Completed Continental European after 1800, Transport and Industry, Dress and Textiles 31 More information sought on ‘Gentleman in a Rickshaw’

ESX_BAG_SOUAG_S261
Topic: Subject or sitter

This is probably a scene in Ceylon/Sri Lanka. The rickshaw was introduced to India in 1880 and Sri Lanka a year or so before. The painting is signed in the lower left corner, although I can't see the characters in the surname clearly enough.

Southend Museums Service has been unable to read the signature apart from the initials: 'V.G.M.’. The collection also welcomes comments about the location in the painting.

A high resolution version of the image is attached.

Tim Williams, Entry reviewed by Art UK

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Completed, Outcome

Jade King,

This painting is now listed as being painted by V. G. Maresca, painted c.1880–c.1913. The scene depicted is possibly Colombo, Sri Lanka.

These amends will appear on the Art UK website in due course.

If anyone has any new information about this painting or artist, please propose a new discussion by following the Art Detective link on the artwork page on Art UK.

30 comments

Tim Williams,

Well spotted Andrea - certainly the same artist - though I fear Liverpool/King's Regiment Museum Trust have transcribed the signature incorrectly. If we could get a high res of that signature, progress could be made - should another thread be opened, or can one of the PCF team follow it up from here?

Osmund Bullock,

I think the painter's last name is probably 'Maresca'.

There are a number of Italian artists with this surname recorded, though it's difficult to find any convincing logical/artistic groupings for most of them. This portrait of a boy must surely be from the same stable, though the signature is somewhat different in form, and interpreted as 'Y G Maresca'. I suspect it derives from a photograph: http://www.invaluable.co.uk/auction-lot/giovanni-maresca,-italian,-19th-century,-portrait-725-c-e95e16f6f8

The 'Y' is probably a misreading of 'V', as 'Y' is not really a letter in Italian. The American auctioneers attributed it to 'Giovanni Maresca', I don’t know why. But actually several of the many works illustrated by Invaluable (http://www.invaluable.co.uk/) and Artnet (http://www.artnet.com/artists/) that are signed (or read as) ‘G Maresca’ or ‘S Maresca’ have a similar style of signature to the Southend (rickshaw) and Liverpool (soldier) pictures. I’m attaching cropped images of some of these, together with a tweaked version of Southend’s for comparison.

This is another one with a ‘V G’ signature, and one with just ‘V’ – both, though, are very different works, and the signatures are not very similar:
http://www.invaluable.co.uk/auction-lot/v-g-maresca,-continental,-oil-on-canvas-peasant-37-c-cfbyyflyuy
http://www.invaluable.co.uk/auction-lot/v.-maresca-italian,-19th-20th-century-211-c-e7522eacc7

This clerical portrait could easily be another by him, though little of the signature can be made out – it must have been done posthumously, as Archbishop John Menzies Strain died in 1883. I suspect both it and the Liverpool one of Private Hudson may also have been based on photographs:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/reverend-john-strain-18101883-166453

Presumably what we have here is a family of painters – probably with others working in the studio(s) – producing works for the Italian tourist trade: ‘Maresca’ is a pretty common name, especially in Naples and Campania. The pictures recorded seem to be largely genre subjects, portrait and landscape, plus some local Neapolitan & Amalfi coast views – these all of wildly differing quality. Several of the genre images, like the boy with a cigarette, have multiple versions. Catering for changing tourist tastes, a couple of the later C20th hands are slightly more individual and interesting – Hugo and the prolific Mario, especially; but most of the earlier ones are just generic peasants, beauties and ‘characters’, and some are clearly production-line jobs. They are mainly signed with a first initial of ‘S’ or ‘G’ (the ‘G’ often looking like an ‘S’) or no initial at all: some of these are attributed to Salvatore or Giovanni Maresca, but the signatures and quality are so variable that other artists must be involved. Only a handful are signed with ‘V’ or ‘V G’ initials.

Osmund Bullock,

I didn't know about the Galeas, how interesting.

I feel sure the Gallery people are the same, Tim: as labour gradually became the most expensive part of the production line instead of the cheapest, it would make perfect sense to stop producing the art yourself and just take a chunk from those who do. You would expect them, too, to go upmarket - the same economic changes, and availability of good reproductions, have gradually driven cheap original art off the market.

