Completed Dress and Textiles, London: Artists and Subjects, Portraits: British 18th C, South West England: Artists and Subjects 20 Could Benjamin West have painted this portrait of Elizabeth Shebbeare?

Elizabeth Shebbeare, First Wife of Charles William Le Geyt
Topic: Artist

I suggest that you consider that this portrait was painted by Benjamin West (1738–1820).

Below are a few pictures that are similar to this work: | | |

The painting of Elizabeth Shebbeare (ES) was not in the Yale catalogue raisonné, neither attributed, not attributed or suspicious list, which I assume means that the authors did not look at the painting. Several authors mention Dr. John Shebbeare (JS) and Benjamin West (BW) in same context (esp. BW's comments on seeing Apollo Belvedere). Since BW was barely literate, the influence could not have come from just reading his works. I do not have access to BW's biography, but it would be worth seeing if he mentions JS.

The snippet view is frustrating, but this book might also provide some clue as to their relationship:
'The King's Artists : The Royal Academy of Arts and the Politics of British Culture 1760-1840: The Royal Academy of Arts and the Politics of British Culture 1760-1840'

I have seen primarily finished works by BW and have no idea if comparable hasty works as the ES portrait exist.

Patty Macsisak, Entry reviewed by Art UK

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Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. The conclusion is that this is not by West but by a minor artist who would be difficult to identify. The acquisition records for this portrait and that of 'Captain Charles William Le Geyt (1733–1827), 3rd Regiment of Foot' have been improved with the addition of the full name of the donor.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion. To anyone viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.


The Collection has commented: 'We do not have any information on the artist of this work. We were gifted both this portrait and that of Charles William Le Geyt in 1937 from the le Geyt family but with no accompanying documentation. There is no visible artist's signature.'

Jacob Simon,

“Could Benjamin West have painted this portrait of Elizabeth Shebbeare?” My sense is that the answer to this question in this new discussion is firmly, “No”.

The portrait in question dates to the late 1760s or 1770s from the hair style. See, for example, the attached detail from Gainsborough’s portrait of his daughters dating to the early 1770s. If we look at a comparable portrait by Benjamin West, for example his portrait of Mrs William Abercromby dating to the same period, we find that West’s style was harder edged and more precise. Even allowing for the condition of our portrait, it is clearly painted in a much looser style by a less competent artist, as is apparent from the gauche handling of the left background column and foliage within the confined space of a half-length portrait contained within an oval.

We must look elsewhere to identify the minor hand behind our portrait and this search may not be straightforward.

Jacinto Regalado,

The husband's portrait in this collection has been discussed here before, and it is either by a superior hand or a more successful portrait by the same artist. See below:

Jacinto Regalado,

The husband's portrait is probably earlier and may well be by a different and better hand, though some painters are less successful with female portraits than with male ones.

Osmund Bullock,

They seem to have very little in common to my eye, and certainly were not painted as a pair. Apart from hers being undoubtedly a later work (see the previous discussion for the dating of his), it is painted in an oval format; and while his background is plain and very dark, hers has both drapery and a small landscape detail.

Jacinto Regalado,

Also, West was quite a name (and presumably expensive) c. 1770, meaning he may have been too upmarket for this sitter.

Marcie Doran,

A portrait of Captain Charles William Le Geyt and his family by a "follower of Johann Joseph Zoffany” was in a Dreawatts auction on 14 December 2022.

The portrait of Mrs. William Abercromby by Benjamin West that Jacob mentioned (30/10/2021 12:04) is presently in a Christie’s auction.

A website for Jersey Heritage shows that the donor of this work was Miss A. A. Le Geyt and that it is dated 1773. The “acquisition method” for this work on Art UK could be improved.

Alice Adelaide Le Guyt (bapt. 9 January 1869 – 17 December 1941) was the daughter of William Bell Le Geyt (d. 7 December 1916) and his wife Kate Mina George Le Geyt (née Murray)(d. 1 March 1921).

Marcie Doran,

I've finally figured out my error. That portrait of Captain Charles William Le Geyt and his family is listed in the catalogue (lot 57) of the upcoming Dreweatts ‘Old Master, British and European Art’ auction of 14 June 2023 but the MutualArt website shows that it was in an auction last year (artist “William Charles”). I don’t know the name of the auction house.

Jacinto Regalado,

That listing on MutualArt, presumably from the auction house, is glaringly wrong as to date, which is obviously 18th century, not 17th. William Charles (1776-1820) was an engraver and political caricaturist, not a painter. It's all rather dubious.

Jacinto Regalado,

The Dreweatts listing is much more plausible, but that does not mean the painter for the family group was the same as the painter for our portrait.

Marcie Doran,

The information in the MutualArt listing was indeed incorrectly transcribed, Jacinto. I’ve located the catalogue. That work was in the Dreweatts auction of 14 December 2022 (lot 130) with that auction house’s current artist attribution.

I’ve attached the burial record for Elizabeth Shebbeare just for the record since it is so full of details about her life.

This discussion seems unlikely to make further progress, but thanks to Marcie we have improved the acquisition records for this portrait and that of 'Captain Charles William Le Geyt (1733–1827), 3rd Regiment of Foot'.

Marcie gives a link to a Jersey Heritage accession photograph from 1937 which gives the date of this portrait as 1773.

The current online catalogue has 1770s, adopted by PCF/Art UK, and Jacob commented 'late 1760s or early 1770s'.

Before we close, I have asked the collection if they know why 1773 was recorded in 1937. The collection comments above don't mention any labels and it is not signed.