Dress and Textiles, Maritime Subjects, Portraits: British 18th C, Portraits: British 19th C 41 Is this painting by Thomas Hickey and not Arthur William Devis?

Admiral Peter Rainier
Topic: Artist

Did we incorrectly re-attribute this portrait of Admiral Rainier in 2000? Was the original attribution to Thomas Hickey actually correct all along? To us it doesn't 'look' like a Devis and an actual Devis portrait of Rainier (less attractive than ours) has since surfaced at Christie's in July 2015. https://bit.ly/3w3icgw Perhaps that is more probably the one engraved later by Charles Turner (for use in such publications as E.P. Brenton’s history of the British Navy, which refers to an original painting owned by Basil Cochrane)? We also have an engraving (of this?), cropped and artist/engraver unnamed and we still have that catalogued as 'after Hickey'. https://bit.ly/3lT7Ivm. Part of the confusion in 2000 centred on the National Maritime Museum's portrait of Captain Rainier, actually the nephew of our man and now plain for all to see here on Art UK https://bit.ly/3w4gCuT. That shares a similar plain brown background and is so close in date (ours has to be post-November 1805 because of Rainier's promotion to Admiral of the Blue and the NMM painting is from 1806) that it raises at least a possibility that uncle and nephew were both painted in India in close succession to each other. Further stylistic opinions would be welcome. Note also the DNB reference to a painting of Rainier owned by Rev. Halliday...the same as that later owned by Cochrane or a different one? Just to add that we know of the MFA Boston portrait https://bit.ly/3tWlO22 now said to be by an unidentified British artist, which looks nothing like either the Christie's painting (by Devis) or ours (by Devis or Hickey??)

College of Optometrists, Entry reviewed by Art UK

41 comments

Christopher Foley,

If the two portraits were indeed painted from the life in 1805-6 in India, then they cannot be by A W Devis, who returned to London in or about 1795. He was painting the famous "Death of Nelson" shortly after HMS Victory returned with Nelson's body after Trafalgar, and was present at the autopsy onboard the ship done by the ship's surgeon Dr Beatty (1803). Hickey, on the other hand, returned to India in or about 1798, and was there until he died in Madras in 1824.

Whaley Turco,

The 2 Paintings are quite similar in composition. Even down to whatever that is going on with his Glasses.

The uniform is the 1795 pattern flag-officer's full dress with twin stars on the epaulettes denoting vice-admiral. Rainier reached that rank as Vice-Admiral of the Blue on 14 February 1799, of the White on 29 April 1802, of the Red on 23 April 1804, and rose to Admiral of the Blue (his final rank) in the post Trafalgar promotions of 9 November 1805.

Despite its rather grim condition the parallel portrait sold by Christie's in 2015 looks credibly by A. W Devis and also has the two stars on the epaulettes and -though such things could be adjusted after first painting - there's no obvious reason to think they were.

So assuming the 2015 'Devis' to be more original than the Optometrists's example -certainly not Devis's hand -, it was painted between February 1799 and October 1805 and in England, which rules out Hickey since (as we are told above) he was back in India from 1798. The prime reason his name seems to have appeared is because of confusion of the sitter with his nephew Captain Peter Rainier as painted in India by Hickey in 1806. (The younger Rainier, b. 1784, was out of the East some time after 1807 and in the Atlantic as captain of the frigate 'Niger' in 1813-14. He may not have served after the end of the Napoleonic War in 1815 when he was awarded the CB but his biography thereafter to his death in 1836 is not obvious.)

Since the Charles Turner mezzotint - painter not stated but certainly from the 'Devis' image, including the two epaulette stars - was only made in 1824, Hickey is unlikely to have either seen or copied it : he died in India in 1824 (aged 82 or 83). I also suggest its not good enough to be Hickey albeit of similar colouration: it looks like a copy, whether from the 1824 print or not.

There is a very good portrait of Rainier senior as a captain in 1774-87 uniform in the MFA Boston, though of much disputed attribution:

https://collections.mfa.org/objects/31255

An image search also throws up a goo Pinterest colours shot, but the link is too long to add. Albeit by-the-bye I'm curious that Romney isn't in the MFA mix of suspects.

The likely truth about the present portrait is 'after Devis' -or at least the print - by an probably unidentifiable hand but that's just my guess.

