has anything to do with the surgeon Andrew Blackall (1754-1781). He lectured in anatomy and possessed a collection of "preparations". This would seem to fit in with the skeletal hand in the foreground and the mounted aorta on the table behind him. He died of tuberculosis aged only 27, a similar age to the young man in the portrait. In his will he instructed his brother, as executor, to burn all of his pictures. Maybe at least one survived?

Martin Hopkinson,

Burke's Irish Family Records should be consulted

Jacinto Regalado,

It's probably c. 1780, but a dress historian should address that.

Neil Jeffares,

That seems highly plausible. Here's a biography:
https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=PcIPAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA282&lpg=PA282&dq;="andrew+blackall"+surgeon&source=bl&ots=eOc5kOkJVq&sig=ACfU3U17IhBKTFABYfzTERD6HkjRjOE8bQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi0_ZmA2Z7mAhXIi1wKHagnA6gQ6AEwAnoECAcQAQ#v=onepage&q&f;=false
The reference to Andrew Knox Blackall is no doubt a confusion with the AKB 1822-1891 from a military family who may have been a relative. The picture, with an attribution to Reynolds, is presumably that bought in at Christie's, 25 May 1872, offered by Major Blackall.

Martin Hopkinson,

R S Boddington , Pedigrees of Vincent and Blackall (of Ireland) with copies of wills up to 1788 [Society of Antiquaries Library]

Sir Henry William Butler Blackall, The Blackall family of Limerick , Dublin and Clare, 1971 [British Library and Oxford]

Wendy Howard 01,

Records on Ancestry show an Andrew Knox Blackall born East Indies in 1821. He retired from the Indian Civil Service and ended his days in East Preston, Sussex. His will dated 1891 shows he was a widower and he left his estate to his brother Robert Blackall a lieutenant colonel in the 1st Fusiliers of Southend, Essex.

Wendy Howard 01,

This painting was sold at Christies in 1872 by a Major Blackall for the sum of £52.10s 0d.

Jacinto Regalado,

This must be the same man found by Neil, or at least "se non è vero, è ben trovato."

Angela Lennox,

I have the following information about an Andrew Blackall who was involved in Anatomy - It is a lot of information!

Information taken from
John Hunter and the ‘museum oeconomy’, 1750-1800 Simon David John Chaplin Department of History, King’s College London. Thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of the University of London.

Blackall, Andrew, 1754-1781, surgeon Lectured with John Sheldon at Great Queen Street in 1778 and 1779 and then by himself in his ‘Anatomical Theatre’ in Thavies Inn from the autumn of 1779. Collection (including several purchased at Falconar’s sale) auctioned after his death (Daily Advertiser, 8 September 1778; Morning Post & Daily Advertiser, 9 September and 9 November 1779; Winstanley 1781)

Andrew Blackall, who lectured on anatomy at Thavies Inn, set down in his will that his brother should choose from his preparations and books so long as he meant to ‘prosecute the study of surgery and anatomy’. If he chose not to do so, Blackall suggested that he sell them instead.208 The man-midwife Michael Underwood (1736-1820) bequeathed his collection to his son John, a surgeon in the East Indies.209 Although the surgeon-apothecary John Sheldon (d. 1783) chose not to leave his collection to his eldest son, the anatomist of the same name, it went instead to his second son Thomas (b. 1759). The bequest included not only the collection, but the stock, instruments and fittings for John Sheldon Senior’s apothecary shop, suggesting that the preparations – which included ‘curiosities of natural history’ – were seen as part of the business - Will of Andrew Blackall of Holborn, Middlesex, proved 8 May 1781

In the sale catalogue for Andrew Blackall’s collection several lots were described at length, with full case-histories given. The most expensive item at the sale, however, was lot 42, listed just as ‘Double uterus’ (Winstanley 1781, 6). An annotated copy of the catalogue in the Natural History Museum’s library reveals that the purchaser was John Hunter, and he paid fifty guineas to secure it for his collection – more than a sixth of the total raised at the auction. He was doubtless aware of its importance: the preparation had been described by the Dublin anatomist John Purcell to the Dublin Medico-Philosophical Society in 1773, and was published in the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions in 1774.
..................................................................................
Buying into anatomy The most detailed record of purchasers’ names is provided by an annotated catalogue for the Museum Falconarianum, auctioned in October 1778 by Samuel Paterson (Paterson 1778b). As well as recording prices for virtually all of the thousand or so lots sold, the names of the buyers of most of them are also preserved. The sale was roughly coincident with the publication of the only directories of medical practitioners in Great Britain produced during the 18th century. Comparison with these directories and other records yields four main categories of purchaser: anatomical lecturers, established anatomical practitioners, medical students or recently qualified practitioners, and ‘marginal’ practitioners. Among the first group were many of those who were either established or entering business as lecturers in anatomy, surgery or midwifery in London in the late 1770s.
They included the Hunters, William Cruikshank, John Sheldon, Andrew Blackall, Henry Cline, William Blizard, and William Osborn. For some, such as the Hunters, the sale was a chance to augment their existing collections, picking out items to replace those most often used in lectures and also preparations of particular interest or rarity. As well as the items bought by John Hunter mentioned above, William Hunter purchased thirty-three lots, including experimental preparations of bone healing, and the injected head and trunk of an adult, for which he paid four guineas. For others, such as John Sheldon (who purchased sixty-four lots), Blackall (nine lots) and Henry Cline (seven lots), the sale was probably an opportunity to build up their own collections in preparation for careers as lecturers.
In contrast, the second group of buyers were established practitioners – again, usually surgeons or man-midwives – but not actively involved in private lecturing. They included James Chafey (1730-1793), surgeon to the Middlesex Hospital; George Hawkins (1752-1783), the son of Pennell Hawkins (1716-1784) and recently appointed surgeon to the Royal Household, and Michael Underwood (1736-1820), a surgeon and man-midwife with a flourishing private practice. With the possible exception of Hawkins, whose career was cut short by his early death in 1783, none appears to have been either active in or intent on beginning a career in teaching, or to have had obvious practical use for the material acquired. Their purchases seem instead to be indicative of a desire to participate in a mode of practice which was seen to have brought rewards to others.
Andrew Blackall’s ‘Anatomical Theatre’ at Thavies Inn also combined domestic accommodation with rooms for teaching and dissecting, for the sale of his anatomical collection ‘on the premises’ was preceded by an auction of his household furniture and other effects. The same premises may have been used by Andrew Marshal, who was resident in Thavies Inn from 1784 and who lectured there from 1786 until 1800.

