Photo credit: Royal Academy of Music
The Royal Academy of Music has a portrait of the young pianist Frederick Jewson, who grew up in Edinburgh. I wonder whether it may have been done by a Scottish artist in the 1830s, before Jewson's arrival in London?
This discussion has now been closed. The title has been amended to 'Frederick Jewson (1821–1891), FRAM' and the painting description also amended to take into account the sitter's correct birth date.
This amend will appear on the Your Paintings website by the end of July 2015. 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.
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: http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/frederick-jewson-18231891-fram
Has Ian Gow been shown this? He will be able to confirm if the interior fits a Scottish setting, particularly Edinburgh
The carpet design provides a clue, particularly if it could be shown to be a pattern designed by David Hay of Edinburgh [born 1798] . Ian Gow would undoubtedly know. He is Chief Curator of the National Trust for Scotland email@example.com
I have now contacted the National Trust for Scotland.
Two other art historians who might recognise the artist are Stephen Lloyd , the expert on miniatures of this period firstname.lastname@example.org , formerly at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery
and Helen Smailes at the National Gallery of Scotland email@example.com who has studied Scottish portraiture of this period in depth
George W Simson RSA 1791 - 1862 might be a possibility as the artist
Ian Gow from the National Trust for Scotland has offered the following thoughts.
I think the dado has to be English but the piano and carpet international luxury goods with Paris as norm which could as well be in Russia – but they and stool look English to me and the room not obviously continental in wall division. I think the picture within a picture may be key unless it is just trying to look substantial and old established Georgian.
Not the right date for Friedrich Georg Weitsch but the composition reminds me of his portrait of Giacomo Meyerbeer (1803).
An early Francis Grant?
I would suggest Andrew Geddes (Scottish, b. 1783, d. 1844)
I have a very old print which if is not the sitter id your painting must be his twin brother.On the back IS THE FOLLOWING.
" MASTER LAMBTON "
After Sir Thomas Lawrence
The " RED BOY "as this veryfamous picture of Master is called, is a
delightful study of aristocratic and lovely childhood.Master Lambton was the eldest son of the Earl of Durham, born in 1818 and died in 1831. The picture was painted in 1824 by Sir Thomas Lawrence P.R.A. (1769_1830 ,who was the most famous portrait painter of his time I am happy I could forward this information Kind Regards John Fitzpatrick
I think the sitter is known, John (and it's not Charles Lambton). What is not yet known is the artist...and it's not Lawrence!
Thank you all for your comments. To fill in the background a little, Frederick Jewson was born in Edinburgh on 26 July 1823, and was a prodigious young pianist. In 1834 he came to London where he gained a King's Scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, where he later taught. In 1866 he was selected as one of the Musicians in Ordinary to Queen Victoria. His friends included many great musicians - Thalberg, Mendelssohn and Chopin, among others. He also became a director of the Academy. The portrait on the rear wall may be that of a musician, perhaps an idea of Mozart; the music itself is fictive; the piano is interesting. The portrait hangs prominently in the Academy's concert hall, the Duke's Hall, with those of other child prodigies - William Crotch (one by Beechey, another by Sanders); Samuel Wesley (Russell); Charles Wesley, though shown at the age of about Russell), and Sir Frederick Gore Ouseley when a child (Lucas). These portraits are wonderful also for their depiction of children's clothing over a stretch of about 70 or so years.
In April of 1832 a benefit concert was given for Jewson, and I wonder if this portrait was presented to him at the time (see attached from the Caledonian Mercury, April 5th, 1832). One of his patrons was Lady Hope of Hopetoun House - Jewson gave some recitals at Hopetoun and later dedicated a piece of music to Lady Hope.
The setting doesn't appear to be the Assembly Rooms but I suppose there's a possibility that it is Hopetoun.
I'm guessing that Mr D. F. Jewson who presented the portrait to the Academy was the composer's son? I'm surprised that the artist's name wasn't noted in the accession register at this time as it was only 35 years after the composer's death.
