Forward Portraits: British 18th C, Wales: Artists and Subjects 5 Is this a portrait by an artist with local links to Anglesey?

NWM_OYM_17_2019
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

5 comments

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):

https://bit.ly/36oplMz

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)“
https://artgallery.yale.edu/collections/objects/9899

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
MEDIUM/TECHNIQUE
Oil on canvas
DIMENSIONS
76.2 x 63.5 cm (30 x 25 in.)”
https://collections.mfa.org/objects/33922/thomas-hancock?ctx=34bbfe97-08ca-4612-912f-5b90f988c4b9&idx=0

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.

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