Ooops! Big mistake from being fixated on the uniform and the apparently closer relationship of the Christie 'Devis' and the 1824 print, I missed the blindingly obvious: I'd failed to notice that Rainier senior was on the East Indies station as a vice-admiral from late 1794 to 1805, though apparently back before his final step up to admiral. Mea culpa.

That puts Hickey firmly back in the chronology - if this is his hand - though it still looks rather wooden for him, but I'm not convinced its the direct source of the Charles Turner mezzotint.

Just adding a better image of the 1824 print:

https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw38242/Peter-Rainier?LinkID=mp55342&search=sas&sText=Peter+Rainier&role=sit&rNo=0

If the Optometrists' oil is by Hickey and painted in India, c. 1798-1804, and there is a 'Devis' copy that may have been used for the print (or not) then Devis could have done it any time in the period 1805 - Feb 1822, when he died.

The only thing fairly clear in terms of timeline is that it seems improbable (rather than impossible ) for Devis to have done the original in India. Rainer had gone out there in 1794 and Devis left in January 1795: their overlap -even if in the same place - was at best short. If he did do it, I don't think it is this painting (i.e. not his hand), so one has to explain why there is this one which is at least more 'Hickey' than Devis. On the whole it seems more likely that Hickey did the original and Devis may have later done a copy in England (as sold in 2015), but whether this is Hickey's original I hope someone else can judge. The Hickey of Peter Rainier junior (1806, in NMM) is far more 'vital' and the only other on Art UK similar in manner is this female one

https://www.artuk.org/discover/artworks/frances-johnson-nee-croke-17251812-the-begum-johnson-28416/view_as/grid/search/makers:thomas-hickey-17411824/page/1

Osmund Bullock,

The Christie’s version was apparently commissioned from Devis in 1805 – in England, clearly – by Rainier's friend and flag captain in the E. Indies, Captain (later Admiral) Benjamin William Page: see the further details given in their sale catalogue https://bit.ly/3ftikjp. There is, it seems, a note signed by BWP pasted on the back of the portrait about "the above little sketch", but there is no image and the details are frustratingly sparse. It might throw light on this, so we need to ask Christie’s if they have more. The portrait is said to have been given by Page to the vendor’s ancestor, the Rev. W.S. Halliday, and descended in the family until sold; so certainly it's not the one owned by the Hon. Basil Cochrane c.1824, when engraved by Chas Turner for Brenton’s ‘Naval History...’.

It might also be worth looking up the Wills of Page, Cochrane and Halliday, though they don’t often mention individual portraits. I can do that (and write to Christie's) if you like, but not in the immediate future.

Attached are two colour images of the earlier Boston portrait, one a full but oblique shot, the other a closer detail rotated somewhat. It's a nice one, as you say, and surprising the artist seems as yet unidentified.

2 attachments

Thanks Osmund: I should have looked more closely at the (definitely small copy) Devis of 1805 on Christie's web page for its sale in 2015, rather than the Mutual Art link originally given. Having now done so, its seems less likely to be the source of Charles Turner's 1824 print, both since it is has the small blue cameo added on the cravat and because it shows a full run of waistcoat buttons rather than just the two done up in the present painting: interestingly, unless the latter has been cut down or the photo here is cropped, that does not include the third open button at the bottom included in the Turner print which, as it tells us, is from a painting then in possession of Basil Cochrane.

The intervention of Vice-Admiral Page might explain this: he was a forceful character with strong personal loyalties to service friends, including interest in proper commemoration of them and their achievements in art. It was at his instigation that in 1835, Greenwich Hospital gave all but one of its set of Serres paintings of Admiral Sir Edward Hughes's action against de Suffren off India, plus a Reynolds copy portrait of Hughes to Ipswich, where both had connections: these had been left to GH by Hughes and the deal was that Page would supply in exchange a painting of another 'great naval victory' to the value of 100 guineas. He offered a Battle of Trafalgar which the Hospital turned down as they had, that (not least Turner's controversial one passed on by George IV in 1829) but after some difficulty he appears instead to have produced the 100 guineas with which the Hospital commissioned George Chambers to paint its copy of Benjamin West's Battle of La Hogue (1692), then in the Grosvenor/ Westminster collection. The Hospital regretted the whole episode and also realised that having accepted gifts effectively in trust as items of 'national commemoration' it was on dodgy ground doing such deals -even then -so never did so again.

Page, however, would certainly have been capable of instructing Devis to show Rainier 'properly dressed' with all the waistcoat buttons and to include the cameo -especially if it was something Page knew he habitually wore after return to England ( or had even perhaps given to him).

