Completed London: Artists and Subjects, Portraits: British 19th C, Scotland: Artists and Subjects 49 Could this be William Charles Ross?

A Painter's Self-Portrait
Topic: Subject or sitter

Very much a long shot, but the profile looks like William Charles Ross (cf. the sketch by John Linnell at ) – so could it be a self portrait, probably AFTER time in the RA Schools OR a portrait by a contemporary student friend? Against this is the fact that the known later portraits of Ross show a softer, rounder, face.

Mark Gray, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

Jade Audrey King,

This discussion has now been closed. No conclusion was reached. If any contributors have new information about this painting, we encourage them to propose a new discussion by following the Art Detective link on the Your Paintings page:

Thank you to all for participating in this discussion. To those viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all comments that led to this conclusion.


Osmund Bullock,

Although there is similarity in the physiognomy, I think this portrait is much too early to show a man born in 1794. It's a little hard to make out, but what seems to be his long and rather unkempt hair, and the style of his jacket, look to me VERY early C19th (or even late 18th). I don't see how the clean-cut youth of Linnell's 1810 sketch could have turned into the man in the Tate's portrait in less than 10 years, and probably more.

Moreover, Ross's journey seems to have been to become ever more respectable, not less, and well before the 1820s he had made a very "sensible" decision to concentrate on miniature-painting, which promised a consistent income unlike his few large-scale oils. Would he by then have looked like - or have chosen to show himself as - a rather wild-eyed bohemian wielding a full-sized oil palette? I rather doubt it.

Osmund Bullock,

Incidentally, there seems to be some sort of inscription (rotated 90 degrees to the portrait) in the top right of the picture. Presumably this does not throw any light on matters, or the Tate would be able to say more in their online description...?

Andrea Kollmann,

In 2010 "three paper bound auction catalogues relating to the property of Lady Haversham comprising Phillips' 2nd – 6th December 1929 sale of South Hill Park, Bracknell, Berks, and two Phillips' sales from the contents of 9 Grosvenor Place on 29th November and 3rd December 1923, Lady Haversham's leather bound inventory, Where is it?, an alphabetic directory detailing paintings, works of art and furniture" were sold by Bonhams.
Is there any chance to find out who bought these catalogues?

Martin Hopkinson,

You could ask Phillips and Bonhams if they can let you consult their marked up copies of the sale catalogues, given that the sales were over 80 years ago, or check in the National Art Library in case it has marked copies of these sales

Bonhams could asked to forward a letter or e-mail to the purchaser of the lot in their 2010 sale, which included the leather-bound inventory. As Lady Haversham bequeathed the painting to the then Tate Gallery in 1929, it is unlikely to appear in the Phillips sale of December the same year and, I suggest, would appear in the 1923 sale catalogues only if it were an unsold lot -- as Lady H. clearly owned it at her death. The leather-bound inventory would seem to be the key document.

Barbara Bryant,

It would seem this is certainly an artist's self portrait from the period c.1800-c.1830s. The question initially posed--is it W.C. Ross--has been addressed by Osmund Bullock; it is very unlikely to be Ross.
To take this discussion any further, rather than rely on the matter of resemblance to any one individual, we would need to look at documentation about the picture itself. I think here more input would be needed from the collection responsible for this painting--Tate Britain. Yes, as Richard Green has pointed out, the inventory of Lady Haversham's residence is essential. But this is probably for the Tate itself to pursue. In addition, they might like to send an image of the back of the painting which might give more information, i.e. stamps from sale rooms, labels, etc.

Barbara Bryant,

I agree, Al, there is plenty of flexibility about dating.


I am uploading a new photograph of this painting, which I hope will help to reignite this discussion. (Apologies for the poor quality of our previous image.) I am also uploading two images of the back of the canvas, which I requested at Barbara's suggestion. What these reveal is a handwritten note gummed to the top bar of the stretcher which reads as follows:

"Denmark Hill Decem[ber ...]
"My de[ar? ...] Th[e] [p]icture is safe here
I am singularly obliged to you for sending it. It is
unquestionably Turner, unquestionably by himself & the most
interesting portrait of him I have yet seen. Can you allow
me to keep it for a few days to show it to some friends? What
are the views of its present possessor? I write in haste today
I cannot at the moment refer to your first letter but I
think you said it belonged to some relative of Miss [...]
should be in the National Gallery by rights in[?] [...]"

Sadly, paper losses have obliterated the date, addressee's name and signature, along with the name of the 'relative' referred to.

Tate's Turner scholars have suggested that this note is a transcript of an untraced autograph letter by John Ruskin, who lived at 163 Denmark Hill from 1842 until the 1870s and who would have been a prime candidate to offer an 'expert' opinion on a supposed Turner self-portrait. (The phrasing also has parallels with known letters by Ruskin.)