As the portrait is hanging in the concert hall, I suppose having a look at the reverse would be a logistical nightmare?
I can't find any reference to this portrait anywhere, which I find surprising as it was probably newsworthy (the composer/pianist was giving publicised concerts as young as 6 years old) - perhaps there is a library/archive in Edinburgh with some scarcer publications that someone could thumb through?
I still think Geddes or someone very close to him.
Has anybody looked for the composer's will in 1891, in which it possible that there will be reference to this portrait and its painter?
His wife outlived him another 5 years (she was a piano tutor to the Royal Family) so it'd be prudent to check her will also.
No comment for 3 months. I recommend this discussion be closed
I have asked Helen Smailes at National Galleries Scotland for her opinion on this, in case she has any ideas before it is closed.
To assist herewith a more definitive image of the background wall portrait. It appears to have a different physiognomy and age profile to Mozart's, however the thought that it may be another composer or perhaps even a clever self portrait of the artist of the composition deserves further research
Addendum- As often is the case, the Scan has also revealed an otherwise unseen date on the moulding of the dado rail above the piano stool. It reads either "1831" or "1837". Since he appears older than 7 years, it would seem to be the latter date of "1837". This would suggest he is a putitive 13 years and therefore possibly portrayed in London. Accordingly that would widen the net of its possible artist. Since there is no accompanying signature with the date, the "self portrait" suggestion of the wall portrait could provide further possibilities.
I think the only way we can take this further is if the collection can provide some high res images - it does look like there could be something on the dado rail. It would also be helpful if someone was able to check the back for any inscriptions.
If you would like a high resolution image of this image please contact:
That seems complicated (and possibly pricey?). Could Janet (Snowman) of the RAM oblige if she'd be interested in further discussion?
To (perhaps) whet her appetite...
Frederick Jewson was apparently nine when the portrait was taken, according to the RAM website ( see http://apollo.ram.ac.uk/emuweb/pages/ram/display.php?irn=10641 ).
Was this information given to them by the 1926 donor, F D (Frederick Dunbar) Jewson, his grandson? If so, and if the apparent 1831 date spotted by Geaeme on the dado is real and right, then he should really have been born in 1822 (or '21), not 1823. The website dates the picture as 1832, but this may just have been a calculation of the believed birth year +9. Or was it vice versa? There is other evidence for an 1822 birth, of which more later.
There are wills for both Frederick B (proved 7/7/1891) & his son (and FD's father) Frederick Augustus, first proved (with a much later administration) 25/2/1900. These may well say more about the portrait, but copies will cost someone £10 each. I think they were 25p each when I started in the 1970s - and they came up on a lift from the bowels of Somerset House within an hour!
I have also dug out some more information on Frederick Bowen Jewson and his family - though none of it helps the search for an artist.
I think it is unlikely that Jewson was actually born in Edinburgh - most probably London (according to all five census returns 1851-1891), though his parents came from King's Lynn in Norfolk. His father, William (baptised there in May 1796), was also a musician, and Frederick's elder brother William Edmund was also baptised there in 1818. The family were peripatetic, however, and in the mid-1820s they spent at least two and a half years in Berwick-upon-Tweed, where Frederick was christened in November 1823, along with his brother Augustus. The Jewsons were apparently still in Berwick in June 1826, when a daughter Frances was born and baptised there, but had moved to Edinburgh by February 1827, when Frederick gave a concert at the Assembly Rooms (see attached). If he was born in July 1823 he would only have been THREE years old, while the newspaper reports him as being "five years of age" - would a child prodigy have had his real age increased...more likely decreased, surely? If his birthday was indeed 26th July, this actually implies a birth year of 1821 - or early 1822 if the birthday's wrong. The censuses, though very contradictory, on balance also support 1822 (or earlier), as does his death registration - he died on 28th May 1891, and the age given was 68.