But they're still based in the same tourist crucible - about halfway between Ischia and Naples Airport!

I have some thoughts as to how this might fit in with the picture in question (and other apparent portraits), and will post further in the next day or two.

Osmund Bullock,

My hypothesis is that as well as their stock paintings, the Maresca studio offered visiting tourists a fast turnaround service for portraits copied from photographs – in many cases they probably took the photo, too. This being a rather more skilled job, there may have been a specialist family member involved who had a first name beginning with ‘V’ – perhaps Vincenzo, a name that is frequently found amongst the many branches of the Maresca family in Italy and America. Possibly he was Vincenzo Giovanni, but sometimes dropped the Vincenzo and signed as ‘G’ when doing other work.

I think that’s Mt Vesuvius in the background of the seated boy portrait, which certainly fits the hypothesis. John Menzies Strain was a senior Catholic cleric, and the UK Catholic Church obviously has strong Italian connections – it seems plausible that after his death a photograph was sent to Italy for copying, or taken over by another cleric on a visit there. Private Hudson could perhaps have been in Italy with the UK forces, though I think the only campaign involving British troops was in the north. But Italy was our ally after May 1915 - I wonder if Naples was used as a staging point for troops going to Gallipoli? More research needed.

Finally we have our gentleman in the rickshaw. While I believe it, too, is probably based on a photograph, the Sri Lankan scene (if it is) confuses things somewhat. I have some thoughts on that, too, and will write them up shortly.

Osmund Bullock,

Probably just a coincidence, but in October 1905 the SS 'Oruba' arrived in London from Australia, putting in at Colombo (Sri Lanka) to pick up a couple of dozen passengers on the way: others joined at Port Said, Naples, Marseille and Gibraltar. Among those who embarked at Naples was a certain 'V. Maresca'. He seems, though, to have been one of a group of 16 mariners, probably crew, and there are no further details of him. And while investigating other Marescas on the Incoming Passenger lists I came across many, many other south Italian men – all sailors – listed as embarking at Naples for London on other ships that had originated in Australia and sailed via Colombo.

But the crewmen, I suddenly realized, were a complete distraction from the real story. What was important was that in the late 19th & early 20th Century, it seems that passenger ships sailing from Ceylon to England via the Suez Canal routinely stopped off at Naples.

So I can now extend my hypothesis to the picture under discussion. Returning to the UK after some years in Ceylon, our sitter (perhaps a tea planter or civil servant) stops off at Naples for a week or two en route. With him he has a favourite photograph of himself sitting in a rickshaw in Colombo. While at Naples he hears of the renowned Galleria Maresca, and decides to have an oil version of the photograph painted. Messrs Maresca are happy to oblige, the photo is dropped off for copying, and the painting is ready for collection in time for the resumption of his voyage home.

Or something like that.

Fascinating and persuasive: the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, turned various Mediterranean ports into routine stops on passages to and from the East: Marseilles, Genoa and Naples, and Malta (for British ships in particular) were standard. If 'pierhead painters' could turn out a ship image for a captain in the days a vessel was in port -as they appear to have done- there is no reason to think one could not be copied from a photo. One comes across examples of paintings/portraits (inc ship portraits) copied from photos in various contexts, but I've never seen any quantification of it: can anyone drop any names other than the Galeas -if that's what Tim is suggesting above- and Marescas who might have done this line of work routinely?

Patty Macsisak,

Am anxiously awaiting a photograph of another Colombo building c. 1880 with a tree leaning in the opposite direction, at exactly the same angle...it was hard enough to find the photo of the Old Post Office.

Osmund Bullock,

It would be nice if we could tie the Private R S Hudson portrait at Liverpool in with this scenario.

I have so far failed to find any British soldier of the period called Hudson who had that regimental number. "20th Battalion" could be any number of British regiments during WW1, including the 4th City "Pals” battalion of the King’s Regt (Liverpool) and the 5th City “Pals” battalion of the Manchester Regt – these regiments later combined (in 1958) to form the King’s Regt (Liverpool & Manchester), but the cap badge doesn't look like either of them (though it’s far from clear in the image). The belt style seems to be the British 1914 pattern leather type issued early in the war when production of the new webbing ones could not keep up with recruitment. It’s puzzling that the description mentions only the battalion, not the regiment: the white lanyard is usually associated with the Royal Artillery, but again the cap badge looks wrong. Despite its King's Regiment provenance, I am wondering if this could be a soldier from the Empire – the badge could just possibly be a Canadian one, with a maple leaf as part of the design. And there was a Private R S (Reginald Selby) Hudson in the Canadian Expeditionary Force – he was killed in France in 1917 – but his battalion & number were very different.