I have to say that no-one here at Tate who has looked at this painting so far seems persuaded that this could actually be a self-portrait from Turner's hand. Do any of you think that Ruskin was on to something?

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Barbara Bryant,

Many thanks to Tate Britain for following up on this. Now we have something to work with. The number 106B painted or written onto the stretcher does not seem to be saleroom reference, so what is it?

It isn't hard to see why this portrait has been dismissed as showing J.M.W. Turner; what is surprising is that it ever was. Turner's early self-portrait (Tate) was in the original Turner Bequest so was very well known, as are various drawings of him. Linnell's portrait of Turner (1838) only entered the NPG in recent times, but that picture was widely known So is it a case of a Ruskinian fantasy?

Just to start off--might it be that the Turner referred to in the inscribed paper on the back of the picture is not J.M.W. but another well-known Turner--William Turner of Oxford (1789-1862) (who Ruskin would also have known about). Mainly a watercolourist, he also painted oils. His early self portrait (1824) is at the Ashmolean
The resemblance is not striking but it is worth questioning all aspects of the letter affixed to the back of the picture (and perhaps to consider that it might even be a forgery by someone purporting to make a link between this picture and Ruskin).

It is well worth thinking about whether the document written from Denmark Hill shows Ruskin's words. Others with knowledge of Ruskin and Turner (or other aspects of this interesting conundrum) may have something to say about all this in light of the new information helpfully provided by Tate Britain.

R. Stephens,

There do seem to have been a lot of beak-nosed painters knocking about in the early 1800s.

Presumably Lady Haversham's inventory (106B could well be an inventory number) will describe this as a self-portrait by JMW Turner, which it surely is not. The Tate's donor was Henrietta Hope of the banking and art collecting family. She was the youngest daughter of Adrian John Hope (probate 1864) and Emily Melanie Matilda Rapp (daughter of General Count Rapp). Her uncle (her father's brother) was Henry Thomas Hope (1808-62) and her grand-father (father's father) was Thomas Hope (1769-1831). She might be the "Miss..." to which the transcribed letter refers, but then the author's recollection that the owner was a relative of Miss... would be inaccurate (perhaps not insurmountable, given that he was writing from memory); also that she had arranged an intermediary to lend it to Ruskin; and that the text must pre-date her marriage in 1866 to Arthur Divett Hayter (1835-1917), who was created Lord Haversham 1906.

R. Stephens,

sorry, just noticed some bad editing in my comment, but there is no edit function like there is on Facebook.

If the moderator could delete the main para and replace it with the following, that would be great. Otherwise, this is what I should've written:

Presumably Lady Haversham's inventory (106B could well be an inventory number) will describe this as a self-portrait by JMW Turner, which it surely is not. The Tate's donor was Henrietta Hope of the banking and art collecting family. She was the youngest daughter of Adrian John Hope (probate 1864) and Emily Melanie Matilda Rapp (daughter of General Count Rapp). Her uncle (her father's brother) was Henry Thomas Hope (1808-62) and her grand-father (father's father) was Thomas Hope (1769-1831). She might be the "Miss..." to which the transcribed letter refers, but then the author's recollection that the owner was a relative of Miss... would be inaccurate (perhaps not insurmountable, given that he was writing from memory); also she must have arranged an intermediary to lend it to Ruskin; and the text must pre-date her marriage in 1866 to Arthur Divett Hayter (1835-1917), who was created Lord Haversham 1906.

Barbara Bryant,

Richard's comments make perfect sense. The deduction that 106B is the number for Lady Haversham's inventory and that it almost certainly will say self portrait of J.M.W. Turner, means that at this point, one dosen't need to consult the inventory itself. No doubt optimistic dealers/auctioneers of the 1920s would call this Turner, when of course it patently isn't.
As Lady Haversham was a descendant of the Hope dynasty, a family associated with arts in so many areas, one might now consider how a self-portrait of a British artist came into their possession, probably at some point long before Lady Haversham's day.

Tim Williams,

According to the National Gallery catalogue of the British School (Martin Davies, 1946) the picture surfaced in 1865 and the attribution to Turner 'was heartily endorsed by Ruskin'. John Pye and others were apparently unconvinced.

Haversham purchased it as lot 90 from a sale in November 1883 - I'm not sure which saleroom. It might say in the NG catalogue, I could only access a google books snippet.

Tim Williams,

Attached is an article from the Manchester Guardian Nov 6th, 1929. I suspect it is merely referring to what's pasted on the reverse, and not a hidden cache of Ruskin letters.

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Barbara Bryant,

Thank you, Tim, for this essential information from the published catalogues of the Tate Gallery. So in 1865 the portrait "surfaced" (went through the salerooms?) as a self portrait by Turner. Later, in 1883, after a sale (which, one might add, was at Phillips, Son & Neale on 28 November), it entered the collection of Lady Hayter (later Haversham). Now we are at the stage of what museum curators do--the background research associated with their paintings--auction catalogues, etc. as well as consulting the files at Tate Britain associated with this painting. Another question to ask is when did Ruskin see and comment on the work--prior to the sale in 1865 or after? and in whose collection was it at that time?