Wendy Howard 01,

Major Blackall:Major Blackall served with the 49th Regt. in the first China war (Medal), and was present at the first taking of
Chusan. Served as Brigade Major with the expeditionary force under Brigadier S. Cotton in 1854 against the
Lurruckzai Mohmunds and was present at the destruction of the villages of Shahmoschkhyl, Sardeen, and Dubb
(mentioned in despatches). Served in the 7th Fusiliers in the Indian N.W. frontier war of 1863 with the Eusofzye
Field Force, present at the defence of the Sungahs at the Umbeyla Pass on 15th December, and in the action at
Umbejda and destruction of the village at the foot of the Bonair Pass on i6th December which ended in the com¬
plete rout of the enemy and the submission of the hill tribes on 17th December (Medal with two Clasps).

Wendy Howard 01,

Andrew Blackall the anatomist was only 27 when he died. He had been born in Dublin.

Martin Hopkinson,

The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery ,and the Special Collections Department of Glasgow University Library may well have information on William Hunter's relations with Blackall
The references and bibliography in the recent major publication William Hunter and the Anatomy of the Modern Museum should be of help. Lola Sanchez-Jauregui is the curator to contact at the Art Gallery
p.15 of that catalogue gives details of several other relevant Hunter scholars

Martin Hopkinson,

Why did the Staffordshire born John Corbet [1817-1901] Liberal MP for Droitwich from 1874 to 1892, known as The Salt King, own this portrait ? What was his connection to Worcester Royal Infirmary? Did Blackall have any connection with Worcester? Thavies Inn was in Holborn, and an Inn of Chancery , associated with Lincoln's Inn. Are Blackall's pictures recorded in his sale?

Kieran Owens,

The portrait should be seen by Harriet Wheelock, the Keeper of Collections at the Royal College of Physicians in Dublin.

https://www.rcpi.ie/heritage-centre/about-us/

She might have an opinion as to the sitter's identity and history, if there is a verifiable connection to Ireland's medical history.

She is a friend, so would you like me to contact her?

Jacinto Regalado,

I suppose the association with Reynolds, which is quite questionable, was made to enhance the picture's appeal to a potential buyer. Even if it were more plausible, the sitter would have had to be very well off to afford Reynolds or someone else at that level. Unfortunately, I am not familiar with Irish painters, but they will need to be considered.

Anais Goorriah,

John Corbett was a philanthropist and a regular benefactor for the Worcester Infirmary and several other developments within Worcester and beyond.
https://www.worcesternews.co.uk/news/7764175.salt-king-with-the-midas-touch/
The painting might have been presented to the infirmary after his death as the infirmary already had a painting collection of prominent medical men who worked for the infirmary. Whereas no direct records of Blackall can be found in the infirmary records.

Kieran Owens,

Volume 8 of 1781 edition of the 'Medical Commentaries for the Year' also carried a short notice on the death of Andrew Blackall, confirming that Dublin was his native city:

https://bit.ly/2OVTJGl

Anais Goorriah,

It seems that William Hunter and Sir Joshua Reynolds had a strong connection teaching together and Reynolds was commissioned to paint a commemorative portrait of Hunter after his death.
https://www.jstor.org/stable/531441?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents
It has been suggested that Hunter bought anatomical objects from the collection of a certain 'Andrew Blackall'
https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Hunter,_William_{LPARENTHESES} 1718-1783)_(DNB00)

Kieran Owens thank you for suggesting bringing the discussion to Harriet Wheelock. It would be a great way to confirm the connection of the man in the painting to the ' 27 year old anatomist Andrew Blackall from dublin' and if there is more about his history.

Osmund Bullock,

Dr William Hunter (and also his brother John) certainly did buy anatomical preparations from Blackall's collection, Anais, it's not just a suggestion: it's discussed in the Ph.D thesis quoted at length by Angela (https://bit.ly/2OTh1N7), and it was mentioned in an address given at the Society of Physicians a few months after William's death in March 1783 (https://bit.ly/34VNA2y).

Osmund Bullock,

I don't think Cliff's reading of Andrew Blackall's Will (re burning his pictures) is right.

It's not an easy document to make sense of: see attached. Wills traditionally had no punctuation, and were supposed to be drafted carefully so the meaning was clear without them. But in this case - perhaps because of the urgency with which it was drawn up - the lack of it causes real problems. Here is how I believe the relevant part relating to chattels should read, and in lieu of punctuation I've added some virgules that I think clarify matters, plus (in square brackets) suggestions for one word and one letter that may have been wrongly omitted. There are capitals where I think that's what was written, but some may be wrong:

"... My Household Furniture to be sold / [with] My preparation[s] and Books if my d.r* brother John chooses / and which I would advise him to choose if he does not mean to prosecute the study of Surgery and Anatomy // the money arising from the sale of the household Furniture the prep.ns Books &c I will and bequeathe to my beloved Brother John with the trouble of Superintending the care and sale of them // My picture is not to be sold // All my own Notes which are (shorthand)** quite unintelligible to others I desire may be collected together and burned by my brother // All Superfluous Letters burned // ..."