Father William seems to have died in around 1830, after which Frederick's mother, Frances (now listed in her own right in Edinburgh directories) probably handled his career - she is given as the ticket source for the Feb 1832 and later concerts. Another interesting one was on 27th June 1835, when the boy returned from London to appear in a benefit concert specifically to raise funds to keep him at the RAM (see attached). He did stay at the Academy, and was elected a King's Scholar in December 1837. His mother remained in Edinburgh till the end of the decade, but then joined her son in London where she died in 1882.
Janet, I have supporting evidence that is too lengthy to post here, but I'm happy to send it to you at the RAM.
I should add that I'm not convinced that the apparent date on the dado rail IS real. I have often thought I could see words, dates, etc on paintings, but in most cases it has been wishful thinking. Electronic tweaking can make things worse, as it over-emphasizes pictorial flaws, and adds confusing pixellated shapes to the mix. Our brains are programmed to seek logical order in such disorder - when I played around with the image using a different program it looked more like '1811', and that certainly can't be right!
But I'd be thrilled to be wrong in this case.
Helen Smailes at National Galleries Scotland has kindly replied " With all due respect, I would be very surprised if this was by Geddes (I venture that as the principal author of the National Galleries 2001 monographic exhibition). To my eyes at least, there is something slightly naïve about the handling of the figure, that is the articulation of the head and the shoulders. Attribution, it seems to me, is further complicated both by the quality of the image available, apparent condition issues [and] the fact that the social history-type clues proposed by various advisers do not appear to have been followed through. Some or all could provide clues (costume included) especially if the dating by the traditional age of the sitter needs to be double checked. What is the reason for assuming that the artist is likely to be of Scottish origin-even a London expatriate like Geddes? Not clear to me, perhaps due to my ignorance of the sitter. Given his age, this is very likely to have been a commission and, as one adviser has observed, consultation of his will might (or equally might not) provide some answers, this picture surely being a family heirloom (long experience of using British wills, C19 included, indicates that they rarely specify works of art unless these are the subject of individual bequests). Otherwise do family papers exist and if so where?"
I would add that, given Ian Gow's opinion that the interior is probably not Scottish and that by the likely date of the portrait Jewson might have already been in London, a London portraitist might be as likely as a Scottish one. Osmund's genealogical work is also useful here. We seem not to be much further forward on this one
Further to Osmund's earlier comments regarding the Date inscribed on the Dado Rail, herewith is provided a more definitive image, which shows it actually does exist. The 8 and the three are quite evident, although the end scroll of the 3 is not that clear. Likewise the faded 1 is also just discernible. As to the final faded figure, due to its slanting down stroke and denser top bar, it is most likely a 7, rather than a 1. Notwithstanding, the 8 and 3 are still actually quite definitive.
I appreciate the reasons for his view, however having created, interpreted and lectured on such technical images, from X-Rays in 1979 in London to infra-Reds and VegaScans etc through to 2014, I can assure him that the date shown here is an 'intrinsic feature' of this painting. Perhaps to better illustrate the point, kindly note the higher definition of the Carpet pattern from that of the original.
This would suggest that if Osmund's most comprehensive research on his age is correct, with a proposed c. 1822 birth date, which now seems to accord with many of the more recent contributions it would appear this is a portrait of the sitter at around 15 years in 1837 in London. I trust this may further assist the research.
We’ll have to agree to disagree on that, Greaeme. I wouldn't like to pronounce confidently on the basis of such a low-res image - one that breaks down into pixellated geometrical shapes almost immediately when enlarged or electronically tweaked. Perhaps we will get access to a more detailed one eventually.
But even if there IS a date there, I don’t think it can be 1837. I don’t know how familiar you are with C19th children’s clothing - perhaps you've lectured on that, too - but the boy is wearing something usually called a "skeleton suit". This was fashionable for perhaps 50 years from c1780. The trouble is that (a) boys seem to have worn them only till they were about 10 (and certainly not above 11 or 12), and (b) they were already going out of fashion in Britain by 1830. They seem to have been extinct by the middle of the decade, when Charles Dickens - no later than 1836 - described one as something of the past, "...in which small boys used to be confined, before belts and tunics had come in, and old notions had gone out." So even if Frederick was born as late as 1823 you have a problem, and will need to find us a British work dating after 1835 that features one...and/or a portrait of a 14-16 year-old wearing one at any period!