Tim Williams,

Here's some more provenance:

Said (in 1876) to have been given by Turner to Miss Day. Owned by W. Llewellyn of Bristol in 1866; let by him to the National Portrait Exhibition at South Kensington, 1868 (No.912); sale, 1869, bought in, still his in 1871. In 1876, owned by Edward S. Palmer (dealer). Owned by W. White in 1881. A. C. Bayley sale, Phillips 2nd May, 1883 (lot 571) [presumably bought in], sale at Philips, 28th November 1883.

Miss Day is probably the name missing from the letter on the back, though this information is provided by the dealer Edward Palmer....

Tim Williams,

Cosmo Monkhouse also includes it as #10 in 'Some Portraits of J.M.W. Turner (Scribner's Magazine Vol XX 1896 pp.97-98) though he notes 'very doubtful'.

Tim Williams,

From British Architect vol.6 1876 (also published in The Academy and Literature, vol.10 1876)

'Mr Palmer of Duke Street St. James's, has now in his possession [says the Academy) an extremely interesting portrait of no less a person than J.M.W. Turner, by no less a person than himself. It is several years later than the National Gallery portrait, and is far bolder and more vigorous in style. The painter is represented as holding in his hand a palette splashed with colours; his massive face looks straight out of the picture under a waving mass of hair; there is no backgound but cloud and sky. The history of the portrait is so interesting as itself. It was painted by Turner for Miss Day, of Bristol, to whom he was engaged to be married. This lady kept it all her life, and when she died at a ripe age is passed into the possession of a Rev. Mr. Llewellin from whom, or from its next owner, it was bought by Mr. John Collie of Clifton whose it now is.'

Tim Williams,


'That the story is not too good to be true is proved to the satisfaction of most persons by the written testimony of Mr. Ruskin (which Mr. Palmer is glad to show to anyone) that "this picture is unquestionably Turner, unquestionably by himself.'

It seems then that Palmer is the addressee of the Ruskin letter and that its 'present possessor' is John Collie.

Tim Williams,

I wonder if the 'Miss Day of Bristol' is the redacted Miss from Thornbury's biography (see attached). Thornbury's Life of Turner was first published in 1862, which seems a convenient date for this portrait turning up in 1865/66! Are there any other sources that confirm the account told by 'Miss-'? as Thornbury seems to be troubled by the chronology of her story.

Tim Williams,

Attached is the catalogue entry of the 1868 National Portraits Exhibition - I was hoping it might give a clue as to who W. Llewellyn was, as extablishing his identity should lead us to Miss Day (if she exists).

Sir George Scharf curated the exhibition - the NPG appears to have extensive notes and files of his - maybe there is some correspondence with W. Llewellyn amongst it, or an address:;=(RefNo=='NPG7/2/4')&PF=Yes


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R. Stephens,

Just saw the entry for this picture in the Martin Davies catalogue, which says that there is "a copious documentation in ms. in the Gallery archives" relating to "the picture and its provenance." The owners of this picture should do some digging in their own internal archive, in other words. It could well be that a fuller transcript, and perhaps the original text, of the Ruskin letter is to be found there.

I just asked Eric Shanes if he knows about Miss Day. Not that it will get us any nearer to answering the original question, but let us see if he is able to clarify things.

Barbara Bryant,

It's commendable that there is so much interest in the portrait at the Tate. Turner is very much of the moment with Tate Britain's current exhibition just opened. The prior owners and exhibition history of the work in question give a great deal of information about how long it was considered a self portrait of Turner. We do come back to the fact that as Tate Britain is the home collection of this work, they are in the best position to take the discussion further. Richard Stephens rightly points out that their own extensive files will doubtless shed more light on this work.

Barbara Bryant,

As there has been nothing further posted about this painting, and as my comments one month ago indicated, I believe that this discussion is ready to close. Tate Britain have the documentation to pursue this matter further (and, of course, it is in their interest to do so).

Al Brown,

Just a thought before the discussion is closed off - and apologies if the idea throws a spanner in the works - but has anyone considered, notwithstanding the provenance of the work, that it might not even be British?

Barbara Bryant,

Al, I think this is a British painting. But if anyone would like to comment on whether it is European, then they can do so. Perhaps the group leaders for Continental Europe before 1800, French after 1800, British 18C and British 19C and/or anyone else, might like to pitch in with an opinion.


