East of England and The Midlands: Artists and Subjects, London: Artists and Subjects, Portraits: British 19th C 42 Could we establish who painted this portrait of Charles James Blomfield?

Topic: Artist

Currently catalogued as by a follower of Thomas Lawrence, could we establish who painted Blomfield? Martin Hopkinson has previously suggested Samuel Lane, but we were not able at the time to find a corresponding print in the British Museum print collection online. Is the portrait related to Blomfield becoming Bishop of London in 1828? [assigned discussion leader: Jacob Simon]

Martin Hopkinson, Entry reviewed by Art UK


Scott Thomas Buckle,

This is most probably the portrait of 'The Bishop of London (C. J. Blomfield), by Eden Upton Eddis that was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1847 (no.16). The date of the portrait seems right, and the style matches that of other portraits by Eddis. The low number in the RA catalogue indicates that it would be an oil painting, as opposed to higher numbers for watercolours, drawing etc. Eddis also excelled as a portrait draughtsman, but in this instance we can be sure that his exhibited portrait of Blomfield was in oils.

Jacob Simon,

Scott's is a very helpful proposition.

Scott Thomas Buckle,

Eden Upton Eddis also exhibited a portrait of 'The Bishop of London' (Blomfield)' at the Royal Academy in 1851 (no.429). This was exhibited in the Middle Room of the Royal Academy, so once again it was most probably a portrait in oils.

Marcie Doran,

There might be some useful information regarding the 1851 portrait in the attached extract from the ‘Daily News (London)’ of May 14, 1851. I think a copy of the F. Grant “companion” piece mentioned in the article might be the following work:

‘Thomas Wilde (1782–1855), 1st Baron Truro, Lord Chancellor (copy after Francis Grant)’
by Thomas Youngman Gooderson (active 1846–1868)
Parliamentary Art Collection

Jacinto Regalado,

Blomfield was also painted by Samuel Lane (1826 and 1844).

Scott Thomas Buckle,

Samuel Lane's earlier portraits are quite different, but his later works are closer in style and format to the Blomfield portrait here discussed. One thing in support of Lane is that he sometimes includes a related building in the background of the portrait - for example his 1844 portrait of Alderman Anthony Brown (Guildhall Art Gallery).

Marcie Doran,

I don’t see a monogram, Kieran.

I have attached a composite based on the portrait of Alderman Anthony Brown, Scott.

The book “A Memoir of Charles James Blomfield, D.D., Bishop of London: With Selections from His Correspondence” (edited by Alfred Blomfield, 1864) includes a paragraph that begins as follows: “When some one remarked that his portrait painted soon after he became a Bishop, represented him with a decided frown ...” https://tinyurl.com/4cmwh72m

Christina Corsiglia,

Might Thomas Phillips also be considered as the artist responsible for this portrait of Charles Blomfield? There are aspects of the portrait that have much in common with others known to be by Phillips. Most notably, the composition as a whole, with the figure seated in front of classicizing architecture with a view, in this case of St. Paul’s Cathedral, under a dramatically cloudy sky, repeats a formula employed in numerous other portraits by Phillips. It must be said that this conceit was widely used, for instance, by Samuel Lane as shown here, as well as by Thomas Lawrence, which may help explain why the portrait has been attributed to one of his ‘followers’. I have recently been working on an attribution for and the provenance of a portrait of Rev. John Sleath (1767 -1847), who was headmaster of St. Paul’s School from 1814-1837. While it is still not certain, it seems likely that it was painted by Thomas Phillips. The portrait was evidently ‘rediscovered’ by staff of St. Paul’s School in 1893, but was not then, nor subsequently, attributed. Though its full provenance is still being determined, what is known is that the Mercer’s Company, the governing body of the school, commissioned a portrait of Sleath from Phillips, which was shown at the RA in 1831. Thus far, it appears that the painting was given to Sleath, who in turn gave it to a pupil, whose daughter then gave it to Dr. Herbert Kynaston, subsequent headmaster of St. Paul’s. My reason for invoking the portrait of Sleath is its obvious similarity to that of Charles Blomfield, but there are also several other similarly composed portraits by Phillips, of which I’ve attached images. While Phillips did not exhibit a portrait of Charles Blomfield at the Royal Academy, only about 315 of some 700 portraits that are listed in the copy of his sitters book (NPG) were shown there. As I’m in the US, I’m unable to consult Phillips’ sitters book, but it might be worthwhile to see if Charles Blomfield is there included.

Jacinto Regalado,

Lane painted Blomfield twice, and if our picture is by him, it is more likely to be the later portrait (1844).

