Completed Portraits: British 18th C 57 Is this portrait of Rowland Holt by Francis Alleyne or Henry Walton?

Topic: Artist

I think that this portrait of Rowland Holt is by Francis Alleyne, not Henry Walton. I have bought/sold several very similar portraits by Francis Alleyne – his work is distinctive. A quick internet search will bring up comparable images. Here is one from the National Portrait Gallery and another from the website of the dealer Roy Precious.

The collection comments: ‘We welcome with interest the suggestion that the portrait of Rowland Holt was painted by Francis Alleyne rather than Henry Walton. We will annotate our records accordingly with this possibility. This particular portrait has been part of our collections for a long time and has previously been viewed and valued by both Phillips and Christie’s who were happy to value it on the basis that it was by Henry Walton. We will mention the possibility of an alternative artist when it next comes up for assessing. Any other views, raised by starting a public discussion on this subject, would be welcomed. Particularly if sources for the information could be provided, that way we can add these to our records.’

Miles Cato, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. This portrait of Rowland Holt has been assigned to Francis Alleyne. In addition, new information has emerged about Alleyne’s set of eight oval portraits of the Wheatley family of Lesney House, Erith, Kent, including vital dates for sitter William Wheatley and his wife Margaret (formerly recorded as ‘Margot’) Wheatley (Yale Center for British Art). A biography of Francis Alleyne has been written Art UK and an account of the Wheatley portraits is available on request to Art UK.

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.


Tamsyn Taylor,

I agree with the attribution to Henry Walton. There are several characteristics that I find typical of Walton. The immediacy, the direct gaze, the handling of the paint.
This face is particularly like the face in the portrait of Henry Walton's sister, Elizabeth Bridgman. An enlargement of this portrait is available on Wikimedia Commons.
Alleyne's paintings, on the other hand, seem to have a gentler quality and are a little unsure in the anatomy.
Are there any comparable examples of Alleyne's work?

Jacob Simon,

Of the two attributions suggested, Francis Alleyne or Henry Walton, I think that Alleyne is more likely for the reasons given by Miles. The portrait is very different to Walton as I know him and I don't think the comparisons above stand up to scrutiny. Walton's colouring, his formats and his face structures are unlike our portrait.

Marcie Doran,

I’ve attached a composite based on another portrait of Rowland Holt on Art UK (by John Downman, at Gunby Hall). Holt certainly looks much older in the Downman portrait than in the work that is being discussed.

Here is another link to the portrait by Downman.


The attached snippet from 'British and Irish Paintings in Public Collections' (2006) by Christopher Wright and Catherine May Gordon shows that the title of this work used to be 'Rowland Holt of Redgrave Hall'.

The current title could be improved.


Here are portraits of two members of the Holt family of Redgrave – likely two of Rowland Holt’s siblings:

Marcie Doran,

Wikipedia shows that Rowland Holt's dates were 1723-1786.

His burial record on Ancestry also includes those dates.

An extract from an article in the 'Newmarket Journal' of the 21st of September 1935 mentions the acquisition of this painting. It was donated by the three sisters of Prince Frederick Duleep Singh (1868-1926).

Could the artist be John Trumbell (1756–1843)? He was an American artist who worked in London and who studied under Benjamin West.

Please take a look at this painting at the White House 'Thomas Jefferson' (1788). The text indicates that Trumbell had first painted the image as part of another work and he copied it for this one.

See also,

Jacob Simon,

I'll look in the NPG archive next week if I can. I think we are moving towards closure with an attribution to Francis Alleyne. But I'd like to strengthen the evidence.

Jacob Simon,

Alleyne's life and work are so little known that it is worth summarising Ellis Waterhouse's summary biography in his Dictionary of British 18th century painters: Active as a portrait painter between 1774 and 1790, usually on a small scale. Exhibited a single portrait at the Royal Academy and the Free Society of Artists in 1774 and at the Society of Artists in 1790. Seems to have specialized in small oval ¾ lengths usually signed on the back. Probably moved around Kent in 1786, going from family to family to paint portraits.

Our portrait is indeed oval and is painted at Alleyne's favoured size of about 36 or 37 by 29 or 30 cms.

Jacob Simon,

To respond to the discussion question, "Is this portrait of Rowland Holt by Francis Alleyne or Henry Walton?" It is clear that it is not by Walton, as is evident when looking at Walton portraits on ArtUK where our portrait is the odd man out, and also for the reasons that I set out in an earlier post (12/01/2022).