*i.e. 'dear'
**Inserted later, but in the wrong place

So the burning instructions were for his shorthand notes and unwanted letters, not for pictures. And in fact only *one* picture was mentioned, and the instructions were quite clear that it was *not* to be sold. The wording ("my picture") strongly suggests it was a portrait, which would thus have been retained by the Blackall family. It therefore seems pretty likely that it was the one that was offered for sale by Major Blackall in 1872; and also that it is indeed the one under discussion.

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Osmund Bullock,

Since the 'Major Blackall' portrait passed through Christie's it would almost certainly have acquired a Christie's (stencil) stock number on the back (on stretcher or frame). If the Collection is able to look at the back of their portrait (and ideally take a digital image of it), and if the painting retains its 1870s frame and/or stretcher, it might be possible to link it at a stroke to the 1872 painting.

Martin Hopkinson,

Has anyone looked at the sale catalogue, which may be is where the attribution to Reynolds is recorded? Does the portrait appear in Algernon Graves' publications on Reynolds, especially that of 1899-1901? Was the sale covered by Graves' Art Sales of 1921?

Osmund Bullock,

According to an Ancestry.com tree, Andrew Knox Blackall (1822-1891) was the younger brother of Lt Col Robert Blackall (1817-1895), and it's possible that 'Major Blackall' was Col Robt before promotion. They were the two sons of Maj Genl Robert Blackall (1787-1863), who was himself the son of Major Robert Blackall (d.1808). If right (and it must be checked), this gets us within spitting distance of Andrew's period. Indeed Maj Robert may have been a nephew of his, or even a brother - I have evidence, not yet conclusive, that as well as John, Andrew had two other brothers called Roger and Robert.

All to be confirmed, as although I have lots of interesting nuggets from various sources, I cannot yet tie them together with certainty - a common challenge with Irish genealogy, as so much vital documentation was destroyed in the Troubles.

Osmund Bullock,

Not yet, Martin - the discussion hasn't even been up 24 hours! The Heinz Library/NPG has an excellent run of catalogues on open shelves, but they won't be open now until Tuesday - and of course they also have the sitter & artist boxes (and a card index) which might bear fruit. I'll try and do that next week if no-one else has first. Meanwhile establishing the genealogical link is essential.

Cliff Thornton,

Osmund, many thanks for your correction re AB's pictures.
Another senior moment!

Osmund Bullock,

Nothing senior about it, Cliff: it was you who first came up with the (in my opinion) correct identity, which suggests a mind still firing on all cylinders. Old wills are always challenging and this was an unusually tough one to crack (if I have). It took many overnight hours with many wrong attempts before finding one that made sense - for ages I thought that the word 'My' with a capital M (which appears several times) was 'Any'. I was once told there is a capitalizing-of-noun code that indicates a new paragraph, but I've never managed to understand it.

I see that I left out the explanation of why Andrew Blackall's will was drawn up so hurriedly. He was at the Hot Wells in Bristol when he wrote it on 12 Apr 1781, desperately seeking a cure for the illness that had already taken away his voice, and that two days later killed him. Early in the document he writes, with commendable sang-froid, "... finding myself in a very precarious state of health but of sound mind ..."

Neil Jeffares,

If anyone is trying to establish the link between the surgeon and the military family, the text I posted earlier gives enough about Andrew's father to identify him as Rev Andrew Blackall or Blackhall (1706-1761), rector of Ballinascreen, son of Roger (1675-1737). He may have had a brother John. (Clergy of Derry and Raphoe)

Kieran Owens,

The difference between the two sales' reports mentioned above is that on page 86 of the 1899 edition of Graves' "History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds" the entry describes the picture thus:

"Blackall, Sir (sic) Andrew Knox - Delivering the Harleian (sic) lecture...."

https://archive.org/details/historyofworksof01grav/page/86

whereas on page 36 of Volume 3 of Graves's "Art Sales from Early in the Eighteenth Century to Early in the Twentieth Century: Reynolds to Z" the title of the painting is given as "Dr. (sic) Andrew Knox Blackall":

https://bit.ly/2RsoQLq

Page 106 of George Redford's 1888 edition of "Art Sales: A History of Sales of Pictures and Other Works of Art." also gives the title as "Dr. Andrew Knox Blackall".

Although the "Sir" above is likely incorrect, perhaps Christies' archivist could confirm the exact entry in the contemporary sales ledger and catalogue and the exact title on the sale day.

Additionally, unless Blackall delivered the Harveian Oration in 1779, where there is an committed name in the list, he is not recorded as having delivered it at anytime from 1770 to his death in 1781:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harveian_Oration

Could the Christies' auction 1872 catalogue title have been invented to give some extra weight to the value of the portrait?

Reynolds did paint a portrait of the physician John Ash, who delivered the Harveian Oration in 1790. The two paintings (of Blackall and Ash) could not be more different in their styles:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Ash_{LPARENTHESES} physician)

Jacinto Regalado,

The fact Harvey's book was included in the picture certainly need not imply, and absolutely does not prove, that Blackall ever delivered the Harveian Oration. That is actually quite unlikely, given how new he was in London and how early in his career. Being a good anatomist is not the same as making some important medical discovery, which he apparently did not make. Also, if he had given that oration, it would surely have been mentioned in the source linked by Neil, where no such mention appears.

Kieran Owens,

Marion, could you post an image of the plaque on the frame please?

Anais Goorriah,

Kieran the original plaque that came with the painting reads' Dr Andrew Knox Blackall Delivering the Harveian Lecture Sir J. Reynolds P.R.A.' and another plaque was later added ' Presented By John Corbett M.D Droitwich' when presented to the Worcester Infirmary.
I have attached a couple of pictures.

Osmund- I do not have any pictures of the back of the paintings yet but hope to get something soon, perhaps the conservation report.

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Whaley Turco,

One has to wonder at this point where The painting by Joshua Reynolds actually is. My guess is, that painting is a copy of the original. But whatever it turns out to be it's not by Reynolds.