The question still remains as to who the present item is by: certainly not Devis. If the lower part of the canvas hasn't been cropped then the missing 'third button' in the print is the sort of thing that can happen in copying. That could usefully be checked: size in inches is roughly 28 x 23, and one would expect it -or an original head and shoulders of this sort - to be a standard 30 x 25.

The question then remains, is it Hickey or an anonymous copy of a Hickey? In either case it seems likely that the one Cochrane had was by Hickey, be it this canvas or not.

S. Elin Jones,

Could this portrait be the painting that was formally in the collection of the ‘Royal United Service Museum’?

Is there any information as to the provenance of the painting, before it was in Greenwich Hospital?

In 1831, a Naval and Military Museum was established in London. This would eventually become the ‘Royal United Service institution’.

1831 - Opened as the ‘Naval and Military Museum’
1839 - Renamed ‘United Service Institution’
1860 – Received the Royal Charter and was subsequently known as the ‘Royal United Service Institution’

https://rusi.org/commentary/history-royal-united-services-institute
i) Star.London, 10th June 1831


From the 1870’s until the1960’s the museum was based in Banqueting Hall (Banqueting House” and the adjacent buildings in Whitehall. Those familiar with Banqueting Hall may recognise the Rubens ceiling.
ii) Banqueting Hall

The banqueting hall was reclaimed by the government in 1962, and as a result most of the items in the museum were distributed to other museums, which included the main service museums. The Maritime Museum could have been the most obvious of place for a portrait of a Rear-Admiral to be relocated to. Today, The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) is the world's oldest independent think tank on international defence and security.


In the third publication of the ‘Royal United Service Museum Catalogue’, published in 1908 there is an entry for a portrait:

475 - Portrait of Admiral Peter Rainier. Peter reindeer, son of Peter rainier, Sandwich, Entered the Navy in 1756 on board H.M.S “Oxford.” He was present at the Siege of Pondicherry in June, 1760, on board H.M.S “Norfolk.” Bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral C. Stevens, and at the reduction of Manila on the same ship when flagship of Vice-Admiral Samuel Cornish. He took part in the operations under Sir Edward Hughes in the reduction of Negatapam and Trincomalee. Reinier was promoted Rear-Admiral on the 1st of June, 1795, and Vice-Admiral in February, 1799. He was Commander-in-Chief of the East India station, and in the Trafalgar promotion of the 9th of November 1805, he was promoted Admiral. He died on 7 April, 1808, Leaving £250,000 towards the reduction of the National Debt.-Given by Admiral B. W. Page.
iii) 1908, RUSM Catalogue

The fourth publication of the Catalogue in 1914 has an identical entry.
iv) 1914, RUSM Catalogue

The eighth publication of the Catalogue was printed in 1932 and there are a few copies in various institutions, including the Maritime Museum. It would be interesting to see if the painting was still in the RUSM in 1932.

Although these catalogues do not give an attribution to an artist, I wonder if the library of the RUSI may have an idea as to whether they still have in their possession the original aquisition ledgers for the museum. It may be possible that there could be more information, especially if it was donated to the museum during Benjamin William Page’s lifetime.


The provenance of the painting sold at Christies states that the painting was still in the possession of the family until it was sold in 2015.
-Painted for Admiral Benjamin William Page in 1805 given to the
Reverend W. S. Halliday, Glenthorne, Lynton, Devon and by descent.
Sold at Christies in 2015
Size: 14” x 12⅛” (35.6cm x 30.8cm)

The provenance of the painting in the ‘Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’, states that the painting was bought by the museum in 1904 from a decendent of Peter Rainier via an auction house in Montreal, Canada.

If the provenance for these paintings are correct, then is it a possibility that the portrait in the Maritime Museum could be the one from the RUSI?


There is also a file in the National Archives, that is described as:
“Royal United Services Institution Museum: disposal of exhibits”
https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C4849190


Benjamin William Page did actually own a painting painted by Arthur William Devis. It’s a portrait of his father-in-law, John Herbert, Governor of Balambangan. Although, It was was painted slightly earlier than the period that has been under discussion in this thread, 1791, in Calcutta.
It is now in the collection of the ‘National Portrait Gallery’

Apologies about the length.

Just to be clear: the National Maritime Museum oil portrait of Peter Rainier by Thomas Hickey is not the one that was in the RUS Museum because it is not of the sitter we are discussing: it is his nephew (the third man of the name and in the rank of captain). Our man here is the second Peter Rainier (son of the first Peter R. mentioned in the RUS Museum catalogue entries).