Miles Cato (26/09/2018) identified that many of Alleyne's portraits depict his sitters seated, often including part of the seat furniture in his portraits. I noted that our portrait is oval and is painted at Alleyne's favoured size of about 36 or 37 by 29 or 30 cms. None of this is not conclusive in itself.

I had a look in the NPG archive at the file of portraits by or attributed to Alleyne. The pose and composition match several autograph works by Alleyne. The face is craggier as a depiction of an older man than most of his sitters. In my opinion an attribution to Alleyne is appropriate.

I’d be interested to know where ArtUK sourced Alleyne’s life dates as 1750-1815.

Jacinto Regalado,

Jacob, those are the dates given for him in Benezit's dictionary. He does not have an ODNB entry. The NPG only gives his dates of activity.

Jacob Simon,

The life dates 1750-1815 are not in the 2006 English edition of Benezit. So where are they?

Jacob Simon,

Interesting. The signature in the last Alleyn marriage attachment above matches that in a 1774 marriage, attached below, but in 1774 with the addition of a final 'e' making it 'Alleyne' - by now a widower. The particular interest of the 1774 marriage is Alleyne's second wife, Elizabeth Roth, who could be the daughter of Roth the drapery painter, not a common name. I could dig a bit further on Roth, perhaps.

What we have, thanks to Marcie, is a birth and death record for one man and marriage records for another. Or are they one and the same? Evidence?

Jacinto Regalado,

Jacob, if you go to Oxford Art Online and look for Alleyne, you will see the following:

Alleyne, Francis
Published online: 31 October 2011
Collection: Benezit Dictionary of Artists

Alleyne, Francis British , 18th century , male. Born 1750; died 1815. Painter. Portraits. Francis Alleyne was active from 1774 to 1790. He exhibited at the Royal Academy and the Free Society of Artists in 1774 , and at the Society of Artists in 1790. He specialized in oval, three-quarter length portraits...

Jacob Simon,

And the source for these life dates, added to Benezit between 2006 and 2011? That is the next question.

Jacob Simon,

I suspect that Alleyne's second wife, Elizabeth Roth, was the daughter of the drapery painter, George Roth (fl. c.1742-78). Roth probably had two painter sons, according to Waterhouse's Dictionary, George junr and William. The Roths were widely but quietly used by various leading artists of the time.

Jacob Simon,

Interesting. But the Elizabeth Alleyn buried in Richmond on 28 March 1773 was not necessarily née Harris. That link remains to be established.

Marcie Doran,

I would add that the will of Thomas Alleyn of Richmond (PROB 11/1368/327), dated 1799, mentions his "Brother Francis". That record indicates that "Francis Alleyn of Compton Street in the parish of Saint Ann Westminster in the County of Middlesex portrait painter" helped to probate the will along with Thomas's son, "Francis Alleyn of Richmond in the County of Surrey Linen Draper".

Family trees on Ancestry show that they were two of the seven children of Henden (or Hendon) Alleyn (1703-1788) and his wife Mary Alleyn (née King) of Richmond.

Their sibling Elizabeth Alleyn married Francis Bradley in 1757, therefore she could not have been the adult named “Elizabeth Alleyn” who passed away in Richmond in 1773. That burial registry notes the burial of children.

Jacob Simon,

Really excellent. This clinches the portrait painter as being the man born in Richmond in 1740 and dying there in 1815.

Jacob Simon,

Thanks to Marcie's research Francis Alleyn(e) emerges from the shadows. He deserves a biography on Art UK, which once ready Marion could be asked to post. Is this something you'd draft, Marcie?

I'm fully committed elsewhere for a couple of weeks but in mid-June I could check London trade/street directories to see if Alleyn(e) is listed and, if so, possibly worth adding to a biography.

Marcie Doran,

Yes, certainly I can pull some information together in a biography.

Jacob Simon,

I look forward to reading the Alleyne draft when I am back. In the meantime thanks.

Marcie Doran,

Here are two corrections for the next draft:
1. A marriage record from 1684 or 1685 for Thomas Alleyn and Margaret Pilcher on Ancestry that was transcribed by a researcher shows that they were "both of Fordwich" (near Canterbury).
2. Ancestry has two marriage records for Henden Alleyn and Mary King. The original marriage record shows that they were married on 16 February 1727 whereas the transcript mistakenly shows that date as 16 February 1726.