So, can I repeat the request for a higher-res version of the image? With it we should be able to identify the cap badge, and perhaps the shoulder flash, and thence perhaps pin down the right Private Hudson. We can then see if his unit was ever in, or passed through Italy during WW1 – the 20th Manchesters certainly were there in 1917-18. (Of course it may be another posthumous work, painted to order for the family after the subject was killed in action.)

I doubt Liverpool will have been following this thread. Could the PCF let them know and ask if we can see the higher-res? And ideally Blairs Museum and the Rev John Strain, too. Any other information either collection holds on their portrait would be of course be most helpful. And do any of these – including the one under discussion – have anything on the back?

Jade King,

I have requested permission to post a high resolution image of both Reverend John Strain (1810–1883)' by Marescar (attributed to) at Blairs Museum, and '22732 Private R. S. Hudson, 20th Battalion' by V. G. Marrson at National Museums Liverpool. I will of course pass on any response or post the image if given permission.

A note made on the Reverend John Strain portrait record says 'Inscription: V/K Marescar?/1889. Inscription position: recto: signature LL'.

Osmund Bullock,

Thank you, Jade: it will be particularly good to see Private Hudson in more detail. Yes, one can just see the inscription/signature LL on Archbishop Strain, but not read it - if it's also a 'V' (and Maresca), that would certainly help build the case.

Jade King,

Blairs Museum have given permission for a high resolution image of Reverend John Strain (1810–1883)' by Marescar (attributed to) to be posted here. Please find it attached.

I will resend the email to National Museums Liverpool re. the Private R. S. Hudson portrait.

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Osmund Bullock,

Thank you, Jade and Blairs. Yes, it's another "V Maresca" - see attached image (tweaked for slightly better clarity).

I'm not certain it's dated 1889, though - it could easily be 1883, which was the year of Strain's death, and also the 50th anniversary of his ordination. He died on 2nd July, the day before this was due to be celebrated, the event having been postponed from June because he was on a visit to Rome - see attached obituary. So we have three possible reasons for such a portrait - a memorial, an anniversary presentation, and a visit to Italy. Would people have travelled to Rome by sea via Naples in the late C19th, I wonder?

(PS Blairs Museum speculates that the presence of three portraits of him in their collection might mean that Strain was "rather prominent whilst Rector". As the obituary records, he was a great deal more than that - an eminent and very senior Catholic churchman in Scotland and in Rome, the Most Reverend John Strain was Archbishop of St Andrews & Edinburgh from 1878 until his death. The PCF entry should perhaps be amended.)

Osmund Bullock,

Re Private Hudson at Liverpool, after a long trawl through images of cap badges I finally found one of the right shape - and it fits all the other details. So we probably no longer need the higher-res image.

The badge is almost certainly that of the 'Liverpool Pals', the 17th-20th Battalions of the King's (Liverpool) Regiment - one of the constituent regiments of the King's Regt that loaned the portrait. The 'Pals' were nearly 7,000 Liverpool volunteers - the 20th were apparently mainly middle-class - raised early in the war by Lord Derby, whose family crest forms the badge. The 22732 Regimental number accords with those given here for the initial intake of the 20th Battalion - there's also an illustration of the badge: http://armyservicenumbers.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/liverpool-pals-number-sequences-and.html

No further details of Hudson are recorded, however, as his service record must have been among those (60%) destroyed in WWII bombing, and he does not appear in the medal cards or medal eligibility rolls (see attachment). We can, though, see from the roll that the man with that number probably had a surname beginning with 'Hu', and in fact there are other military records of the two 'Liverpool Pals' recruits with succeeding numbers, James Hudson (22733) and Harry Hughes (22734). It's possible the two Hudsons were related and enlisted together (as many did), but I suspect the connection is only alphabetical - certainly I cannot find two Hudson brothers with the right first names living anywhere nearby in 1901 or 1911, nor any obvious 'R S Hudson' candidate either.