The painting sold at Christies in 2015 has the appearances of a slightly variant Devis copy of the likeness of 'PR2' that we are discussing, though we don't know which version he was copying including perhaps the known engraving by Charles Turner from the one (no painter stated) then owned by Basil Cochrane.

The only other thing so far clear is that Hickey would have been able to paint PR2 in India, since both of them were there at the same time, and Hickey long enough afterwards also to paint his nephew (PR3), as he did.

I suspect that the RUS Museum catalogues did not name the artist of the portrait it had from Page because it did not know/ was not told when Page presented it, but Cliff Thornton will no doubt have something to add on this since he has been pursuing the sometimes rather mysterious fate (and origin) of some things formerly in the RUSM not now easily accounted for. NMM holdings transferred from it all are and they don't include an oil of PR2.

S. Elin Jones,

I’ll quite happily admit, that I now have absolutely no idea which one were looking for.
Is there any chance the dates may be available for the three officers, to help differentiate between them please?

I did happen to come across a letter earlier in the collection of a decendent of the Rainier family, in the Royal Academy of Music Library. It was a small query that mentions the Devis portrait of Admiral Rainier that had been in the possession of Rev. Halliday.

https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/749cc8cc-c044-4ea8-879a-07c678002483

PR1- merchant, of Sandwich, Kent
PR2: son of the above, Admiral, 1741-1808 - this is our man
PR3: nephew of the above, Captain, 1784-1836


And my mistake, NMM does have an oil of PR2, which is another variant of the one in question, hiding its light under a bushel, not on Art UK for some reason, and only with an audit level database entry - artist unidentified:

https://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/15280.html

I will dig out such further detail as there is on it....

Osmund Bullock,

Pieter, the NMM variant is very small (7½ x 6½ in), an oval now if not always, and I would guess a (not very good) copy after the print. I think it can safely be ignored as far as informing our discussion is concerned.

Thanks to both: the misspelling is undoubtedly why I didn't find it in previous NMM database search.Easily fixed - and I agree it looks like a copy, as the size also suggests.

It now seems fairly clear that the original portrait of Rainier that Charles Turner engraved in 1824 when in the possession of Basil Cochrane was a 30 x 25 in canvas (762 x 635 mm) that was one of four portraits lent to the National Maritime Museum in 1951 by Captain E.G.G. Hastings (d. 1973) whose wife was a Cochrane-Baillie (the family of the Barons Lamington). The loan ended after her death in 1985 when all four paintings were returned to the Cochrane-Baillie family.

That of Rainier (our PR2, d. 1808) came to Greenwich in 1951 unidentified as to artist but was firmly attributed to Hickey by direct comparison after his 1806 portrait of Captain Peter Rainier (our PR3, the admiral's nephew, d. 1836), was presented by another donor in 1952.

Given that the 1950s NMM identification of Hickey as artist was correct, this shows that - based on its size of 710 x 590 mm (rather than 762 x 635)- as well as appearance, the Optometrists' painting is not Hickey's original but a copy, and probably from it rather than solely from the 1824 print. It also shows that, when the original was engraved by Charles Turner, the artist's name was not given on the print because it had already been mislaid or forgotten somewhere in transit from India.

Both the other two oil copies already mentioned above - that sold by Christies (and apparently by Devis) in 2015, and NMM BHC2807 (a small oval canvas, artist unidentified) have connections with Admiral B.W. Page.

The Christies lot entry refers to Page's note saying that he had commissioned that one and it is also worth noting that the NMM formerly had on loan (to 1980 but from when of who not immediately clear) a Rainier oil portrait stated to be by Devis and with recorded dimensions given as '355.6 mm x 304.8 mm': if that meant 'cm' it would have been nearly 4 metres tall and I defy anyone to measure either 0.6 or 0.8 of a mm! That said it was probably about 14 x 12 ins.

BHC3807 is at present similarly mysterious as to origin until related paperwork can be dug out except that it did arrive by 'gift' (but no date) and there is a database note that says 'Given by Admiral B. W. Page' - who died in 1845, so it certainly was not a direct one. My suspicion is that this will turn out to be the one from the RUS Museum acquired on its dispersal, but at the moment I can add nothing further.