Christina Corsiglia,

Thanks, Jacinto. In fact, if the portrait in question is by Lane, it would have to be after his later (1844) portrait, since the prints after his 1826 portrait are clearly not based on this painting and also depict him wearing a wig. I’m aware of the NPG’s ‘All Known Portraits’ listings, which are invaluable and extremely helpful. For the most part, however, those include works that were known by 1973 (for the Early Victorian Portraits Catalogue) or by 1985 (for the Regency Portraits Catalogue). There are numerous portraits that have come to light since that aren’t included in those lists. In fact, one of the portraits in the NPG’s list of all known portraits of Charles Blomfield, described as “a painting by an unknown artist is recorded in the Athenaeum, Bury St. Edmunds, by the Rev. E. Farrer, Portraits in Suffolk Houses (West) (1908), p. 51”, would appear, from the detailed description of it in that publication, to be the very portrait of Blomfield under discussion. There is nothing therein that precludes an attribution of the painting to Phillips.

Jacinto Regalado,

Yes, the Bury St Edmunds location would fit this portrait being the one described in the 1908 book. The picture is on long-term loan to the St Edmundsbury Cathedral Chapter Meeting Room, which may complicate matters, but it needs to be inspected for a signature and the back should also be checked (unless all that has been previously done and the results are known to the collection).

Marcie Doran,

I have attached four articles that should be of interest. They mention:
1. Blomfield’s father was from Bury St. Edmunds, noted in the ‘Illustrated London News’ of June 5, 1847;
2. A portrait of the Bishop of London at Sion College, Oxford, in the ‘Saint James Chronicle’ of December 27, 1856;
3. A subscription started for the purpose of having Ladbrooke copy the Eddis portrait of the Bishop of London in the ‘Bury Free Press’ of October 3, 1857, and
4. The copy of the Eddis portrait completed by Ladbrooke in the ‘Chelmsford Chronicle’ of May 21, 1858.

Kieran Owens,

Having been described in Marcie's last attachment above as "our skilful townsman", the artist referred to therein is likely to be Frederick Ladbrooke (1810-1865), one of the artist sons of Robert Ladbrooke, who had died in 1841. Two of the other sons were Henry and John Berney Ladbrooke. Of the three, Frederick was the only one living in Bury St. Edmunds in the 1850s. In the 1851 UK Census he is described as an "Artist, Portrait and Landscape painter".



Jacinto Regalado,

An 1840 print shows Blomfield looking possibly somewhat older than he does in our picture:


By the 1850s, he looked much older:


Thus, this picture may well be pre-1840 and could conceivably be from c. 1828 when he became Bishop of London, at the age of 42.

Marcie Doran,

I downloaded the high resolution image of this work from the Art UK website and it shows a definite white sideburn on Blomfield’s cheek.

If this portrait is indeed the 1858 Frederick Ladbrooke copy of an earlier Eddis portrait, I think that earlier portrait was either the 1847 Eddis portrait that Scott first mentioned or the 1851 portrait. Edis was born in 1812, therefore he wouldn’t have produced the 1828 painting that is by an unknown artist.

The composite, attached, shows my preferred ordering of the works that Jacinto mentioned.

Here are three articles to add to the information on the NPG website:
- Articles in the ‘Cheshire Observer’ of November 2, 1872, and February 1, 1873, about a portrait of Blomfield by William Jones in the Cheshire General Infirmary
- A discussion in ‘The Queen’ of January 26, 1901, of an 1846 drawing of Blomfield in “black and white chalk, with a touch of red and expressive” by George Richmond, R.A.

Marcie Doran,

Here is a brief follow-up regarding the ‘c. 1828’ work that was painted after Blomfield became Bishop of London.

I believe that artist was W. Jones of Chester. As noted in the NPG listing for Blomfield, W. Jones had a painting of Blomfield in the Royal Academy exhibition of 1829. The catalogue entry, attached, shows it is ‘Portrait of the Lord Bishop of London’ (288) by W. Jones. In the list of exhibitors his address is “Chester” (see attached). Since Blomfield had been Bishop of Chester, it makes sense that someone from Chester would have prepared his first portrait upon attaining the position of Bishop of London.

I have also attached a not very useful article from the ‘Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser’ of October 9, 1830, about an exhibition that included a portrait of Blomfield by W. Jones (likely the R.A. work).

Jacob Simon,

This discussion, “Could we establish who painted this portrait of Charles James Blomfield?”, has attracted 21 responses, all in the first ten days following launch in November.

From the age of the sitter and from Marcie’s “three images” composite (22/11/2021 20:09), it would seem that our portrait may date to the 1840s or shortly before. Samuel Lane exhibited an oil portrait at the RA in 1844 and Eden Upton Eddis did so in 1847 (see Scott’s and other posts). While there are plenty of portraits by these two artists on Art UK, there is not enough difference in their styles to decide which (if either) painted our portrait, working from on-screen images. For my own part, I marginally favour Eddis but not with any great confidence.