Though Frederick’s face looks curiously old, the head is proportionately more like someone younger, and my feeling is that the nine-years-old description is more or less right. In any event, although an 1834 London sitting is just possible if he was then only 12 (more likely 13, the standard age for commencing trainings and apprenticeships), I am veering back to Scotland. If I had to guess I’d say (pace Ian Gow) that it was done in the music room of an Edinburgh house belonging to one of his aristocratic patrons - and, incidentally, that the picture in the background may just be one of their family portraits.
I am hoping to go and look soon at microfilm of the original Berwick-on-Tweed parish records, and if we’re very lucky it may give his date of birth as well as that of his 1823 christening.
Re family papers, Frederick Jewson's only living descendants in the male line - and families tend to get progressively less interested in family chattels and papers the more removed they are from anyone with the same surname - are a thriving Jewson family in Canada, who derive from his third son, Francis (died 1920). But they were living thousands of miles away by the time their cousin Frederick Dunbar Jewson - presumably realizing after ten years of childless marriage that he was not now going to be a father - decided to find another home for the portrait (and perhaps other things). I doubt that they will have anything - but one Canadian Jewson pops up occasionally on a genealogy website I use, so I’ll try and get a message to her.
Some dating and a location could be gleaned from the identification of the piano. It looks to me like an 1830s Broadwood grand (but it could also be a Kirckman).
If a piano bod could confirm it's a Broadwood (the Academy have a curator of historic instruments who should know, or someone at Finchcocks), then Broadwood have complete client lists and delivery addresses going back to the year dot. Start with narrowing delivery to Edinburgh between say 1820-1840.
Did Jewson have any time as a performer anywhere on the Continent at an early age? For, if so, we should not entirely rule out that the painting was executed in Europe, not Britain
Is it possible for a musicologist to identify the musical score?
I think it's very unlikely he went abroad. Such a thing would have been exceptional and certainly news/publicity-worthy: I think it would have been mentioned somewhere in the thirteen stories, reviews and advertisements so far found in the pages of the Caledonian Mercury between 1827 & 1835 that feature him. There is admittedly a gap in 1830-1, so it is just possible; but in 1835 the paper talks proudly of his first year in London, and his welcome return to Edinburgh for a benefit concert - surely it would have done so after a Continental engagement? I think it's even less likely during the early part of his training in London - the Musical World, in reporting his King's Scholarship in Dec 1837, says firmly that he has been "...for the last three years at the Academy, and is a pupil of Cipriani Potter."
According to the RAM's website the score "...appears to be fictive." See: http://apollo.ram.ac.uk/emuweb/pages/ram/display.php?irn=10641
Concentrating on the piano is an interesting idea: the plaque or label visible above the keyboard seems to be inscribed with something, presumably the the maker's name, and may well be legible in a higher resolution image. Oh, how we long for one of those...heavens, the portrait's not titled and/or signed and dated on there, is it?!
I've now found evidence that Frederick's mother Frances was already the head of the family as early as 1828 - there is a series of advertisements in the Caledonian Mercury from 24 Sept to April 1829 for the sale of properties including a flat at 19 Pitt St of which she was "presently possessed" (i.e. occupied). There was almost certainly no other Mrs Jewson in Edinburgh at the time, so this means her husband William was already dead by then (or they had separated). In fact I wonder if he hadn't already died in Berwick-on-Tweed, precipitating the move to Edinburgh in 1826/27.
I find, too, that Frederick's uncle, Solomon Jewson, was also a musician/music teacher. He married a girl from Scarborough in 1822, and became thoroughly peripatetic, living in many places up and down the east coast from Newcastle down to his home turf of Holbeach, Lincs. He was giving concerts in Tyneside by 1830, which perhaps explains why Frederick's father, William, moved his family to the north-east in the 1820s. Solomon had many children from two marriages: his eldest, James Pentland, became a church organist and hymn writer.