All said, nonetheless, I think the issue of whether the Optometrists' painting is by Devis or 'after Hickey' is pretty clear but agreeing that does not rest with me!

The dimensions of the Devis copy sold in 2015 at Christie's ,with a provenance from Page down through the Halliday family of Lynton, Devon, are 14 x 12 1/8 in. (356 x 308 cm.). Those are close enough to the apparent ones of that on loan to the NMM until 1980 to suggest they are likely to be the same.

Just tying up loose ends: Rainier returned from India and retired early in 1805, so would have brought his Hickey portrait back with him. ODNB (2004) gives his 'likenesses' as:

'T. Hickey, oils, 1799–1804, NMM' - which is either a mistaken belief it still held the 30 x 25 on loan from 1951 to 1986, or refers to the small oval copy (but not by Hickey) which seems likely to be the one 'GIven by Admiral B.W. Page' to the RUSM and is now NMM BHC3807.

'Devis, portrait, 1805; in possession of [the Rev] W. S. Halliday in 1896' - this is the one commissioned by Page in 1805 (according to his attached note) sold at Christie's in 2015. If painted in that year it could only be either after the Hickey oil or from life but replicating its pose - or perhaps a combination of both - as the apparently more aged facial features, the different buttoning of the waistcoat and the cameo on the cravat may also suggest. It is the only one mentioned in Rainier's original DNB entry (1896) with the mistaken claim 'It has been engraved'. The same slight differences as well as the clear statement on the 1824 print show that it was the original Hickey, by then in Cochrane hands, that Charles Turner engraved.

Is it too soon, Pieter, to bring this discussion, "Is this painting by Thomas Hickey and not Arthur William Devis?" to a close, on the basis as you suggest that "the Optometrists' painting is not Hickey's original but a copy"?

I'm sure its not by Devis. If someone thinks it's autograph HIckey then I hope they will say so and why.

If someone thinks it is also not Hickey (or after Hickey) then let's hear who else it might be and why.

I am not sufficiently well acquainted with Hickey's general work to be sure based solely on painted quality. The one picture of his I know well is the much better 30 x 25 -dated 1806- of the sitter's nephew Captain Peter Rainier, on the basis of which Teddy Archibald clearly states (in the 1968 NMM Preliminary Catalogue of Oils) that Vice-Admiral's portrait then on loan at Greenwich (also a 30 x 25) from Cochrane descendants was attributed to Hickey.

I am quite sure that - whoever painted it - this was the canvas (not the Devis) that Charles Turner engraved in 1824. It is also equally clear that, given Hickey was based from 1798 to his death in 1824 in Madras, he was in just the right place (navally speaking) to paint, first, the uncle and then the nephew. Nor is it unreasonable to think that the nephew, knowing the portrait of his uncle from seeing it while the latter was till out there, perhaps went to HIckey for that reason

The Optometrists' picture is not a 30 x 25 and not of the same quality as the portrait of Captain Peter Rainier - which is certainly by Hickey. I therefore suggest its a rather bland copy, probably from the original since the coloration is at least close to that of Captain Peter (notably the brown background).

If the Optometrists can show it came from the Cochrane-Baillie family some time since 1986, when NMM returned it to them, and that it has been cut down since leaving Greenwich, then I would have to agree it is the painting Charles Turner engraved in 1824 and
apparently by Hickey on a bad day! But I don't think so.

College of Optometrists,

...and although we remain closed to visitors due to the pandemic and are taking the opportunity to move our collections around and refresh displays, access to view this specific painting could always be arranged for the right expert (as is true for the other pictures which have featured in past Art Detective discussions, or for those about which we hope to ask questions in future discussions).

Thanks for the offer. What I hadn't notice is that the College got it from the Naval College at Greenwich in 1991 (i.e. presumably the naval mess, which had some pictures most of which went with it to Wiltshire in 1998). When I can get at the old NMM photo archive I'll see if there is a photo in the portraits boxes, and of the Cochrane-Baillie version and the Devis: they sometimes have useful notes added. But as you originally said, its not Devis.

The RMG/NMM collections-online web pages are still not updating as they should have been so I add here the text now covering the Charles Turner print taken from the original portrait of Rainier in 1824 when it was with Basil Cochrane. I am sufficiently convinced that was the original by Hickey, whatever the status of the Optometrist's here under discussion.

Compared with the print, the Optometrists' lacks the lowest waistcoat button and the lowest on the coat, as the most obvious of various small differences (though the missing coat ones at least might be from cropping). I have yet to check the old NMM photo files for images of any of the three oils in question (2x 'Hickey' and 1x Devis).