I can’t see that this discussion can be taken further on the evidence available to us so I will recommend closing it in a week’s time unless other factors emerge in the interval. We can at least reflect this discussion in any commentary on the portrait.

Jacob Simon,

I now recommend closing this discussion, subject to the agreement of the collection and other group leaders.

As set out in the preceding post we have not been able to establish the artist with sufficient confidence to recommend an attribution.

Jacob Simon,

Pity that nothing happened following my recommendation and Grant's.

Kieran Owens,

Why is the request continuously being made to close unresolved discussions? When this happens, all of the existing postings become unavailable and if new evidence emerges a time-wasting re-presentation of these potentially helpful ideas has to be undertaken.

It seems pointless to base the judgement to close a discussion on the principle that "I can’t see that this discussion can be taken further on the evidence available to us". Is it not the whole point of the Art Detective challenge to consider what evidence is before us and to build on that, no matter how long it takes for someone, perhaps more preceptive or better informed or better equipped, to uncover relevant new details and to lead to a positive outcome?

The constant and inexplicably illogical call to close unresolved discussions undermines the valuable voluntary time and effort that many of us expend in order to reveal the evidence that might eventually lead to a happy resolution.

Once opened, a discussion should remain live until the various details being sought are found and the Art UK team or the relevant collection approves of the confirmatory evidence presented. It is an arrogance for anyone to decide that a discussion should be closed just because it is not currently attracting attention. If a discussion has languished for some subjectively relevant length of of time, it is for the various group leaders to prompt us all to re-examine long-standing but unresolved discussions, not to call for their abandonment. There is a clue in the name....group "leaders".

Just imagine how much shorter and unsatisfying Arthur Conan Doyle's novels would be if Watson's advice to Holmes had always been, at some early point in the story, that there was not yet enough evidence to resolve a case and that the latter should therefore give up his investigations. Even Conan Doyle allows time for cases to reach their conclusion following Holmes' long-drawn-out catatonic stupors.

Kieran Owens,

It is evident to me, as I pointed out on 13/11/2021 at 20:17, above, that there is a purposefully made mark, perhaps the artist's monogram, in the area circled in the attached composite. If this is not a figment of my own imagination, it might provide an important clue as to who exactly is the artist. Could a hi-res of this area be posted, please?

1 attachment
Jacob Simon,

Comments on the two preceding posts.

The first post concerns closing discussions. In this case the two group leaders at the time, myself and Grant recommended closure of this particular discussion (6/03/2022). Either the powers that be at Art UK accept recommendations made by group leaders to close a discussion. Or the system is brought into disrepute. And the role of group leaders is made redundant.

The second post concerns a background mark in the picture, previously featured by Kieran (13/11/2021), who asked if his attached image could contain an artist's monogram? As Marcie said at the time, she could not see a monogram. Never say never, but in my judgment an artist would not place a monogram in such a position close to the head of a portrait and, secondly, I suggest that the mark is fortuitous, reflecting the portrait’s long history.

Kieran Owens,

Jacob, why? Why did you and Grant recommend the closure of the discussion? What possible useful purpose could that serve? Such a move denies to researchers, some of whom might be new to the Art Detective mission, the opportunity of considering the proposals that have been made by various contributors, in this case Martin Hopkinson in 2021, and of taking up the challenge set out in their original propositions. Does it cost Art UK to keep open these discussions? Is there a memory capacity problem for their database? If neither is the case, what possible advantage could there be to closing a discussion that anyone has deemed it appropriate to open and that remains available for some existing or new contributor to provide to it some useful suggestions, no matter how long those might take to make.

As for the mysterious mark on this discussion's portrait, it might well be the case that it is insignificant. But, as far as I am concerned, it is there, purposively placed, and therefore I would appreciate it if someone could post a hi-res image of the area so that it might be more carefully considered. Is that too much to ask? If so, let's all give up now.

Jacob Simon,

Differing visions. Art Detective is admirable for the way it solves problems concerning artist, subject matter, date, etc, of some pictures. However, other discussions are sometimes intractable. It is my judgement that a discussion can reach a point where it is not likely to be profitable to keep it open. In this particular case I gave fair warning of the proposal to close it ( 01/02/2022). There was no response and I then recommended closure a month later (06/03/2022).

I have noticed that it is new discussions, or attractive old ones when pushed to the top of the list, that gain the attention of Art Detectives. Others languish. I would like to see more new discussions and fewer intractable “old discussions that never die”. Goodness me, there are enough pictures on Art UK which warrant a discussion to keep us going for ever and a day. The problem is not one of database file capacity as far as I know but of staff resources in an institution fully deserving of support. I suspect that it is lack of staffing that accounts for the occasional slow response by Art UK. In such circumstances certain unrealistic requests may be set aside.