Heavens, I can finally stop the genealogical rambling: I think I've found the evidence for Frederick's real date of birth.
According to the membership records of the Royal Society of Musicians, Frederick Bowen Jewson, admitted a member in 1849, was born on 26th July 1821, not 1823. See: http://www.royalsocietyofmusicians.co.uk/members-1849.html?zoom_highlight=jewson
I have written to ask for confirmation, but if it's right then everything else falls into place.
(1) He was indeed, as the newspaper records, five years old, not three, when he gave his first recorded Edinburgh concert in February 1827.
(2) His birthplace could, indeed, easily have been London (as all the censuses record), because he was already two years old when christened at Berwick-upon-Tweed in November 1823.
(3) His formal musical training at the RAM (from late in 1834) did, indeed, commence when he was 13 years old.
If he WAS nine when painted, and if the 1821 birth year is confirmed, this makes the portrait's date 1830-31. And even if the '9' age is wrong, costume evidence suggests it cannot possibly be later than mid-1834. Which puts us firmly and inescapably back in Edinburgh...
I have just filled in the forms and emailed a request for a higher-res image from the R.A.M. to post here, subject to it being free of charge. Slightly annoyed, it's not really my job, is it?
...it's not anybody's 'job', Osmund, just a public forum for informed and enthusiastic people like yourself to try and solve some of the art world's problems!
Of course, Andrew...but normally when we ask if a higher-res image is available, the interested party (in this case the Royal Academy of Music) and/or the PCF produces it - if the collection is happy with having it published here. At least that's what I thought happened. The application form I filled in was quite complex, and I had no idea how to fill parts of it in appropriately. I have no status at all as a recognised art historian, let alone any official affiliation with the PCF, to back up what I wrote; and although I've received an acknowledgement, I don't know whether it will be approved - or even if they'll want to charge me if it is!
If a formal written request for a high-res image has to be made - and obviously it would be more helpful if the collection produced it anyway (as some do) once they see people are asking for one - surely it is better coming officially from the PCF? I only did it myself because apart from Alice's link to the application form, there seems to have been no reaction from the RAM to anything on here - including several important questions for them - since Janet Snowman made a post many months ago with a bit of basic background info.
I'm not trying to be difficult - as you can see, I happily put many hours of work into these things, usefully or not. But adding to the work, and with an uncertainty of result, just seems a rather clunky and ad-hoc way of doing it. High-res images get requested here for a pretty large proportion of the the works being discussed.
This is Janet Snowman of the Royal Academy of Music writing. Thank you very much to everyone who has been contributing to the investigation of this painting. I’m sorry I have not responded earlier: shortly after posting my question I had to leave for some months, and have now returned to view and consider these numerous helpful responses. Concerning requests for high resolution images, these can be provided via our digitisation and picture library office (firstname.lastname@example.org) at no cost to PCF enquirers with the proviso that they are for private study and research only. If anyone would like to contact me further about this picture please email email@example.com. Thank you all very much, once again, for your contributions.
Hello, Janet, good to hear from you. I have applied for a high-res via the imageservices email; but assuming it comes, I'm not clear whether or not I may upload it here as an attachment to a post so others can see it. We don't have a personal message facility, so that's really the only way of promulgating it.
If it's simpler for you, I will email you about the other important questions I and others have about what you know of the painting and the sitter (and how), and then report back to the forum. In fact, I might as well do that anyway.
I now have the high-resolution image, which I am attaching to this. The image is reproduced with permission from the Royal Academy of Music, London, and its use is restricted to "posting temporarily on the Public Catalogue Foundation's 'Art Detective' website only".
Ian Brearey, the RAM digitisation assistant who has kindly provided it, cautions that "the image is a scan from a photographic transparency and unfortunately does not match the high quality which can be achieved from a modern digital camera". And indeed, though much better than the one we had, the same problems with a mass of scattered reflections off the varnish layer's craquelure are very much present.