NMM PAD4288 https://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/108439.html]

'Peter Rainier was of Huguenot descent and son and grandson of merchants from Sandwich in Kent. He had a long and active career in the Navy ending with ten years as a successful Commander-in-Chief in the East Indies, from 1794 until he returned to England and retired ashore in early 1805. Originally this was as a rear-admiral but he advanced to vice-admiral in 1799 and to retired admiral in the post-Trafalgar promotions of November 1805. He continued to be consulted on East Indian matters to his death three years later when he left one tenth of a then immense fortune (£250,000 at probate, acquired in prize-money and other official perquistes), to the government to help reduce the National Debt. As he died unmarried the other beneficiaries were his nephews and prime co-heirs, Rear-Admiral John Spratt Rainier (see MNT0199) and Captain Peter Rainier (see BHC2962).

This print shows Rainier as a vice-admiral in the 1795-1812 full-dress uniform. It is from an oil painting (30 x 25 ins) in possession of the Cochrane family when engraved in 1824 but of which the artist's name appears by then to have been lost since not given on it. From 1951 until 1986 it was on loan to the Museum with three Cochrane portraits from the Cochrane-Baillie family. After Thomas Hickey's 1806 portrait of the sitter's nephew Captain Peter Rainier was presented by another donor in 1952, it was firmly attributed to Hickey based on direct comparison of the two. Hickey (1741-1824) was a widely travelled Irish painter who returned permanently to India in 1798: after that, and up to his death, he lived and largely worked in Madras (Chennai), which was the main British naval base on the eastern coast. This was the most obvious place (where he would also have been the most obvious man) to paint both Rainier senior between 1799 and 1804, and his nephew Peter two years later.

A very similar but smaller portrait of Rainier (14 x 12 1/8 in. / 35.6 x 30.8 cm) was painted by Arthur William Devis for Rainier's old shipmate Admiral B.W. Page in 1805. This broadly copies the Hickey, but shows Rainier older, with far more waistcoat buttons (and more done up) and with a cameo-headed pin in his cravat. Though still also showing him as a vice-admiral, these differences suggest Devis updated the image from life, and when Rainier still held Hickey's version for him to base it on. Page (d. 1845) later gave the Devis to the Revd W.S. Halliday of Lynton, Devon and it passed on by family descent until sold at Christie's on 10 July 2015 (Old Master and British Paintings, lot 184). The Devis painting was also formerly on loan to the Museum (as BHC2411) for a relatively short period up to 1980. Rainier's original DNB entry (1896) wrongly states that the Devis version was the source of the present engraving, probably because it has a late 19th-century public exhibition history (which the Hickey does not) and the differences between the two were overlooked.'


I have been regretting the fact of being within striking distance of the Optometrists twice in the last week without having remembered to make an appointment to drop in and see it, though I will try and do so.

That said, I doubt my view will change, albeit really only based on comparison with the 1823 Turner print from the Cochrane version of the present present portrait, and the latter with the NMM portrait of the sitter's nephew, Peter junior: this is that the Optometrists version (this one) is 'after Hickey' not by him and certainly not by A.W. Devis.

I can't be more specific on when I might see it so perhaps you could decide what you'd like to do.

College of Optometrists,

Although we remain closed to visitors due to the ongoing pandemic, if Pieter gets in touch we will be pleased to facilitate special access for the inspection of this painting. Ultimately our question is how best to list it in our catalogue. It was originally listed as after Thomas Hickey, which may turn out to have been correct after all. In 1999/2000 its attribution was altered by a reputable art historian, however that was just before the wider availability of imagery over the Internet completely altered the field for art research. (Even without that, scholarship is a dynamic thing and it will have been a good thing to have reviewed all the available evidence once again... and to have done so calling upon the expertise of scholars with a specialism in maritime art). This is why we love Art Detective and Art UK.

Very kind. Beware of art historians -at least very modern ones: nowadays its all gaseously verbose theory intended to gain promotional peer-review points and keep up institutional grant-funding levels. Rather the equivalent of one of the investment banks where (I'm told) they have a large axe buried in a wall to remind those with targets to meet of what happen if they don't.

What you need is someone determinedly disreputable from that point of view, but interested in what pictures show and who they are by, and as such I will try and darken your doors at an early opportunity.