Apologies for the silence from our end. We are now looking into locating the documentation referred to in the 1946 National Gallery catalogue and are keen to share whatever we find in this discussion thread. Unearthing the paper trail is more complicated in the case of artworks such as the present painting for which the trusteeship was formally transferred from the National Gallery to the Tate Gallery in 1955 (an outcome of the National Gallery and Tate Gallery Act 1954, which declared the separation between the two collections). Associated documentation for these artworks was not deposited in Tate's gallery records in every case.

Barbara Bryant,

I wonder if the Tate has anything further to share with Art Detective regarding this painting, because if not, then it is time to close this discussion.


Barbara, I'm afraid we do not have very much more to share at this stage. All I can tell you is that our gallery records manager has helpfully located the relevant files concerning this painting.

Some of the documentation is held by Tate and can be consulted by appointment in the Library and Archive Reading Rooms at Tate Britain (open Monday-Friday).

The file reference is:
A22326 British School (?) 19th century (location code 60a/02/1/D).
(Please not that this file is not generally open to the public and so some notice would be required before viewing it.)

The National Gallery also holds interesting 19th-century documentation, which may well be more relevant to this discussion. This can be consulted at the National Gallery Research Centre (open Tuesday-Friday) if you make an appointment with the archivist, Alan Crookham.

The relevant catalogue file references are:
NG3/4483 ('Dossier on British School 19th Century "Self-Portrait"')
NG14/63/1 ('Acquisition file')

The dossier includes (NG3/4483/3):
'Letter from H.M. Hake of the National Portrait Gallery enclosing Board minutes of 14 Jun 1866 which record a dispute between Ruskin and Pye about the authenticity of the work as by Turner's hand.'
This is presumably the document consulted by Martin Davies in his 1946 catalague (cited above by Tim Williams)

Barbara Bryant,

Thank you to the Tate for sending these references, all very relevant to working out the background to this interesting painting. We have enjoyed discussing it here but this is a logical point to close the discussion.

Tim Williams,

Before this discussion is closed, I'm coming around to the slight possibility that this might be a likeness of Turner. Throughout the whole discussion (until today) I've not seriously considered the idea, despite uncovering many sources claiming the opposite. The image of Turner that's burned into my consciousness is the one we all know in the NG. However, looking more closely at the other likenesses of Turner, it seems that the famous NG self portrait might least represent Turner's distinctive physiognomy. From that portrait we get no sense of Turner's whopping beak with a distinguishing high bridge, and we also get the impression that he was blond-haired in his twenties.

The self-portrait of Turner at 17 years old shows his long dark hair and large nose which widens at the peak (as in the picture under discussion), as well as blue eyes. This portrait was given by Turner to his 'housekeeper' Hannah Danby who bequeathed it to Ruskin:

The likeness of Turner that looks closest to the man here is the sketch by George Dance done in 1800, reproduced as a stipple engraving by William Daniell:

The high-bridged nose, hair-style, eyebrow and chin are remarkably similar.

Interestingly, the miniature of Turner previously owned by Monkhouse (now the NPG) came from Miss Ann Dart of Bristol.

Miss Ann Dart was the niece of John Narraway, a good friend of Turner's father. Turner stayed with Narraway on more than one occasion between 1791-1800. I considered the idea that Day might have been an error for Dart, but Miss Dart never mentioned an engagement in her correspondence with Ruskin. However, it does place Turner in Bristol where this picture surfaced, and at the right time.

The Linnell portrait that Barbara refers to above, was not painted from life, but entirely from Linnell's memory. Turner refused to sit for portraits after his mid twenties, and according to Monkhouse 'Opinions among those who knew Turner were very much divided as to the accuracy of the likeness.' It was painted when Turner was 62, so as well as being an an imaginary portrait, it's an imaginary portrait of Turner as a younger man. I do not think it should be studied as a comparison.

I've gone from thinking this was a Ruskinian fantasy into giving it serious consideration. Regrettably I have no plans to be in London anytime soon, but the Hake letter seems most intriguing - I will see if the archivist might be able to expand on its contents via email.

Barbara Bryant,

Over to you, Tim. Good luck with this and keep us posted on developments.

Tim Williams,

OK so the NG have kindly sent me a copy of NG3/4483/3. It doesn't really take us much further, but does include the full transcript of the letter posted on the reverse of the painting, as well as Pye's objections, and it's possible to sketch out a chronology of events.

The letter is dated December 9th 1865 and is addressed to a Reverend Thomas Mawkes. It is so far the earliest source of the picture existing.

"My dear sir,
The picture is safe here, and I am singularly obliged to you for sending it. It is unquestionably Turner, unquestionably by himself - and the most
interesting portrait of him I have yet seen. Can you allow me to keep it for a few days to show it to some friends? What are the views of its present possessor? I write in haste today and cannot at the moment refer to your first letter - but I think you said it belonged to some relative of Miss Day's. It should be in the National Gallery by rights. May I show it to Mr. Wornum? Always your faithfully and obliged J.Ruskin."