Kieran Owens,

Thank you Anais, for posting those images. The letters after John Corbett's name are more likely to be M.P. rather than M.D., as he was three times the Member for Parliament for Droitwich between 1874 and 1892. However, that might just have been a keystroke error.

As the plaque on the painting states that it was presented rather than bequeathed, it could have been gifted by Corbett during his lifetime at any point between 1874 and his death in April 1901.

Martin Hopkinson,

Given that Blackall died so young, it must be possible that the portrait was only completed after his death.
David Mannings' very full catalogue of Reynolds' paintings should mention any portrait by Reynolds of Blackall - and any print after such a painting.
Again the early death of the sitter might explain the absence of a print if there was never one

Osmund Bullock,

To support my certainty that Andrew Blackall meant his portrait when he wrote in his 1781 will,"My picture is not to be sold", attached is an extract from the will of a forebear of mine made in 1780 in which she writes of "my picture and the pictures of my Fathers Family". Wills seldom mention an individual painting, but when they do it is usually a portrait; and in the C18th these were commonly referred to as 'pictures'.

Kieran Owens,

Martin, if there is no earlier objective reference than the Christies auction in 1872 to Reynolds as being the painter of the portrait, his name might have been incorrectly associated with it as a way of enhancing its appeal and value. That it was" bought in" suggests that this strategy might not have worked if it attracted no buyers. Their archive might be the best next port of call to see what exactly their records show for the work, assuming, of course, that the back of the canvas does show their stock number stencil mark that Osmund mentioned above.

Martin Hopkinson,

One of the candidates for the attribution, John Hamilton Mortimer, friend of Wright of Derby, died on 4 February in 1779.
By then he had left the Free Society of Artists for the Royal Academy= but that Society continued until 1783. So we should check Graves' records of its exhibits in case our portrait was exhibited there

Osmund Bullock,

Martin, I did a word search in Graves's Soc of Artists / Free Soc of Artists book for any of the words Blackall, Blackhall, anatomist & anatomy some time ago, as I did for the R.A. No luck, I'm afraid. It doesn't say Mortimer to me, I'm afraid - did he ever paint on that big a scale?

Osmund Bullock,

Kieran, an attribution to Reynolds in a mid/late-C19th catalogue (or to Gainsborough, Romney and various others) means very little. It was routine amongst auctioneers and dealers to attach a well-known artist's name to paintings they sold, and it often means nothing more than "vaguely in the style of". This was later codified by the salerooms into three grades of confidence - surname only / surname and initials / surname with full first name(s) - but I've a feeling 1872 was too early even for that system. The general level of connoisseurship and art historical expertise was very low, too, and some of these attached names can seem laughable today. I will check what the catalogue actually says next week.

I agree that we should consult Christie's Archives. I am, though, inclined to wait until we hear if there is a Christie's stencil on the back....no, actually on reflection I can't see any harm in writing to my contact there - there may be reasons she can't reveal what the stencil code should be for the work they offered in 1872, but I'm sure we can get the rest of the information (and they'll happily decode it when and if we find one). I'll send an email tomorrow. I particularly want to know if there's more detail, perhaps an address for 'Major Blackall' - you'd be amazed how many there were in (or retired from) the British and Indian armies at the time.

Martin, as per the above comments, I think we can discount Reynolds completely. Just to confirm, I've checked Mannings and no portrait with the name Blackall (nor Knox) is included amongst the portraits in the great catalogue raisonne of Reynolds's paintings.

If Andrew Blackall, young as he was, had a reputation as a famous anatomist with his own museum of specimens at Thavies Inn in London, and died in 1781, we need to find a portrait painter working in the late 1770s who could have produced a work such as the one under discussion. As Martin mentioned earlier, the hands are particularly distinctive. Any images of the back of the painting will also give essential information.

Martin Hopkinson,

but are we certain that the hands are by the same artist as the rest of the portrait?

Jacinto Regalado,

I suppose Zoffany is possible, but an Irish painter must be considered.

Jacinto Regalado,

Martin, was there such a thing as a hands painter, analogous to a drapery painter? I've not heard of that.

Kieran Owens,

Regarding the ArtUK information panel describing the original gifting of this painting to Worcester Royal Infirmary, is should noted that the donor's name is John Corbett (bapt. 29 June 1817 – 22 April 1901), and not Corbet. And in answer to Anais Goorriah's opening question, the painting's connection to that institution is likely to be through his philanthropic donation rather than through the supposed sitter's suggested connection. The scant information on Andrew Blackall does not indicate any connection of his directly to Worcester.

Jacinto Regalado,

I think the hands attract attention because the sitter had unusually long and slender fingers, not unlike Aubrey Beardsley, but I'm not sure that will prove especially helpful in identifying the painter.

Martin Hopkinson,

The only painting so far that have found which might be comparing with this is Mason Chamberlin the Elder's Daniel Cunyngham [Shugborough], but he does not seem to be our artist
As for the hands, I was wondering if they were painted later, the painter having been unfinished after Blackall's death

Martin Hopkinson,

The full text of Cornell University Library's copy of Algernon Graves' The Society of Artists of Great Britain 1760-1791 ; the Free Society of Artists 1761-1783 ... can be found on archive.org , but it is not searchable friendly . So it will take quite a time to get through it

Andrew Shore,

On the question of why this is at Worcester, I presume this is due to the history of the collection. The Worcester Infirmary was the site of the British Medical Association when it was founded in 1832:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Medical_Association#History

From Wikipedia, quoting the BMA's website:
The British Medical Association was founded as the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association (PMSA) by Sir Charles Hastings on 19 July 1832 at a meeting in the Board Room of the Worcester Infirmary.

Also, John Corbett, "the Salt King" (see above at Martin's comment on 5 Dec.) and local M.P. directed his philanthropy to many medical charities and institutions in his area, including the Worcester Royal Infirmary.