I am fairly sure your original information was correct. Hickey is certainly variable and NMM's of the younger Rainier is perhaps exceptionally good (certainly startlingly modern in his looks). If yours is by him it would have to be a replica which might account for its rather wooden quality; this one (which isn't as far as we know) being rather similar, with the same flat background

https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/frances-johnson-nee-croke-17251812-the-begum-johnson-28416/view_as/grid/search/makers:thomas-hickey-17411824/page/2

What is a little against that, is the non-standard size and that both sitter and artist were in India, with only the sitter coming back. He could obviously have had Hickey paint a copy but why the odd size rather than standard 30 x 25 and who for? And we also know that Devis appears to have made a slightly adjusted later copy from the original, so it is at least equally possible 'A.N.Other' might have had access to do so later in England as well, for whatever reason.

'After' or 'style of' are the safest options unless someone with better knowledge of Hickey than me is prepared to stick their neck out. Devis it certainly isn't.

The origin and identity of this canvas has now clarified based on inspection and the College of Optometrists file on it, as far as that goes, for which thanks to their curator Neil Handley's ongoing contributions.

First, it is the painting that was at the NMM from 1951 to 1986 as one of a loan of four (the others being members of the Cochrane family) and the lender being Captain Edward George Godolphin Hastings (1887-1973). His wife (m. 1922) was born the Hon. Grisell Annabella Gem Cochrane-Baillie (d. 1985), so strictly speaking they appear to have been her family property by descent.

That identity is confirmed by a standard NMM brass tag pinned to the stretcher and stamped L51-31 - the loan reference. The current Art UK dimensions are misleadingly inside-frame and one reason there has been confusion: it is, in fact, a standard 30 x 25 inch canvas (nominal).

It was also not 'acquired from Greenwich Naval College, 1991' as currently listed here. It was purchased (for a modest but known four-figure sum) after 1986 and before March 1991 by the British Optical Association Foundation (BOAF), on account of the interest of the sitter's glasses, a fashionable late-18th-century type known as 'Martin's margins', from their inventor.

BOAF no longer exists, having amalgamated (and its collection) with the College of Optometrists in 1993, but apparently its financial records on such matters are also no longer extant. However, the College does have photos and published reports of its 'unveiling' in September 1991 by a Mrs Scrimgeour, then reported as a Rainier descendant (though that could only have been collaterally as the sitter died a bachelor and childless).

The now obvious error here (barring astonishing coincidence) is that if not herself the painting's vendor to the BOAF - which she most probably was, either directly or indirectly - Mrs Scrimgeour was one of the Hastings/ Cochrane-Baillie family heirs who had received the paintings back from NMM in 1986. Her maiden name was Sheila F.B. Hastings, born in 1925 as second daughter (of three) to Captain and Mrs E.G. G. Hastings. In 1954 she married John Humphrey Scrimgeour (d. 2004) and her own dates were 1925-2015.

The painting has been relined and there is a typed paper strip stuck on the lining which reads ‘NO. 35. ADMIRAL PETER RAINIER. A GREAT FRIEND OF HONBLE BASIL COCHRANE.’ That is clearly from an inventory listing and may replicate an inscription no longer visible on the back of the original canvas

Oddly, and despite having Thomas Hickey's 1806 portrait of Captain Peter Rainier (the sitter's nephew) since 1952, the present painting was only attributed to Hickey by NMM on the basis of comparison with it after 1958: it is still in the 1958 published summary list of NMM portraits as 'unknown artist', with the L51-31 reference number.

While it would be easy to say that's the end of the matter and 'it must be (a) the prime version (b) the one Turner derived his print from in 1824 and (c) autograph Hickey', I think there are still some doubts, at least pending a closer look at the 1806 Rainier-junior canvas.

The other reason for caution is that the Turner print shows three buttons at the bottom of the waistcoat, and slightly more pot-belly, with six buttonholes on the uniform coat. The present oil shows only two bottom wasitcoat buttons and five on the coat, which much more closely matches another mezzotint print which is very similar to but not Turner's plate, of which both NMM and the NPG have copies. That one only bears the title 'Admiral Rainier', with no maker or publisher information. One can much more confidently say it is based on the ex-Hastings/Optometrists' canvas than that by Turner is.