I'm assuming Rev Mawkes is the assistant chaplain of the Convict Establishment, Portland (c1850s), son of Thomas Mawkes, esq of Belper, Derbyshire. Mawkes loaned a Poussin to the Manchester Art Treasures exhibition, and also a violin to South Kensington (it was supposed to be a Maggini but I think later declared a forgery). Quite a bit more on him in the BL newspaper archive, though my subscription has elapsed.

Quite why and how the painting is in Mawkes possession is unclear. Everything we need to know is in the first letter that Mawkes sent to Ruskin (presumably destroyed?). The 'present possessor' may or may not be Mr W. Llewellyn - it probably is, but we can't say for definite.

Anyway, five or six months later Mr. LLewellyn offers the painting to the NG for £1,000. I'm speculating that when the NG took possession of the painting, they contacted Ruskin separately for his opinion, because in May of 1866 Ruskin who is away on a tour of Italy, sends a letter to his secretary:

"May 13th, 1866,
I am entirely occupied today by the too probably mortal illness of one of the friends I am travelling with, but I may be yet more painfully so tomorrow. Please post enclosed, and say to everybody whom it may concern that that portrait of Mr. Mawkes is unquestionably Turner by himself, and, on the whole, the most interesting one I know. I gave Mr. Mawkes a letter to this effect six months ago, or more."

The following month - 14th June, 1866, the trustees of the NG have a meeting and discuss the painting. They consider Turner's letter, and then they consider this damning letter from John Pye (which looks to be dated 11th June, 1866 though 3/4s of the date has been cropped off):

"I was personally acquainted with J.M.W. Turner from the year 1810 till his death in 1851; but at no period of that course of years did he, in my opinion, resemble the picture now before me in the National Portrait Gallery, said to have been painted by that great artist from himself. Neither do I believe that the work in question is the work of Turner's hand, because it is deficient of that knowledge of clair-obscure which enabled him to develop his genius, and which characterizes every work known to be his with which I am acquainted. John Pye."

'The Trustees, after examining the picture and considering the above letters, passed the following resolution.

Resolved. The Trustees, while fully impressed with the great weight and authority attached to Mr. Ruskin's judgment on any matter of art, cannot overlook the very decided opinion against the authenticity of the portrait expressed to them in writing by Mr. Pye and, verbally, by their colleague now present, Sir Francis Grant, and, under these circumstances, feel themselves unable to sanction the purchase fo the picture in question. Ordered. That Mr. Llewellyn be informed of this decision and the picture and letter be returned into his hands.' (present at the meeting were Earl Stanhope, William Smith, Earl Somers, The Lord Stanley, The Lord Bishop of Oxford, Sir William Stirling Maxwell, Sir Francis Grant)

Apparently Mr. Llewellyn was tardy in collecting the painting. And there seems to have been some beef over this as during a meeting of the trustees over a year later, on 22nd November, 1867;

'the secretary reported that Mr. Llewellyn had, after repeated requests to him to do so, removed his portrait declined by the Trustees as being a picture of J.M.W. Turner by himself, and that he had given a receipt for it.'

I'm not going to disagree with Pye either - apart from suggesting that there's a possibility that it is a likeness of Turner based on the 1830 engraving (ie someone pulling a fast-one). I find it troubling that none of Turner's near contemporaries could suggest an alternative British painter, which makes me think that the artist was either provincial or (as Al has suggested) foreign.

For me there are a few questions that remain unanswered:

Who is Mr. (possibly Revd.) W. Llewellyn?

Why does Ruskin cite Miss Day's name as if he knows her, or knows of her? I get the impression that he's satisfied with her being a source - I have found nothing on any Miss Day of Bristol.

Why did Sir George Scharf include this as a self-portrait by Turner in the exhibition two years after it was dismissed as a Turner? Obviously Mr Llewellyn refused to accept the decision of the NG trustees - but Scharf must have known of the decision independently of Llewellyn's propaganda? Pye (according to his letter) viewed the portrait at the NPG where Scharf was director.

Ruskin has form on unquestionable attributions of Turner portraits - he endorsed the 'Watt portrait' as a Turner self-portrait just as vigorously. In fact that picture was associated as the one from the Thornberry engagement legend.

Tim Williams,

Unbelievably, I can answer most of my questions. Rev Thomas Mawkes's reply to Ruskin has been unearthed! It was amongst Wornum's papers given to the NG in 1998! Now we are breaking fresh ice. I'm still deciphering the handwriting but the main gist is:

The 'present possessor' is Mr. Mawkes - it seems most likely that he's referring to himself in third person (though there is also a possibility he's talking about a father or uncle).

Rev Mawkes lived at Mountway House, Taunton in 1865.

The script is shockingly poor but I get the impression that Miss Day lived 'a distance from Weymouth' and died about 12 years before 1865. She lived 'for many years' with another lady who died about 5 years before 1865 whose name is Musder(?) Murder(?). They were on 'closest intimacy' with Mrs Mawkes's family.