Kieran Owens,

In Andrew Blackall's will, of the 12th April 1781, written at Mrs. Andrews', Hotwells, Bristol, he mentions both his sister Catherine and his brother John, as well as his brother Robert, when he makes reference to land in Northern Ireland that is in "Bob's hands".

In 1761, the Reverend Andrew Blackall, of Ballinascreen, Co. Derry, died and his will was proven in that year. According to Betham's Genealogical Abstracts (from Irish wills) he had four sons and one daughter. They were in order of transcription):

Roger Blackall
Robert Blackall
Andrew Blackall
John Blackall
Katharin (sic) Blackall

It might be through either Roger or Robert that the "Major Blackall" who sold the painting in 1872 is descended.

Osmund Bullock,

Some of the people at Christie's Archives are away at the moment, but I've had a very helpful email from Dr Simona Dolari who should be able to look up the details for us when she's back in the office on Wednesday.

Kieran Owens,

Harriet Wheelock, the Keeper of Collections at the Royal College of Physicians in Dublin, has no information on record regarding Andrew Blackall, but will be delighted to receive the final summary when this discussion reaches it inevitable conclusion.

Osmund Bullock,

Yes, Kieran, I agree. The Betham's extract (which I attach) coupled with the will strongly supports the idea that our Andrew was the son of the Revd Mr Andrew Blackall, as Neil suggested a few days ago; I was just holding back until I'd made sure that Andrew senior's elder brother John (b.1703, and also a N.I. clergyman) or a cousin didn't have a son called Andrew too - the same names (and often clerical profession) are repeated in the family time after time, and the Revd John did indeed marry (Jane Machan) in March 173⅞, though I've so far failed to find mention of children.

However, your almost certainly correct reading of 'in Bob's Hands' from the will pretty much clinches it - I'd been trying to make that out for days, assuming it was a place name that was eluding me. Well done.

I'll post more later this evening, including a solid hypothesis (with evidence) that Lt Genl Robert Blackall (1787-1863) was the son of the second eldest of our Andrew's brothers, Robert. And Christie's 'Major Blackall' may well have been the general's descendant - but of course we can't confirm that until we know which of the many Major Blackalls he was.

Kieran Owens,

Marion, when you have a moment, please post a hi-res image of the displayed specimen area above the book and beside the sitter's right shoulder.

Also, a description of five of the items in the sale from Blackall's collection appeared between pages 359 and 361 of Volume 1 (1781) of the London Medical Journal:

https://bit.ly/2s80z2y

The first two items are described are "A tumour compressing the oesophagus" and the second is "A diseased hand.....amputated on account of a caries of the bones of the middle finger....". Could these specimen preparations be what are shown in the portrait?:

https://bit.ly/2s80z2y

Also, in their 2002 "Discussing Chemistry & Steam", Levere and Turner document Blackall as becoming an Ordinary Member of the Chapter Coffee-House Society on the 1st December 1780, and as his attending only its first six meetings:

https://bit.ly/355yebN

The Medical Register for the year 1780 lists Blackall as a member of the Corporation of Surgeons (page 30); as a Council Member of 1773-incorporated Medical Council (page 58); and as a Medical & Philosophical Lecturer in anatomy "from his house in Thavies Inn" (page 70):

https://archive.org/details/B28035884_0001/page/30

From the above-mentioned positions that he held, it would appear that Blackall's early death in 1781 deprived the medical world of a gifted rising star.



Kieran Owens,

The probate of the will of the Reverend Roger Blackall, of Ballynascreen, Co. Derry, was granted in 1737 and in 1747 and 1748 the Rev. Andrew Blackall (his son?) was the Protestant rector of Kilrea, Co. Derry.

Osmund Bullock,

Yes, the Rev. Andrew (1705/6-1761) was the younger son of the Rev. Roger (1674/5-1737), his elder being the Rev. John (b. Derry 1703) whom I mentioned a couple of hours ago. Though he held Kilrea (about 20 miles NE) for a couple of years, Andrew's main living was Ballynascreen, where he succeeded his father in 1737. Roger had held it from 1731, and Andrew did so from his father's death until his own in 1761. See attached snippets cheated out of Google Books' listing for 'The Clergy of Derry and Raphoe'. Roger's younger brother Robert (b. Lisburn c.1687-8) was also a clergyman; he had a son again called Roger (b. Dungannon c.1729-30), and that is another line I'm trying to explore. As well as the Clergy book (which needs to be looked at in person, as the online snippets don't cover all the Blackall references), much of the above and what follows is deduced from Alumni Dublinenses (https://bit.ly/2P6Mr2H) - the relevant Black(h)all page is also attached.

Kieran Owens,

Many thanks. Those will do very nicely.

Kieran Owens,

It is evident from the ArtUK images that this portrait is in a dust-covered and neglected state of care. A simple but professional cleaning job on the varnish would reveal must greater detail. I wonder if it might reveal a signature too. Also, is there a possibility that the back of the portrait was photographed? If not, as it appears to be quite accessible, could this be done?

Anais Goorriah,

The painting was originally in the Worcester Royal Infirmary boardroom (where the first BMA meeting was held in 1832, as mentioned by Andrew Shore above) before being moved to the George Marshall Medical Center after the closure of the infirmary. There the painting was displayed in the cafeteria, not the best condition for oil paintings or any artworks really. After the University of Worcester bought and renovated the former Worcester Royal Infirmary building on Castle Street to be their city campus, the painting of Andrew Knox Blackall along with others were brought back to the original boardroom of the building to be displayed as they were.

Currently, the painting is securely attached to the wall with an alarm system. Unfortunately, there is no staff trained to do the handling needed to have a look at the back of the painting. I have asked for the condition report made before the painting was relocated to the infirmary. I am hoping to get in by this Thursday.

Osmund Bullock,

Signatures were a great deal less common in the C18th than they became in the 19th, but it's perfectly possible.