Turner's says his was engraved from a painting then 'in possession of' Basil Cochrane, but that may simplify a more complex story involving both the present painting (as a version or copy) and an original still known at that time but not now. Cochrane (d. 1826) was certainly a close associate of Rainier senior in India and presumably knew both his nephews (Peter, d. 1836 and John, d 1822) both of whom had families. It is the Rainiers who one would have expected to hold the original of their uncle, whoever by, and Cochrane a copy, so possible that Turner's inscription misleads at least on ownership of the former even if he had access to it through Cochrane.

If the present painting is the prime image, then the only other conclusion has to be that the canvas has been reduced to 30 x 25, probably from something non standard since it looks like having lost more depth than width.

Snaps of the painting taken at the College (somewhat in haste) are attached. I meant to get a better one of the frame, which looks very early 19th-century to me but if anyone can be more specific on such detail 'fasces-style' classical-rod moulding on the fore- edge that would be of interest: it looks original. The two prints are here: by Turner

https://www.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/rmgc-object-108439

and the other

https://www.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/rmgc-object-108440



Marcie Doran,

A Wikitree shows Admiral Peter Rainier’s friend Basil Cochrane (1753–1826) https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Cochrane-995. One of Cochrane’s brothers was Admiral Sir Alexander Forrester Inglis Cochrane GCB (1758–1832), whose portrait on Art UK is by Robert Field (1769–1819) https://tinyurl.com/37stprcv.

Here is the Wikipedia page for Field. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Field_{LPARENTHESES} painter)

I have attached a composite of this work and Field’s painting of Admiral Cochrane. While the faces are quite different, I think the uniforms are depicted in a very similar manner – notice in particular the very similar epaulettes.

Perhaps Basil Cochrane hired Field to copy a painting of Rainier. That would explain the fact that there are fewer buttons in this work than in the Turner print of Rainier.

Marcie Doran,

Here is a notice in the ‘Madras Courier’ of May 8, 1810, about large pictures of “Lord Cochrane” and “Admiral Rainier”. I’m assuming that they are paintings.

While that's an interesting find, it appears to suggest the Rainier and Cochrane pictures were of 'actions': Rainier was involved in a lot off India against the French when a captain (under Sir Edward Hughes as commander on the station) and at least the reduction of Trincomalee when in that role as a vice-admiral himself. The context -in India two years after his death in England- does not suggest portraits.

Marcie Doran,

This will not be very helpful in the quest to find the name of the artist but the will of Elizabeth Crow Rainier, who was married to “PR3” (Captain Peter Rainier (1784–1836)), mentions paintings. Honestly, I struggle to read wills. I’ve attached an excerpt. It mentions a portrait of “my late dear husband”. Two rows down, highlighted in blue, is mention of Admiral Rainier. I have ordered the will of her son Peter Rainier (1811–1885).

College of Optometrists,

We are very familiar with the original (or what we have always thought was the original) Hoppner painting of Peter Dollond because it used to be on long-term loan to us and featured on Art UK while it was. An image is attached here. It is now in the Boots UK Archive (Boots Opticians being the successor company to Dollond & Aitchison Ltd) but does not feature the telescope, raising questions as to whether the Yale picture (YCBA B1981.25.367), of which I must say we were not aware, is the source of the print or a copy of the painting influenced by it....but that cannot be an Art UK discussion. We will happily discuss it further off-list. Incidentally the label on the back of the Yale painting bears a spelling mistake (there are two letters 'o' and no letter 'a' in his surname) but the electronic listing is nevertheless spelled correctly. Suffice to say, our familiarity with 'our version' (shall we call it that) of Peter Dollond, now returned to the owner, suggests no stylistic similarity to the Boston portrait of Rainier...which is really very distinctive and also nothing like any other representation of the Admiral. It does, however, make a good point of how engravings 'after' paintings need not be a faithful reproduction and may contain additional details, a point which may be pertinent in the investigation into our portrait of Rainier. So, returning to the relevant Art UK question, 'our' painting of Admiral Rainier (senior): It's looking like it and its related painting of Captain Rainier (Junior) were considered historically to be part of a set and that ours may therefore be an original, one of an original pair, albeit not excluding the possibility of a once extant further version, now lost. Whilst that question remains open, the decision to re-attribute our version of the painting to Devis at the start of the new Millennium does seem to have been mistaken, if understandable given the less readily accessed sources available at the time. It is also regrettable, because it has since been reproduced in several recent history books captioned as by Devis, and I fear that may continue to sow academic confusion in years to come. 'Attributed to Thomas Hickey', a reversion to one former attribution, seems perhaps the fairest way of captioning this portrait going forward.

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