Mr. Mawkes thought that Turner possibly had a 'liking for Miss Day' who 'in earlier life was fair and handsome woman and very intellectual(?) but if such had been the case the matter had been kept a secret between themselves'. No mention of Bristol. When Llewellyn gets his hands on the picture, I think the story gets skewed and Bristol gets attached.

There's quite a bit more to add, especially with events post 1868 and there's a bit more to be extracted from this letter.

I wonder whether Osmund (or anyone else) might aid me with some genealogical digging on Rev Mawkes & his wife?

Tim Williams,

Sorry, I'm doing my 'sums out loud' - as soon as I posted this I realised Mrs Mawkes was the 'present possessor'.

Mrs Mawkes was a 'very old friend' of Miss Day. Some digging around Mrs Mawkes might lead us to Miss Day.

Tim Williams,

I think the woman living with Miss Day is a Miss Marder.

This lady seems to fit the bill: Jane Marder born 1778 in Weymouth - residing in Melcombe Regis in 1861 - will indexed 1861.

Andrea Kollmann,

I have started a search in the BL newspaper archive. Not much so far, but the name of his wife, Ann Weston Fowler who he married in May 1851:

"Marriage: On the 29th ult., at Wykes Regis, by the Rev. J. Burn Anstis, the Rev. Thomas Mawkes, assistant, Esq., of Belper, Derbyshire, to Ann Weston Fowler, only surviving daughter of the late John Flew, Esq., of Weymouth."

The baptism of one Ann Weston Fowler, daughter of Jonathan and Mary Fowler [her father's name could be misspelled in the newspaper article] is documented on July, 18th 1802 in Weymouth.

Tim Williams,

Thanks Andrea - good find.

Defo some conflation somewhere - Anne Weston Fowler Mawkes's father is certainly John Flew. Her mother was Susanna nee Fowler.

This genealogical site has made the error also:

I think there must have been two Anne Weston Fowler's that were cousins? Unless there's some sort of adoption.

There's an interesting document attached regarding property owned by John Flew (subsequently inherited by Anne).

I have a copy of John Flew's will*, I think it says something about his wife's mother being a Fowler. Also a Roger Weston & Joan Martin are named as executors. Though it's more archaic script that I'm too tired to decipher at the moment.

Harriet Day of Melcombe Regis who died in 1854, aged 84 might be considered (but I've no idea if she had been married) for the Day of the letter. If the information in the letter is bonafide, then there should be a census return with both Day & Marder in the same household. Both these names appear in Melcombe Regis where Ann Mawkes's family were living - in the right time-frame - so it seems the best place to start looking.

I see no clear reason to disbelieve the statement given by Rev. Mawkes - given that he's a man of the cloth and both him and his wife apparently independently wealthy (he seems to have had land holdings in Derbyshire) - so they don't really have anything to gain from making up a story regarding the picture's provenance. I'm sceptical of it leading us to the correct author of the picture, but it should be possible to uncover the identity of the earliest recorded owner at the very least.

*Does anyone know if attaching a Crown copyright document here counts as website publication or non-commercial research?!

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Osmund Bullock,

Oh dear, I didn't really want to get involved in this one, as I'm still busy with Jas Andrews & the Enoch Woods! But I couldn't resist your plea, here goes (and my bed will have to wait yet again):

"Miss Day" was Harriet (alias Harriot) Newman Day, daughter of Thomas & Sarah Day, baptised Melcombe Regis 28 Dec 1769 (though by the 1851 Census she had miraculously lost 10 or 11 years in age!). Attached are a transcription of her christening, and images of her in 1841 & 51 censuses (living with Jane Marder in Melcombe Regis), and of her full PCC will (proved 1854). I'll leave you to decipher the latter, though I don't think there's anything too exciting in it - at a glance I think she leaves her personal property to Jane Marder. Probably just coincidence, but in 1841 she and Jane were living next door to an artist aged 60-64 (and thus nearly Turner's contemporary) called James ?Purser (??Parter ???Parker).

The Rev Thomas Mawkes, born c1810/12 in Derbyshire, was (as Tim mentioned earlier) in 1851 an assistant chaplain to the prison on Portland, where he also lived. Two months later, as Andrea found, he married at Wyke Regis Ann Weston Fowler Flew, dau of John Flew. He died in 1880 at Wyke, his widow Ann his sole exec. - his estate was not worth a lot, which may explain his anxiety to sell the portrait allegedly belonging to his wife. More images attached.

Wyke & Melcombe Regis, I might mention, are both part of Weymouth, and Portland adjoins Wyke.

