Completed North West England: Artists and Subjects, Portraits: British 19th C 11 Is this a portrait of Elizabeth Hanbury painted when she was 100 years old?

Topic: Subject or sitter

I think this is Elizabeth Hanbury painted in 1893 when she was 100. [In her Dictionary of National Biography entry, it states ‘Her portrait was painted in her 100th year by Percy Bigland, and now belongs to Lady Hanbury (widow of her husband's great-nephew) of La Mortola, Ventimiglia. A replica is in the possession of Mrs. Hanbury's son.’]

Roger Bamkin, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. The title 'Head of an Old Woman' has been retained, but the reference to Elizabeth Hanbury has now been removed. The portrait has been re-dated to 'possibly 1881' as it is very likely a life class study painted when the artist was in Munich.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion. To anyone viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.


The Collection has commented: ‘This is an interesting and plausible suggestion, and we had previously updated our records with this information. We don't have access to our collection files at present, but Mary Bennett's 1978 catalogue, 'Merseyside Painters, People & Places' suggests that other than this suggestion, we hold very little information on this portrait and that the only provenance information is that it was indeed presented by Alderman E A Cookson in 1953. We don't know where it was before that.’

Marcie Doran,

There is a portrait from 1881 of the same elderly woman at the Minneapolis Institute of Art ( The artist was Robert Koehler (1850-1917). An article about Robert Koehler by Peter C. Merrill for the Hennepin County Historical Society in Minneapolis is here:

I suspect that Percy Bigland and Robert Koehler were in the same art class in Munich in 1881 and the elderly woman was the model.

I have attached a composite for ease of comparison.

Jacob Simon,

A very convincing post from Marcie, which successfully resolves this discussion.

So is the resolution that the title, or at least supporting information, should more specifically be 'Head of an old Bavarian [peasant] woman' and the date also about 1881?

Jacob Simon,

This discussion, ”Is this a portrait of Elizabeth Hanbury painted when she was 100 years old?”, has attracted five responses since it was launched in September.

Marcie’s post (19 September), demonstrates that this portrait does not represent Hanbury. Instead the painting is very likely a life class study painted in Munich. The existing title could be retained, “Head of an Old Woman”, but without the reference to Elizabeth Hanbury. Or it could be retitled as “Head of an old Bavarian woman” if the collection prefers. The painting was almost certainly done in 1881.

As such, I would like to recommend that this discussion is closed, subject to reaction from the collection and the other group leader.

Martin Hopkinson,

It is very typically a product of Munich, but it should be remembered that several young American painters studied there at this period following Frank Duveneck, when he returned there to teach - Bacher, Blum, Wendel, Hopkins, Corwin, Rohlshoven, Pennington, John White Alexander etc see The Brooklyn Museum Quarterly, 6, 4, 1919, Lisa N Peters, The American Art Journal, 31, 1/2, 2000, pp.56-91 and The Stamp of Whistler, Oberlin College, 1977 as well publications on the individual artists. I know of monographs on Duveneck and Alexander . There will be literature on the others too

The Collection have commented: 'Based on the most recent discussion, we would retain the Head of an Old Woman title and show the date as: possibly 1881'

Martin Hopkinson,

If, as appears, the sitter was a Munich model who sat to Anglo-Saxon artists it is likely that some of the American painters listed above portrayed her too
Research in Munich might throw up names of models there at this date