The face, at least, is clear, and is of slightly better artistic quality than I'd expected. The deficiencies of other parts, though, are even more evident - especially the hands, which are very poor (though this could in part be the result of later restoration).
Sadly, the label on the piano is still wholly illegible - though I wonder if it was once less so, and if future conservation work might clarify it.
The possible date on the dado rail has, as far as I can see, disappeared without trace - I believe it was indeed a feature of the low-res pixellation, not of the painting itself.
I fear this only helps us in terms of what isn't there, not what is!
Is it conceivable that the piano maker's name plate contains an inscription relating to the artist and subject, even a signature? It is not readable in the high res image but looks as if it might be in the original.
It's slightly annoying that the artist spent considerable time on the sheet music but made a er... hash of the key signature. (pun only half intended)
I just noticed the left hand Osmund! No wonder Jewson recieved some unfavourable reviews in the press! That thumb does not lead itself to virtuosity. It's the only thing I notice now, though it may well be a restoration as you can see a darker flesh tone extending from the index finger to the page, whereas the lighter flesh tone stops abruptly a few mm before the page.
The quality did look higher when we only had the low res.
I agree Andrew, it could well be a signature - the last letter of the second row looks like X and the penultimate one is either a V or a capital N - so either a date in roman numerals or even Pinx.
Yes, I think the piano label could very possibly reveal all...if it were to be gently and skilfully cleaned (and if what matters hasn't already been lost). As it is I can't even get your V/N-X, Tim - to me it looks more like l-b-y.
I emailed Janet Snowman (RAM) with some queries about any labels on the back, and/or the source of the date/age information, but haven't heard back yet. Jewson's date of birth is now confirmed as 1821, not 1823 - his application for membership of the Royal Soc of Musicians actually includes a manuscript declaration made by his mother to a Metropolitan Police Magistrate giving his birth as "London, July the 26th, 1821". Until corrected by his mother, he had believed he was born in 1822 - the 1823 idea, however, didn't appear till after his death. So if he was, indeed, nine years old when it was painted, then the portrait dates from 1830-1, long before he left Edinburgh.
I have a couple of Edinburgh artist thoughts to share, but they'll have to wait as I need my bed. One of them had also painted, a few years earlier, the lady whom I suspect was Frederick's most generous and loyal patron. More tomorrow.
P.S. Tim, I think I've only spotted one partially - and very gently - negative review (Cal Mercury 29 June 1835), and that didn't criticize his virtuosity - quite the opposite, in fact...they wanted him not to rush the tempo, and learn the value of a 'well-executed returdando' [sic] (plus more light and shade from his cresc. and dim.). I suspect his real thumbs were just fine...!
Tried to clarify the letters I see on the attachment - 99% certain its an X rather than a Y and 50/50 on V/N (the black line being where it breaks up into pixels). If I make the image any bigger it's lost in the sea of pixels.
I can't remember where I read the unfavourable review - it was during his tenure at the RAM. I think the jist of it was that he played well but was lacking in expression, it possibly also criticised his 'set list' - or moreover probably one of his own compositions. It would have been in one of the digitised newspapers. It was about 5 months ago that I did the bulk of my searching and was left with the impression that everyone thought Jewson would be the next Chopin due to his virtuosity, but when it came to compositions he was dated in style and they were left wanting.
Speaking as a decorative arts person, and looking at the piano and the carpet, I would simply say that the scene depicted would be towards 1840 than earlier. Betty Elzea
I don't think it can be as late as that, Betty, unless it isn't of Jewson at all (which from its history it must be). Actually I found the other day an online image of an 1832 London-made Érard piano that has the same type of legs, and quite similar heavily-carved brackets at the keyboard ends - images attached.
I know little about carpets, but the colours and pattern don't seem inconsistent with early C19th French designs.