Martin Hopkinson,

Jacob's points are perfectly understandable and fair and I think that we are very unlikely to get any further on this without serious positive evidence

Kieran Owens,

It might well be that "we are unlikely to get any further on this without serious positive evidence" but why close it or any other discussion? Such an act denies the possibility of a new approach resulting in the discovery of "serious positive evidence" and a good conclusion. Let it slip down the list, by all means, and happily introduce or welcome new discussions. But also allow those curious enough to investigate old discussions to consider their merits.

Jacinto Regalado,

As I understand it, It is up to Art Detective leadership (namely Marion) and the Group Leaders to establish whatever policy they deem best. The rest of us can all have and express our recommendations or opinions, to which we are all entitled, and while disagreements are to be expected, they must also be allowed and respected. None of us is obliged to bow or defer to another just because the other holds a diametrically opposed view, and ultimately it is not our place to set policy anyway, though we may certainly make suggestions, freely. It is those in charge who will choose and decide what approach to take.

Kieran Owens,

Perhaps, therefore, Marion would be so kind as to clarify the situation regarding Art UK's current policy in this regard. That way we can all to bow or defer to it for as long as it pertains.

Jacinto Regalado,

It may be that there is no overarching policy that is applied uniformly to every case, but rather a more individualized approach that depends on the nature of the specific case, which is not unreasonable.

Jacob Simon,

I agree with Jacinto (01 and 02/05/2023). I believe that group leaders in recommending closure of a discussion are tasked to take a view as follows:

● a discussion has reached a reliable conclusion
● a discussion is unlikely to reach a reliable conclusion
● you are unable to decide which of several possible conclusions is the most reliable

Discussions are not kept open indefinitely. A group leader has a judgement to make if the role is to be meaningful. I'd suggest that this all the clarification that we need (see Kieran, 02/05/2023).

Kieran Owens,

I still have not received any cogent reasoning as to why opened discussions should be closed, no matter how seemingly difficult their resolving has proven to be over any prolonged period of time. The history of policing shows that languishing cold cases can successfully be brought to a satisfactory conclusion when fresh mind, energetic efforts and new sources of evidence are brought once again to bear on them. In any given week, between 100,000 and 450,000 pages are added to the British Newspaper Archive database, allowing for new possibilities of discovering relevant information regarding artwork attributions. New books and journals are constantly being added to the Internet Archive database, too, to mention but one other useful resource. Given these ongoing improvements, what is the problem with leaving discussions open? if the role is to be meaningful, a group leader has a judgement to make as to how best to encourage further research, not just to arbitrarily shut down a discussion just because it has remained idle for a while.

As a group leader my understanding is that the closure of a discussion is a tool you use to sharpen the course of the investigation - reining in one that has disappeared on a tangent or attempting to galvanise one that has started to peter out. So I can see why, as Jacob points out, it is a critical tool that keeps bringing the focus back to the balance of proof needed to make a judgement and gives a dynamic edge to the forum of open discussions. However, I also agree with Kieran that it would be good to be able to revive a 'cold case' without going back to the start when new information happens to emerge, but this may require some reprogramming of the system. Definitely an issue to be raised at the next group leader meeting. Over to you Marion!

Martin Hopkinson,

It is just possble that the digitisation of the Witt Library now underway may help us as that photographic library is arranged by artists

Martin Hopkinson,

The parallel digiitsation of the collection of photographs of sculpture in the Conway Library has recently been completed
Is the Warburg Library photo library arranged by subjects also being digitised?

Osmund Bullock,

The digitisation of the Conway's images may be complete, but public access to the ones of sculpture has actually not yet begun. Around a third of the library's nearly one million images are now online, but so far they are all from the architecture section. I was assured in March that "Conway will be released as a digital library by the end of this month", so I expect it is just a question of them doggedly working through the huge uploading process over the next few weeks or months.

Digitising the Witt images is a rather bigger undertaking (and being done in a different way): so far over 50% of the British School has been done - "a selection of 260,000 mounted images covering artists born between 1200 and 1799" - and they say these will be accessible on the website "shortly". The remaining two million will be digitised in a project starting this summer, and they plan to make them accessible "in phases over a period of 14 to 16 months".

Some of the Warburg's eccentric collections are already online, but I'm not sure the library holds much that would be of use in our sort of art historical research. The Institute's focus is on a broader study of "cultural history and the role of images in culture" rather than individual works of art. I suppose there might be interesting information on the symbolism of earlier artworks (something of which I'm very ignorant). But even that is a bit narrow for the Warburg - it's more concerned with iconology than simple iconography.

Sorry, that's all getting way off-topic, but simple questions often need less simple answers - and the Witt/Conway info is perhaps of general relevance and interest.

Martin Hopkinson,

Thank you so much Osmund for clarifying the situation

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