Osmund Bullock,

Re #1, Thomas Alleyn, Gent [sic] & Mrs Margaret Pilcher were married at St Mary, Crundale (the other side of Canterbury from Fordwich) in April 1685 (on the 23rd). I would normally say that details of an artist's grandparents were perhaps a bit much for a basic biography; but in this case the fact that Thomas - alone amongst the 40+ grooms on that double page of the register - is noted as a gentleman is interesting, suggesting the Alleyns were or had been a minor gentry family, though of course Francis' father went into trade, despite being the eldest son.

I wouldn't say the marriage record in #2 was 'mistakenly' transcribed as 1726: the problem is that the marriage took place in February, and in England prior to the calendar change of 1752 the legal (and ecclesiastical) New Year did not begin until 25 March (Lady Day). This mean that legally-speaking they were indeed married on 16 Feb 1726, and are recorded as such in the register - that being what is known as an 'Old Style' date. This was confusing even at the time, as almost everyone celebrated the New Year on January 1st as we do today. To get over the problem, it became common to refer to dates between 1 Jan & 24 Mar with a dual date combining Old Style (OS) and New Style (NS) - in this case, 16 Feb 1726/7. This is a practice I often use to avoid confusion, though it has become increasingly common to 'translate' old style dates to new without comment or explanation: thus the execution of KIng Charles I was legally on 30 Jan 1648, informally on 30 Jan 1648/9, but is nowadays usually said to have been on 30 Jan 1649.

One of Ancestry's many shortcomings is that they've never got to grips with this issue in their transcriptions and indexing: some of the transcriptions refer to old style dates, some to new, and with countless examples of a different date being given by two different transcribers...both of them being technically correct under the system they were using. This is one of the reasons you should *never* accept what is given on Ancestry, expecially in their notoriously unreliable public trees, without checking the information in primary sources.

Marcie Doran,

Thank you for the fascinating insights, Osmund. Pieter has kindly edited my first draft and I'll update it with your information and then post the second draft.

I've attached some background on the Wheatley family. I thought my identification of Margaret and her husband William was new but a snippet from a 1962 edition of 'Country Life' shows that it is an old discovery after all.

Inevitable I suppose, but it's one of the ironies of portraiture and collecting that 'him-and-her' pairs, and family sets, get split by sale earlier or later, and then - very much later - a great deal of effort goes into reassembling them in one way or another. A group of seven oils done at the same time by a single artist (major or minor)seems rather unusual by any standard and worth noting.

Marcie Doran,

I was secretly hoping that Osmund would be able to magically reveal the hidden text in that Country Life article. Thank you, Osmund.

Here is my second draft.

The 1685 marriage date is as recorded on Ancestry as well as in the listing at the following link.

That 1727 marriage date is in the New Style.

A portrait of Jane Austen's uncle James Leigh Perrot is about two-thirds down the page at the following link but the artist is unnamed. Francis Alleyne?

This version also incorporates information about the likely date of Alleyne’s second wife's death and about Alleyne's portraits on Art UK of Captain Thomas Conway and his wife Sophia.

Additional comments are always welcome.

Osmund Bullock,

Jacob offered to check London street directories when he has a bit more time in mid-June. I have in fact done a fairly thorough (but not quite exhaustive) search in Ancestry's on-line directories from the London Met. Archives’ extensive collection, and can see no sign that Alleyne the artist ever appeared in them.

Francis Alleyn [sic], a wine & brandy merchant, does appear once in Robson’s 1820 London Directory, his address in the City close by St Paul’s. Apparently the same man had been admitted in Nov 1813 to the Freedom of the City (in the Company of Innholders), and to a London Freemasons’ Lodge in Dec 1815, but since he actually died in Oct 1817, the directory entry is puzzling. In any case he is obviously someone different - I think the artist’s nephew (his brother Thomas’s son), though his father’s Will had described him as a linen draper of Richmond in 1799 (Marcie 18/05/2024 17:32). Baptised at Richmond in Oct 1781, he married Sophia Goodeve in 1807; their (?only) son, another Francis, died not long after his father in Jan 1818, at just 18 months old.