Re the nature of the mounted anatomical specimen, it is said to be an aorta - see Marion's first post at the top of the discussion (and presumably reliable as coming from the Medical Museums' website https://bit.ly/36kALip). I'm pretty ignorant of anatomy, but it does look like the aorta and vena cava (without the heart), and branches therefrom. And of course a specimen showing such major blood vessels would tie in perfectly with Harvey's 'De Motu Cordis' under the sitter's hand.

What about the other object on the table? It looks to me like the skeleton of a right hand, palm upwards, with the progressive curl of the outer fingers (nearest to the viewer) rather obscuring the inner ones. I think this explains the slightly awkward way the sitter's left (his left) hand is held: it is essentially (and was designed to be by the artist) a near mirror-image of the one on the table. See attached crops from both the Art UK image and the larger, if not really clearer one that Anais posted.

1 attachment
Osmund Bullock,

Attached are images of the May 1872 Christie’s sale catalogue - nothing new there, really, just a confirmation of what we already thought. But thanks to the swift and generous work of Christie’s Archives (and particularly Vesna Kuzmanova who did most of it), I have a bit more from their records:

There was of course no illustration (too early), and it was indeed unsold. The vendor was ‘Major J. Blackall’ (a vital initial there), and the stock no. code (which we hope may be on the back of ours) was 400X – the latter actually appears in the entry in Graves’s ‘Art Sales from Early in the 18th Century ...’, though the lot number is wrong (https://bit.ly/2RsoQLq). Graves’s ‘A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds ...’ (https://bit.ly/2EbES4w) has the right lot number, but as Kieran pointed out makes two errors in the title! Algernon Graves made a huge contribution to art history, but he can be sloppy in the detail of what he published.

I had hoped there would be an address for Major Blackall, but apparently not. However the ‘J’ initial means he can almost certainly be identified as Major John Blackall, a retired officer formerly of the 39th Regt of Foot, who lived at the time in the seaside village of Rathmullan, co Donegal. This is nowadays in Eire, but is less than 20 miles from (London)Derry – and Co. Derry and the city itself is closely linked with our Blackall family. Much more of John Blackall to come later, as I think I have the evidence to prove that he was actually the nephew of our sitter; but if anyone can find an alternative ‘Major J. Blackall’ in Britain or Ireland of the period, do please say so.

1 attachment
Osmund Bullock,

There is one final clue in Christie’s records – what could be a note of where the painting was to be returned to, or rather via. It’s hard to make out as it’s been scored through, but Vesna is pretty sure it reads ‘Waterloo Station Liverpool’. The small station still exists, and is close to the Mersey: https://bit.ly/2YHs4ME. But it’s four miles north of what was then the docks area, and would have served trains coming from the north more than the south, which is puzzling. Nevertheless my best guess is that it relates in some way to sending the picture back to Ireland – boats to all the Irish ports left from Liverpool, and for the northern ones at least it would be the most likely departure port for a crate travelling from London.

Osmund Bullock,

Ah no, forget that - there was *another* much bigger and more important Waterloo Station at Liverpool: https://bit.ly/38BWNzl. This was a goods station, specifically built to handle freight coming to the northern docks from the south (including ultimately Euston) on the London & North Western Railway, via a long tunnel under the city; there was a different goods terminus for freight from the north. Waterloo was adjacent to and served all the departure points for boats to Ireland – a late 1860s guide (https://bit.ly/2qObbmR) lists steam packets departing from Clarence Dock for Dublin or Belfast; Trafalgar Dock for Dublin; Collingwood Dock for Drogheda, Dundalk or Newry; and even (from Clarence Basin) right round the top and into Lough Foyle for Londonderry itself. Any of those ports could have been a logical arrival point for a crate going to Rathmullan. See attached map of the station and docks.

Kieran Owens,

On Friday 17th October 1884, the Morning News of Belfast published the following death note:

"Blackall - October 13th, at Rathmullan, Major John Blackall, late of the 39th Regiment and Derry Militia, last and youngest son of the late Robert Blackall, Esq., of Londonderry, aged 88 years"

88 in 1884, therefore born in 1796.

Kieran Owens,

Osmund, on which document are the references to Major J. Blackall and to Waterloo station to be found?

Kieran Owens,

Additionally, the Belfast Newsletter, of the 7th December 1866, reported the following:

"Coulahan - Dec. 5th, at the residence of her brother, at Rathmullan, Letitia, eldest daughter of the late Robert Blackall, Esq., of Londonderry, and relict of the late Captain Coulahan, 98th Regiment, aged 81 years."

81 in 1866, therefore born in 1785.

Osmund Bullock,

Yes, I've got those, Kieran, along with many other references that clarify the relationship of Major John and several other siblings (Leticia, Robert, Catherine, Helen) with their father Robert Blackall of the parishes of Desertmartin (1787), Ballyronan (1807) and apparently the city of Londonderry. This Robert was probably Robert Blackall, 2nd son (after the Rev Roger Blackall, Vicar of St Andrews co. Down, will pr. 1791) of the Rev Andrew Blackall of Ballynascreen (d. 1761), and elder brother of our sitter Andrew Blackall the younger.

You're welcome to dig on the BNA and elsewhere yourself, but be aware that (as I intimated above) you'll in most cases be doubling up on the work I've already done in the last week, and that I am in the process of collating into a more digestible form before posting. The one thing I haven't found yet, though, is any record of the deaths of either this Robert Blackall, who was probably born c.1750 (guessed from the probable ages of his siblings), or of his sister Katherine. His wife Letitia died in Feb 1841, in her 79th year (and I've found no reference to their marriage either). The youngest son, the Rev John (b. 1759-60) is quite probably the man of that name of Loughgall, co. Armagh, whose will, proved in 1812, is apparently still extant (but not online). But I am still trying to separate him - or not - from a possible namesake who features in a series of letters about flax-growing in the Irish National Archives.