Well, I'm rather excited, as I've just found a virtually identical (grand) piano in the Met Museum in New York - a Broadwood dated 1827: http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/503056
Almost every detail is the same - the leg-shape and castors; the music rack; the form of the pedal 'lyre'; the heavy double-scroll / acanthus / anthemion carving at the side arm (which we can now see is applied); even the gadroon beading on the 'key slip' (below the keys) that continues round the side. I am attaching an image of the same part of the Met's piano as our portrait shows - if you flip between it and the detail of Jewson's piano I posted above you can see just how closely they coincide. About the only significant difference is in the shape & size of the maker's name-plaque, and the brass inlay round it.
So it now looks like the painting does, indeed, show a Broadwood piano (as Tim suggested many weeks ago), and it's probably the same model and of much the same date. The Broadwood archive is at Surrey History Centre - it is so full and detailed that (as Tim again suggested) it should be possible to trace the buyer and delivery address for most such pianos sold at around this time. We have two newspaper lists (1832 & 1835) of Frederick's important Scottish patrons, so at some point I may make a (not very long) journey to Woking to see what I can find. I will be starting, actually, with Lady Hope of Craighall (and Pinkie), who is one of only four patrons whose names appear on both lists - and to whom, most interestingly, Jewson dedicated a Sonata early in 1839, after he'd gone to London.
Where it gets even more interesting is that in 1826 a portrait of Lady Hope was exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy (or its forerunner) - it was by a fairly successful Edinburgh artist, John Syme, a former pupil and assistant of Raeburn's, and I will write more about him later (if someone else doesn't do so first!). For the moment I will just observe that although his better work far exceeds this in skill, his output seems to have been of very variable quality (and indeed style) - and there are details in some of his portraits that make me think he might just possibly be our man...especially if Frederick Jewson has suffered some later clumsy bedaubing.
But it’s only an outside chance – in Gray’s Edinburgh Directory of 1832-33 there are about 35 portrait painters listed (miniaturists are shown separately), and the following year there are no less than 45! Absolutely nothing is recorded about the vast majority of them.
Examples of John Syme's work can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/search/painted_by/john-s-syme_artists
This is my Great, Great, Great paternal Grandfather. I find him do intruguing. Lovely reading about him and seeing this image.
Tina, how nice to hear from the family. If you want to exchange further info, perhaps the PCF could forward an email on to me (or vice versa)? I have gathered a fair bit more about Frederick and his musical family since this thread was active, though none of it helps much in pinning down the artist. I would put it on here, but I've recently gathered that long and very detailed posts (as mine tend to be) are not really what they want on Art Detective - apparently the PCF is worried that they put off casual visitors to the site.
The Royal Academy of Music have very kindly taken some details of the paino maker's label (sadly made illegible by bituminous paint- if it ever was meant to be legible) and of the portrait in the background (too large to attcah here but accessible on dropbox (https://www.dropbox.com/sh/v0boyh18a5jmmty/AABvfuBT7VqP3z69JLwsyqHKa?dl=0) The RAM ask if the order or decoration around the neck of the sitter might be identifiable.
Yes, label illegible, even when tweaked - could try UV/IR. Sorry, no order/decoration in background pic, just bog standard C18th cravat/scarf - IMHO just a family portrait on wall of house where Jewson painted. RAM/Janet: why all the close-ups of the carpet pattern - do you think there's something else there?
I have emailed the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in the hope they can give their opinion on this discussion, specifically with regards to John Syme.
While John Syme might be a possibility, his style looks too brushy and in the manner of Raeburn, whereas what we are dealing with in the Jewson portrait is a harder-edged handling, perhaps more characteristic of a European-trained artist or one who had travelled abroad.
We had a useful comment some 6 months back from Helen Smailes at the National Gallery of Scotland who questioned whether the portrait was by a Scot at all.
This is a tough nut to crack but perhaps the collection might need to delve into family history, locating a will, as was mentioned earlier.