The Flew & Fowler families are closely linked and inter-married in this part of Dorset, with several people of confusingly similar names. However from a careful reading of their addresses, partners' names, etc, it is now clear that 'our' Ann Flew is in fact the 'Ann Weston Flew' baptised at Melcombe R. on 4 July 1810, the daughter of John & Susanna (nee Langrish). Also attached are 1841 & 51 Census pages for Ann at Wyke R: she, too, is busy dropping years by 1851.

So both 'Miss Day' (Harriet Newman Day) and 'Mrs Mawkes' (Ann Weston F Few) were natives of Weymouth, and both lived much or all of their lives there. And though 40 years apart in age, it is perfectly possible that by the early 1850s they were 'very old friends', and Harriet might well have given Ann a treasured possession. So far, so good.

But what of Turner? If he and Harriet did meet and feel some notable mutual affection, it would probably have to have been in Dorset. Well, I read that Turner was, indeed, in that part of Dorset in around 1810 - Thornbury describes a notebook of about that date full of notes about local places including Portland and Chesil Beach, as well as Lulworth & Durdle Rock (sic). Perhaps he made other visits, too, I don't know. But if it was in 1810 that they met, we have a rather different scenario than previuosly imagined. Turner is not a fiery youth, he is 35 and thickening up a bit in face and body (just like the man in the portrait, actually). And 'Miss Day' is not some pretty young thing who turns his head, she is a mature woman of 40, and a lady of property - the "fair and handsome...and very intellectual" woman described by Mawkes, perhaps?

We know that at the same time as this Turner was in a long relationship (and I think fathered children) with Sarah Denby, who older widow. He had clearly developed a taste for the older woman: for me this is all beginning to make quite a lot of sense.

Osmund Bullock,

I've made one mistake: as her father John Flew's will and other sources make clear, the mother of Ann Weston Fowler Flew (who married the Rev Thomas Mawkes) was born Susanna Fowler, not Langrish. I have now found the original parish register image for Ann's 1810 christening (attached) - the 'Bishop's Transcript' (on which the transcription I posted before was based) made two errors, mixing in some details from adjacent entries. They took the date from the one before (4th July, instead of the correct 11th); and "Susanna Langrish" as the mother's name came from the one immediately after. A useful reminder that BTs should not really be considered a primary source, and certainly not where the original register survives.

John Flew (census and children's baptism records indicate he was a brewer/victualler) was married to Susanna Fowler at Melcombe Regis in October 1806 (image attached). Witnesses included Roper Weston, later an executor of John Flew's will.

I am also attaching images of John Flew's will (proved 1842, but written in August 1827). Tim, I don't think we need to worry unduly about the copyright issue, Crown or not - if we took all that as seriously as a lawyer might advise, we'd never post anything here. And besides, I consider Art Detective about as close to a definition of 'non-commercial research' as you can get!

Finally I have also now found (and attach) the original parish register entry for Harriot Newman Day's baptism on 28/12/1769. It was wrongly indexed by name, and for good measure was recorded not at the end of the 1769 entries, but at the beginning of the 1770 ones.

Osmund Bullock,

Turner's "about 1810" visit to Dorset (including Weymouth, Portland & vicinity) was, I learn, during his extensive trip to the West Country in July-Sept 1811. There is a lot about this journey on the Tate's Turner research pages here: . As it says there, his "main focus was a thorough survey of key sites along the coast": it was a trip to gather "topographical research for watercolours commissioned by W.B. Cooke for a proposed series of engraved Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England."

There is nothing known about where - or even if - he stayed in Weymouth, and the total amount of ground he covered in his 600-mile two month circuit - from Dorset he continued along the coast of Devon and Cornwall to Land's End then up via North Devon, Somerset, and back home via Wiltshire, copiously sketching and making notes throughout - suggests that even if he did stay there, it cannot have been for very long. If anyone wishes to pursue the Dorset angle of the 1811 trip further, there may be more information in Howard JM Hanley's 'Turner in Dorset: Images from the Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England' (1992)

He apparently returned to Devon & Cornwall in both 1813 and 1814, but there is no sign that he went via Dorset; nor any evidence that ever returned to the West Country at all after 1814. So one must conclude that even if he met and enjoyed the company of Harriet Day for a day or two in late summer 1811, an ongoing and substantial relationship seems unlikely to have taken place in Dorset. Of course it's perfectly possible that Harriet was a regular visitor to London - she was a woman of means, and apparently of learning - so their acquaintance may have continued there. But without any evidence of that - or even of a meeting, however brief, in Weymouth - we don't seem to have anywhere to go with this, sadly.

Osmund Bullock,

Oh, and I found another useful profile image of Turner c1823 in a print after John Doyle of the guests at one of Samuel Rogers's celebrated breakfast-parties in St James’s. I'm attaching a crop from it, or you can see the whole thing here (Fig. 15):

If that is an accurate likeness, then I'm afraid I concur with John Pye's view that "... at no period of that course of years [1810-1851] did he, in my opinion, resemble the picture now before me ...".