Osmund Bullock,

Although directories are silent on the artist’s whereabouts, there are at least three Sun Fire Office policies that give his address – Marcie has found one of these (of 1792) among the small number in the NA catalogue, but there are two others from 1779 & 1785 in other online sources (the LMA holds a huge number of the original policies, and these are gradually being indexed). These, together with his listings in exhibition catalogues (RA / Soc. of Artists / Free Soc.), enable a partial timeline for his London addresses:

1774 exhib. Free Soc. & R.A. Porter Street, Newport Market (at Mr. Handy's or Hardy’s)
1779 Sun Fire Office policy 'Limner', Compton Street
1785 Jun Sun Fire Office policy 'Gent', 14 Compton Street
1790 exhib. Soc. of Artists Compton Street, Soho
1792 Jul Sun Fire Office policy 'Portrait painter', 44 Old Compton Street

The 14/44 (Old) Compton St may indicate a different house, but could equally be a misreading or a change to the street numbering.

...and Compton Street in January 1802 (not 1799 as I first misread it, so it needs correcting in the draft), when he appeared as co-executor to prove his brother Thomas's will: see Marcie @ 18/05/2024 17:32.

Marcie Doran,

Thank you both for the updates, which will be incorporated into the next version. I also neglected to mention Alleyne’s work at the National Portrait Gallery.

The probate record (PROB 11/1598/121) for Francis Alleyn (d. 1817), the artist’s nephew, shows that he was a “public house owner” and that he was “late of the Goose and Gridiron public house in London house yard in the parish of Saint Gregory by Saint Paul London”.

Francis Alleyne (the artist) was a witness at the marriage of Thomas Alleyn and Sarah Christmas in London in 1780.

I’ve attached the references to Francis Alleyne in the British Newspaper Archive.

Osmund Bullock,

Quite right, Pieter - and I,too, had misread it. It was the Jan 1802 probate - or rather 'administration (with the will attached)' - that gave the professions and addresses of the two Francis Alleyn(e)s, not the original Will.

Osmund Bullock,

I had no idea 'Country Life' was now on the BNA - excellent news. And the first of Marcie's discoveries there, re a portrait with a name plate inscribed 'Francis Alleyne of Bath', is interesting.

Francis Thomas Allen (1819-69), mayor of Bath 1852-53, is unconnected with the Alleyne family (indeed I can find no example of his name spelled 'Alleine'), so the suggestion that the sitter in the 1962 Country LIfe portrait might have been of his family is not right. This means that the inscription certainly refers to artist, not sitter, and there is therefore a very good chance that at some point our artist practised in the city - perhaps worth mentioning as a possibility in the biog?

[It's no great surprise if he did: so great was Bath's fashionable status in the mid/late C18th, that over 160 artists are recorded as having worked there, though at least half were painters of miniature portraits. See ]

Thorough digging around by Marcie, including of snippets from 'Art and Auctions' and 'Art Prices Current', allows reconstruction of details of the five Wheatley children portraits that Country Life reported sold in two lots in 1962, though we do not yet know the exact 'where and when'. (Their parents, now in YCBA, were the third in the same sale, at £850). This has shown up a more significant mystery, raised as a query at the end here.

[Lot/list no. ?] 175 A – ‘Children of the Wheatley family: John, aged 13, in blue, holding dead game, a pointer beside him; Charles, aged 11, wearing a red coat holding a bird’s nest in his hands, three-quarter length portraits, a pair, both signed, inscr. and dated 1786 on the reverse, oval 14 ½ x 11 [7]/8 ins.’

These were the ‘two boys’ that made £800 in 1962. They reappeared still as a pair as lot 83 in a furniture sale at Christie’s, London, on 3 March 1994, unillustrated online, but described in slightly differing detail and size as:

‘Portrait of Charles Wheatley, three-quarter length, aged 11, in a red jacket and white shirt, holding a bird's nest in a landscape; and Portrait of John Wheatley, three-quarter length, aged 13, in a blue jacket with a red collar and white shirt, holding a dead grouse, his dog by his side, in a landscape.

The former with inscription 'Charles Wheatley/age 11/Fr. Alleyne - Painted 1786' on the reverse, the latter with inscription 'John Wheately/age thirteen/Fr.s Alleyne - Painted 1786', on the reverse; ovals 15 x 11 7/8in. (38.1 x 30.2cm.).’