The relevant Wills were identified six months ago (see above) - but post-1858 ones cost a tenner each to see nowadays, so that won't happen. Not sure what else could be done in terms of family history - huge amount of research already, as previously posted. Many later discoveries about the family I withheld (or communicated direct to Janet Snowman at RAM), as not really relevant to central discussion about the artist, and/or too long & detailed for Art Detective.
Barbara, I agree that Syme is not stylistically obvious; but his work shows huge variation, and a circumstantial case can be made for him, based on circles of patronage. In the late 1820s Syme painted portraits of both Sir John Hope, Bt, of Pinkie (Craighall) and of his wife Anne; and c1831 Henry (later Lord) Cockburn also sat for him. Now, Lady (Anne) Hope was quite possibly Jewson's single most important patron, while another important one, Lady Dick Lauder, was married to Henry Cockburn's closest friend, Sir Thomas Dick Lauder. Lady Hope or her husband were also closely related to several other patrons of Jewson's.
I'm attaching images of some Syme portraits (or prints after them) from the late 1820s/early 30s.
Thanks for this, Osmund. I suggested that the collection itself might like to pursue the late 19C wills, particularly Frederick Jewson's own and his wife's, since this was a portrait with the family until 1926.
The child portraits by Syme have some similarity, but I don't think it's enough to make a firm attribution.
To clarify, and given that we don't have all the biographical information here, is 1821 established definitely as Jewson's birth date?
Was it ever possible to look at the back of the painting, as Tim Williams asked 10 months ago?
Sorry, Helen Smailes of National Galleries Scotland also told me recently that "I wouldn’t be convinced about Syme myself".
Indeed, my Syme suggestion was only 'faute de mieux'. As I wrote before, "... it's only an outside chance – in Gray’s Edinburgh Directory of 1832-33 there are about 35 portrait painters listed ... Absolutely nothing is recorded about the vast majority of them."
As Andrew previously observed, individual artworks are seldom mentioned in wills - to which I would add that even when they are, the artist usually isn't (unless famous). But there seems nothing else left to try.
Yes, the first key pair of wills to examine would be those of Frederick Bowen Jewson himself (proved 1891); and of his widow Jane Harriet Jewson (proved 1897). If those drew a blank one might move on to that of his son (and the donor's father) Frederick Augustus Jewson (first proved 1900, with a much later second administration after his widow's death in 1926). Probate listings attached. I mentioned the wills & cost to Janet Snowman of the RAM in November, but she made no response about getting them - a non-starter, I fear.
Barbara, I think I did confirm Frederick's birth place & date (London, 26 July 1821) in a post some months ago. And while I would love to write more here about how we know, I daren't: the necessary proofs required to alter long-accepted biographical dates are unfortunately the sort of detailed discussion-with-evidence that I gather the PCF is not keen on for the forum. If you want to know/see more, perhaps you could get an email forwarded to me - I have images of all the 1849 documents from the Royal Soc of Musicians archive that provide the primary source evidence, and which support other mentions to the same effect . In December Janet said that she would change his details on the RAM database, but so far it seems unchanged.
Re the back of the portrait, Janet wrote to me in Dec "Getting it off the wall – it is large and heavy – is not something we can do without art handlers; I will check if it has a backboard. Our own maintenance staff, whom I trust, are always so frantic with work and are not so happy doing this type of job. But let me run my hand behind it first". No news since then.
Thanks for this update, Osmund, and especially for the confirmation of the birth date of Jewson. I think the ball is in the court of the RAM now. They might like to take all this on board and deal with it when they can. The discussion has run for a year and much has been been aired. To get an accurate birth date for the sitter is important. One really would have to see the painting itself and the back of it to go any further, so for now I recommend this discussion is closed. If new material comes to light, we can of course open it again.
Thank you very much to everyone for their research and suggestions. The clarification of Frederick Jewson’s birth date is now in our catalogue records. We have posted some new but inconclusive photography, we are unable at present to get the painting down and view the back, and we await copies of the wills. If any new information arises, we will post it. Until new information comes to light, the discussion is now closed. Thank you again to all who have posted over this past year. Janet Snowman