The J. Blackall/Waterloo references are not to be found in any document we have direct access to - as I describe above, they come from the records at Christie's Archives.

Osmund Bullock,

Attached are original newspaper images of the death announcements of various people related to Robert Blackall (whom I believe was our sitter's elder brother), including one already mentioned by Kieran. This first group (there are more to come) consists of:

1841 Feby - Widow Letitia Blackall, 78 [79th yr: b. c.1762]
1843 July - Daughter Catherine A. Blackall [no age given]
1866 Dec - Eldest dau Letitia Cuolahan*, 80 [81st yr: b.c.1786]
1882 Dec - Grand-dau Letitia Boyd née West, 60 [b. c.1821]

*A PCC copy of the 1827 Irish (Derry) Will of Letitia Cuolahan's husband Capt (Daniel) is available online, and excited me momentarily. He was of Millfield (Buncrana), Lower Fahan, Co. Donegal, which interestingly is very close to Rathmullan, also on Lough Swilly but on the Derry side. In the Will he bequeaths to his eldest daughter (?Alice) "the Plate I possess also the Picture of her Grandfather now in my possession" - this could well have been of Letitia's father Robert Blackall (though Daniel's own father is also possible). A further connection is that a codicil to the Will was signed by a 'C. Blackall'.

Osmund Bullock,

The next group of images relate to the Oct 1884 death of Major John Blackall of Rathmullan and its aftermath, and to that (in April 1887) of (Miss) Helen Blackall, also of Ruthmullan. Major Blackall seems to have died intestate, nor was administration of his estate officially granted to anyone. Nevertheless Helen clearly did administer it; and we also have an age of 88 (confirmed by official records), which as Kieran says gives us a birth year for him of c.1795-6.

Helen's death, on the other hand, does not seem to have been registered at all, and no age is given in the brief press notice. However her estate *was* administered officially, by her nephew Lt-Col. (ret’d) Robert Blackall of Southend, Essex. That would make her Maj. John Blackall’s sister, as Lt-Col. Robert Blackall (1817-1895) and his brother Andrew Knox Blackall (1822-1891) were the two eldest sons (of three) of Lt-General Robert Blackall (1787-1863), and the General was Maj. John Blackall’s elder brother. There is one record, though – the army retired pay accounts book (attached) – that says Helen was John’s daughter. This was probably an error – there is no record of his marriage – but it doesn’t really matter either way as far as proving his relationship to our sitter is concerned; for all we know she may have been his unmarried mistress / companion masquerading as a family member for appearance’s sake.

Also attached are two further images confirming that (a) Andrew Knox Blackall was the son of Lt-Gen. Robert Blackall, and (b) Andrew K B and Lt-Col. Robert were brothers. I will deal with the General and his (and Maj. John’s) father in more detail later today.

Kieran Owens,

Through Harriet Wheelock at the RCPI in Dublin, an qualified pathologist confirms that the displayed specimen to the right side of the sitter, is indeed, as Osmund has identified it above, the aorta and vena cava and its branches.

Though with no specific source reference, Tania Causmally, in her UCL Doctoral thesis on William Hewson (1739 - 1774), gives Blackall's exact birth date as the 14th August 1754. The thesis contains other references to him:

https://bit.ly/2RVuKVI

As has been noted, Andrew Blackall's will was written in Bristol on the 12th April 1781 and was proven on the 8th day of May 1781. However, in Samuel Foart Simmons' "An Account of the Life and Writings of the Late William Hunter", published in late 1783, he records that Blackall had died on the 14th August 1780 (and not in 1781). This reference in the "Account" should, therefore, be ignored.

https://bit.ly/34k8nvr

The minutes of the Chapter Coffee House Society show that Blackall attended its first six meetings on the 1st, 15th and 29th of December 1780, as well as the 12th and 26th January and the 9th February 1781.

Equally he cannot have died on the 14th August 1781 as his will was proved during the previous May. Therefore, the day and month of 14th August might well apply to his birthday.

Osmund Bullock,

Though it's certainly a possibility, Kieran, I suspect the "Aug. 14" date of death given by Simmons was just a simple misreading of the correct "Apr. 14". Dr Causmally's thesis is a fascinating and genuinely thought-provoking read; but as she, too, gives his year of death incorrectly as 1780, it may be that, as a detail very peripheral to her theme, his date of birth is not that reliable. We could ask her - her email is here: https://bit.ly/34mABpA

Kieran Owens,

Osmund, I will happily email her if you would prefer not to. Otherwise I bow to your greater experience and tact in these matters, so please do send her the query if that suits you better.

Anais Goorriah,

I received a copy of the condition report and no evident mark or stock number code was pointed out by the conservator. The painting was given a standard conservation treatment of dusting off the surfaces and replacing the old varnish with a resin varnish. A few scuffs marks and cracks were corrected and the painting was placed back in its original frame.
I think it can be definitely agreed now that the painting under discuss is a copy although that is what the research has been pointing towards.
The pictures from the conservation report are not of good qualities but I have attached them regardless.

3 attachments
Osmund Bullock,

Thank you for the images and report, Anais, but several points need addressing.

First, I don't think that the discussion's portrait is a copy of anything, and the research so far doesn't suggest it. The 1872 cataloguing of (most probably) the same painting as 'Sir J Reynolds' means nothing. As I mentioned before, it was standard practice in the mid/late-C19th to attach the name of a well-known artist to paintings in catalogues, and many of these are demonstrably very wide of the mark. We have no evidence at all that there was ever a Reynolds of Blackall, and he does not appear in Reynolds' sitter books for the period (unless he is in the lost ones for 1774-6 or 1778, which I think is too early) - but the basic compositional style is in any case quite unlike Sir Joshua's. In my view it is very likely there was only ever one portrait, as mentioned in Andrew Blackall's will, but it was painted by another C18th portraitist as yet unidentified.