On this occasion they made £14,950 against estimate of £6-8K.
MutualArt then records their reappearance at sale as a pair on 12 June 2003, illustrating that of Charles, facing left holding a bird’s nest: see (You may have to copy and paste to search)

The 1962 threesome that made £1050, but have not since resurfaced, were:

[Lot/list no.?] 175 B – ‘Children of the Wheatley family: Miss [Lucy Margaret] Wheatley, aged 16, seated, making lace; Henry, aged 8, a whip in his right hand: George, aged 5; set of three, each … [certainly oval and of presumed same dimensions as the others]’.

The mystery boy is Charles - of the MutualArt image - aged 11, so born c.1775. Henry (b.1777), later Major-General Sir Henry Wheatley, is usually said - including in his Wiki entry - to be third son after William (b.1771) and John (b.1772). It looks more likely that he was the third surviving boy, with Charles a childhhod death after 1786, but there seems to be no trace of Charles on Ancestry or otherwise. Can anyone do better by finding documentary record of him?

Alleyne's 1786 portrait of (later Major-General) William Wheatley, aged 15 and carrying a cricket bat, now in the MCC collection at Lords - ref.TN2009.673 - was not one of those sold in 1962 but shows that Alleyne's family 'set' of that year was eight, not seven. That clearly has a different provenance and the two final siblings, Maria and Leonard (making eight in all including Charles),are also irrelevant here since only born in 1790 and 1795.

Marcie Doran,

My attachments have failed but the obituary for Charles in the ‘Salisbury and Winchester Journal’ of Monday 16 April 1787 reads: “[text barred] died at Southampton, where he went for the recovery of his health, Master Charles Wheatley, aged 13 years, the third son of Wm. Wheatley, Esq. of Lesney, Kent.”

Thanks again Marcie. I will post a consolidated summary of the Wheatley portraits when the page stops malfunctioning on attaching Word files. One thing not on it is that Yale is probably calling Margaret Wheatley 'Margot' because that is what is inscribed by Alleyne on the back. The 'Art and Antiques' report of the 1962 sale (vol. 6, p. 305) calls them 'Portraits of Margot and William Wheatley, three-quarter length, a pair, both signed, inscr. and dated 1786 on the reverse, oval...' and apparently the same dimensions as the others.

Marcie Doran,

All the family records show her as “Margaret”, including in the text of her will and her two signatures in her will (PROB 11/1682/99). I suspect that her name was shortened for the inscription - perhaps to “Margt”, with the letter t in superscript.

I am sorry to read that the attachment problem is back. I also got the 'Error: true' message this morning. I have sent an urgent repair request.

Thanks Marion: just to add 'pro tem' that a rapid response from the MCC Archive and Library yesterday added that their portrait of William Wheatley, also inscribed on the back by Alleyne as painted in January 1786, aged 14 (not 15 - my slip above), was presented to them in 1952.

It's in fact a bit bigger than the others, which I've also only just noted, if the 53 x 45 cm given is canvas size. Perhaps an indication of the importance given to eldest sons and heirs above others, inc. an elder sister. Given he became a Peninsular War major-general albeit dying if some illness in Spain in 1812, its a good exemplar of Welliington's observation (I think) about the 'Battle of Waterloo being won on the playing fields of Eton', or at least of some other public school of the time.

The donor, Sir Jeremiah Colman (2nd bt, 1886-1961, of the 'mustard Colmans') had succeeded his father (also Jeremiah, 1st bt.) in 1942 and I'm told they had a well-known cricketing art collection, though didn't ask if the MCC had others from that. How and when the Colmans obtained it are unknown.

There are just two weeks left until Art Detective closes to further comments, of which 11 are Art UK working days, though I am working only six of them. It may be helpful to know that those days are 17, 18, 19, 24, 25 and 26 June. I will be on email for four weeks after that, until 26 July.

Thanks Marion.

And just to flag up here the misdirection above (11/06/2024 13:25) created by the current MCC web entry for William Wheatley, which gives FRAME size: the canvas matches the rest of the set, allowing marginal recording variants.

Jacob Simon,

This discussion, "Is this portrait of Rowland Holt by Francis Alleyne or Henry Walton?", originating in 2018, has led to the conclusion that the portrait is not by Walton.

Having examined all the evidence, I believe that we can describe it as by Francis Alleyne on the basis of style, size and composition. On this basis I am recommending closure of the discussion. With many thanks to Marcie, Pieter, Osmund and others for establishing the artist's life dates and activities and writing up an excellent biography.