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Tim Williams,

Excellent stuff Osmund. Sorry to temporarily divert your attention from Jas. Andrews and cause you even less sleep!

Though we're not much closer to identifiying the picture's author, I'm pleased we were able to uncover the identity of the earliest owner(s).

The Doyle engraving isn't an accurate likeness. There are only really three portraits that we should consider as accurate likenesses - the self portrait at 17, the self-portrait at 27 in the NG, and the George Dance profile which is the only portrait Turner ever sat for. According to Monkhouse, everything else was either done 'by stealth' without Turner's knowledge, or imagined.

Just to fully exhaust any leads on our only candidate so far, there are a few interesting anomalies:

Mawkes's letter apparently predates any published account of a possible Turner romance and/or engagement.

Trimmer Jnr seems to think that his father was instructed by Turner to make two proposals of marriage on Turner's behalf, and provides Thornbury a copy of a 'mysterious' letter (see attachments). Trimmer Jnr provides the account directly to Thornbury in writing and initially alludes to one of the proposals being a sister of his mother Mary Driver Syer, but later puts her as a 'relation of Mr. Trimmer'. Sir Walter Armstrong in his life of Turner says that it was a lady who afterwards became the wife of Rev Trimmers brother and Cosmo Monkhouse places her as Rev Trimmers sister!

Also Armstrong cites an anecdote recalled by Cyrus Redding in 'Past Celebrities Whom I Have Known', where Turner is apparently smitten by a handsome lady he meets at a party. (Unfortunately I don't have access to the volume to be able to elaborate further).

I think these are the only other references to potential marriage prospects of Turner's.

The only other evidence in 'support' of Turner is that when he gets to Weymouth he writes a love poem 'The Lost Girl' (can be viewed in the notebooks on the Tate website). But that's circumstantial at best.

Like you Osmund, I can't really see a situation where Turner is at Weymouth long enough to establish anything more than brief acquaintance. Certainly he wouldn't have the materials available (nor the time) to knock out an oil portrait.

The John Gilbert sketch is interesting in that it shows Turner with similar profile and a circular palette (the Turner palette in the Fitz. is the rectangular type, but he probably owned every conceivable type).

The Gilbert sketch was widly reproduced as an engraving by Linton:

- the process of copying and printing from a zinc faced wood plate giving thicker and darker lines, results in a likeness more like our chap. The engraving apparently first published circa 1837 - though Linton morphed the circular style palette into a rectangular one.

So unless the Trimmers are related to Miss Day or Miss Marder (unlikely), we've got nothing to go on down the Turner route. There doesn't appear to be any ephemera surviving on either ladies, apart from Miss Marder subscribing to a poem of Charlotte Turner Smith's - (which is about a boat sinking off Weymouth, so doesn't promote a serious interest in the arts).

I will expand/collate all the information and primary sources/references and attach it in a single document to make it easier for future researchers.

Osmund, I can't seem to download the will of Harriet above - though it might be my shoddy internet (even average broadband is still light-years away from rural Exmoor).

Tim Williams,

This is an error of mine, for some reason I had 1861 in my mind! "Mawkes's letter apparently predates any published account of a possible Turner romance and/or engagement." It succeeds the account of Thornbury by 3 years.

Barbara Bryant,

After a long-running and fascinating discussion, it seems to be time to call a halt. On concluding, it is worth emphasizing that it is always important to consider questions such as this one within the context of the established literature. A vast amount of work has been done on Turner and there is a separate literature on his portraits which have always excited interest. Thornbury (1862, 1877), Cust (1895), Monkhouse (1896), R.J.B. Walker (1983 in Turner Studies and in the NPG's Regency Portraits, 1985, pp.513-4) have all addressed the question of this particular painting. The most recent (that I am aware of), R.J.B. Walker, takes full account of what is known in the Turner literature as "the Llewellyn portrait", and dismisses it, listing it with "Spurious Self-Portraits".

Despite the best efforts of the contributors above, it does not appear that any of the information cited in the ongoing discussion is going to contradict this evaluation. And it would seem that the focus on Turner since the painting first came to light in 1865 means that we are unlikely to learn, through the available documentation, which artist did portray himself in this work. However Tim Williams has helpfully filled in some of the provenance between 1869 and 1880 (see above). I pointed out that the Hayters acquired it from a sale at Phillips, 28 November 1883.

Walker in the NPG's Regency Portraits catalogue gives a fuller provenance for the work once it left Llewellyn's hands: Christie's 3 April 1869 (114); Christie's 9 July 1880 (76); in 1881 it is offered to the National Gallery; in November 1894 it belonged to Sir Arthur Hayter (later Baron Haversham) and we know that his widow, Lady Haversham, gave it to the National Gallery in 1929. If more information comes to light, this discussion can be reopened.