Portraits: British 18th C, Wales: Artists and Subjects 10 Is this a portrait by an artist with local links to Anglesey?

Topic: Artist

This portrait of Ambrose Lewis is dated 1726 and shows the arms of Hwfa ap Cynddelw (d. c1139), Lord of Llifon and founder of the noble tribe of North Wales. Ambrose Lewis (c.1656–1729) was the rector of Llanrhuddlad and became the largest landowner in the parish of Cemlyn on the north coast of Anglesey. His main residence was Neuadd, a short distance from Cemlyn Bay. Descended from the Presaddfed stock, his son William was later bequeathed the Llysdulas Estate. He was buried at Llanrhwydrys Church. Unfortunately, we have no clues as to the identity of the artist. Could it be an itinerant artist or someone with local links? Edward Owen of Penrhos was active at the time, moving between Anglesey and London where he received his training. Incidentally, in 2014 the arms of Hwfa ap Cynddelw were adopted as the official flag for Anglesey.

Oriel Môn, Entry reviewed by Art UK


Jacinto Regalado,

It is certainly provincial work. Edward Owen was a pupil of Thomas Gibson, and his self-portrait from 1732 (below) appears more accomplished (albeit inferior to Gibson):


Marcie Doran,

I am wondering if the artist was John Smibert.

According to Wikipedia, “John Smibert (rarely spelled Smybert) was a Scottish American artist born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 24 March 1688, and died in Boston, Massachusetts, British America on 2 April 1751“.

Please see, for comparison, this work at the Yale University Art Gallery.
“Reverend Joseph Sewall (1688-1769)
ca. 1735
Oil on canvas
29 7/8 × 24 3/4 in. (75.9 × 62.9 cm)“

Note that it is also oval and has a similar background colour, collar and robe.

The hair in this portrait of the exact same size at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston is similar.
“Thomas Hancock
John Smibert (American (born in Scotland), 1688–1751) 1730
Oil on canvas
76.2 x 63.5 cm (30 x 25 in.)”

Osmund Bullock,

Marcie, 30 x 25 in. was an absolutely standard canvas size for hundreds of years. Probably hundreds of different painters used it for thousands of different portraits, so as evidence of anything it is almost useless. Similarly, framing a portrait within a painted oval was fashionable in the 17th & early 18th Century, and many, many different painters did so. The exact way the oval is painted can be revealing, but if you look carefully at the bottom corners of both your Smiberts you'll see they are done differently to ours.

Besides, Smibert may not have been the *most* sophisticated of artists, but he was streets ahead of our very provincial, almost primitive artist, who was probably self-taught.

Osmund Bullock,

Sorry, I should have said "... almost naïve artist" rather than 'primitive'.

Jacinto Regalado,

The sitter's vital dates should appear in the Art UK entry.

Jacob Simon,

Little progress after 18 months. I suggest two ways forward:

1. Could Art UK provide a higher resolution image of the inscriptions a bit below the shield, please.

2. Can we identify an expert in Welsh artists, and itinerant artists in Wales, of the period around the 1720s? Pobably most likely to be found at the National Museum or the National Library but not known to me.

Jacob Simon,

The inscription is in three lines with line 3 in a different hand.

Line 1: The Revd Mr Ambrose Lewis (or something like)

Line 2: illegible? The name of the artist??

Line 3: Aetatis Suae 65 1726 (or something like)

Jacob Simon,

Just to report that this portrait does not feature in John Steegman's published survey of portraits in Welsh houses. Nor is it recorded in the Heinz Archive and Library, NPG.

So I continue to suggest that an answer to the discussion question, "Is this a portrait by an artist with local links to Anglesey?" lies in Wales and probably beyond the reach of Art Detectives.

Jacob Simon,

Am I right in suggesting, see above, that an answer to this discussion question, "Is this a portrait by an artist with local links to Anglesey?" lies in Wales and probably beyond the reach of Art Detectives?

Please support your comments with evidence or arguments.

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