Second, I am rather depressed at how different the measurements on Art UK are from those given in the conservation report; the latter's 128 x 102 cm is very close to a standard British 50 x 40 in (what was known in the C18th as a half-length) - Art UK gives numbers exactly 10 cm (4 in) more in each direction, an odd size that might wrongly suggest it was painted elsewhere than Britain or Ireland, or that it had been cut down from a larger size.

Third, I am not confident that the conservator would have pointed out any stock nos, etc, on the back: it doesn't seem to have been a focus of their attention. The report consists entirely of what they have done to it, not of what was there from an historical perspective - for example no mention is made of the label remnants clearly visible, and I think I can see writing on the middle bar of the stretcher (which looks C19th). You show us a pre-conservation image of the back, but it is extremely grainy and low-resolution, with an odd blue cast. This must derive from a much better, higher-resolution photograph - would it not be possible for the Collection to let us see an image of that?

Martin Hopkinson,

Should be looking among the lesser known Irish portrait painters, who practiced both in Dublin and in London, of such men as William Thompson, born in Dublin in 1726, and his successors?
Fintan Cullen's The Irish face..., National Portrait Gallery, 2004 and the works cited in its bibliography should be looked at.
It is not an area with which I am familiar
The National Gallery of Ireland had an exhibition Irish Portrait 1660-1860 in 1969, but there must be more recent relevant publications
Anne Crookshank and the Knight of Glin, Ireland's Painters 1600-1940, 2002 should provide avenues to explore

Martin Hopkinson,

A visit to the National Portrait Gallery's Library and box files of sitters might help too - if George Scharf drew a copy of it , it would be there and he annotated many of these copies. He was Secretary from 1857 and filled many sketchbooks with drawings
see NPG7 for his extensive papers which have been catalogued

Jacinto Regalado,

I quite agree that there is no reason to think this portrait is a copy.

Osmund Bullock,

I've already done the basics at the Heinz (NPG) Library, Martin - that's where I took photos of the 1872 catalogue, I should have made that clear. There's nothing in the sitter boxes, nor in the older (unillustrated) card index. But you're right about Scharf: his run of annotated Christie’s sale catalogues apparently spans 1858–94, so he may have made notes on the lot, or even sketched it, as you say. I think they may be held in the Scharf library, which is separate from the main collection, but I can't see them in the catalogue. I did ask one of the staff, but he only knew about his sketch books. Actually I sent them an email about this earlier today, so I should hear back shortly.

It could easily be an Irish portrait, I agree - presumably Dublin, where he taught anatomy from c.1776-8. But it could equally have been done after his arrival in England to replace (briefly) Magnus Falconar (who had died at the end of March 1778) as lecturer at the Craven Street School. When that failed financially that summer, and John Sheldon took over the students at his Gt Queen St theatre, Blackall joined him there during the 1778-79 season, before opening his own premises at Thavie's Inn in the latter year. In terms of success, fame and status, and perhaps as a piece of PR, the short period when he actively ran his own London school, and before he became ill, seems most likely, i.e. 1779-1780 (or very early '81).

Osmund Bullock,

I've heard back from the Heinz, who have identified the right volume of bound Scharf catalogues. I'll go and have a look at it in the next couple of days, and will photograph if there's anything useful.

Wellcome Collection,

Another fascinating and fruitful discussion on Art Detective!

On the attribution, it might be worth considering Robert Edge Pine (1730-1788; worked in America after 1784). He knew and painted some of Blackall's acquaintances.

Some differences between the Blackall portrait and works by Pine on ArtUK can be accounted for by the fact that Blackall is emaciated and lecturing rather than fit and seated like many of the others.

William Schupbach

I had been considering Robert Edge Pine, encouraged by a comment of the late Ellis Waterhouse that this artist 'has an odd habit of showing heads in three-quarter profile with the top corner seemingly sliced off'. He also writes, referring to a Pine portrait dated 1771: 'The look as if a small slice had been taken from the sitter's right forehead is very characteristic.' I suggest that we see such forehead treatment in the portrait under discussion, though of course on the sitter's left in this case. The quotations are from Waterhouse's 'Dictionary of 18th Century Painters',1981.

Osmund Bullock,

I think Pine is an excellent call, William, both artistically and circumstantially. Like Richard, I had him in my mind because of Waterhouse's memorable comment - but unlike Richard I couldn't recall his name! I'm going back to the Heinz tomorrow, and will see what Scharf had to say about the portrait (if anything).

Martin Hopkinson,

Indeed it is a good suggestion. Pine was in touch with the medical world, being a friend of William Hunter. No Irish artist seems to fit the bill in the limited literature on Irish portraits . George Breeze's index to the exhibits at the Society of Artists in Ireland threw no anatomist portraits up. The hands are right for Pine too.

Osmund Bullock,

Disappointing news from the Heinz. In his own sale catalogue Scharf had nothing to say about the portrait of Blackall at all, nor did he sketch it. On the very next page he makes copious notes on two others catalogued as Reynolds (and which doubtless were - they are well known); he ignores a third which probably wasn't (and in any case I think his focus was on works that might be of interest to the NPG); and he makes just a brief note about a supposed portrait of Reynolds by Gainsborough that had previously been rejected by the NPG...at least I think that's the one he was referring to. See attached.

I think we can conclude that Scharf felt that Blackall's portrait was nothing to do with Reynolds, and for whatever reasons - quality, notability of sitter - did not find it interesting at all. And though we cannot prove it absolutely without finding a stock code on the back (I'm still hopeful, but we need help from the Collection), this strengthens further the high likelihood that our portrait is the one offered at Christie's in 1872.

Whaley Turco,

Pine could actually draw as well as Paint. Take a quick look at his other paintings. The Hands of this Portrait say no I'm not a Pine. This almost looks like a studio production piece with the head added. As for the Book, well he was a Doctor. It's the urban version of a Land Owner standing in one of own fields that appears to go on and on forever.

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