But though I'd like to have identified him, it's not that relevant to the matter in hand. The important point is that Private R S Hudson cannot have gone to France with his battalion in Nov 1915, nor did he serve abroad anywhere else, with them or any other unit - in WWI the basic medals were only given for service abroad and/or in a 'theatre of war', but if you did so your medal eligibility was automatic and listed. In fact the 'Liverpool Pals' never went anywhere but France, where they were disbanded early in 1918 after punishing losses at the Somme, Arras & Passchendaele.

So whatever the mechanism was by which Hudson's military portrait was painted by the Marescas, it did not happen while he was in Italy - at least not during the war, though of course he may have had a photograph copied there afterwards.

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Seeyam Brijmohun,

It is definitely V.G. Marrson whose painting of "Private R. S. Hudson, 20th Battalion" can be found in the Liverpool Museum. See here:-
http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/22732-private-r-s-hudson-20th-battalion-104338

This is useful because we can state that Marrson was active during the early part of the 20th century.

The white male subject on the rickshaw is looks like Freeman Freeman-Thomas, 1st Marquess of Willingdon who served as governor of the Indian provinces of Bombay (1913-1918) and Madras (1919-1924).
The following photograph has similarities to the painting, the curve of the outside of the eyebrows, the straight Roman nose, the length of the chin:-
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Freeman_Freeman-Thomas_by_Henry_Walter_Barnett.jpg

I have attached a jpeg file which shows how the faces match. I would suggest that the painting was executed in 1913 when Freeman-Thomas first went to India which explains his darker hair and which also ties in with the artist Marrson, when we know he was active.
Good luck with it.
Seeyam Brijmohun MA (commendation)

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Osmund Bullock,

Thanks very much for the input, Seeyam. I agree that the match with Lord Willingdon is very good (though not conclusive). However, I think we have established that the signature is 'V G Maresca', one of the artists working in the Maresca Studio of Naples, and it is quite probably painted from a photograph. Maresca were certainly operating c1913, but also somewhat earlier (1880s).

When I have time I will check Lord Willingdon's movements to and from the East, and see if he is likely have passed through Naples in the right period (though even if he didn't, it doesn't preclude it being him - see discussion above re the Private Hudson portrait). We also need to find a photo of Lord W. that is definitely of the right period - the moustache with its sharply-waxed end is very specific, and needs to be matched.

I wonder, too, if Southend have any more information on the source of the picture, and whether it is likely to have been a portrait of a well-known figure rather than just some fairly random sitter.

Tim Williams,

It looks remarkably like him but the dates don't fit as he would be 14 years old!

Osmund Bullock,

Tim, are we sure of the 1880 date, and if so, how? It doesn't seem to be on the front of the painting. It would certainly (from the rickshaw) seem to be not before about 1880, but the gentleman's style could easily be up to WW1 or thereabouts. My main worry was that if it's 1913 (when was he was first sent to India), at 47 years Willingdon would have been too *old* for this image. I fear he's a red herring.

P.S. Just noticed the unusual - or at least unexpected - upright collar to his jacket, rather like a tropical white naval uniform much later on. Some research required there - did British gentlemen in the East wear such things at the turn of the century? I mean, the bounder's not wearing a proper collar and tie!?!

Tim Williams,

Good point, there's no concrete evidence we've seen for the 1880 date given. Could easily be 1900s.

I also believe he's a red herring, admittedly the resemblance especially the nose is uncanny. I'm pretty set on Ceylon/Sri Lanka being the location rather than India.

You would expect a portrait of Willingdon to show his office/position in someway.

Gee Gardner-Smith,

The most obvious "subject" suspect here is Thomas Lipton ( assuming the location is Ceylon), I leave it to others to eliminate him. Regarding the large building it is very likely to be featured on an Edwardian period postcard - again I leave it to others to research.

Osmund Bullock,

Gee, I'm not sure Lipton can be considered an "obvious" suspect - he seems to have looked nothing like our sitter at all! As for finding the place, I know I'm not alone in having spent many hours trawling through online images of late 19th & early 20th Century Sri Lanka for a match: indeed I have a large file somewhere on my computer of nearly-but-not-quite search results. So if you feel the the building is very likely to feature on some old postcard that I've missed, why not help us out with some research yourself, instead of 'leaving it to others'? I for one would be immensely grateful if you turn it up.

John Quinlan,

I recently purchased a painting by Mario Maresca (mentioned by Osmond Bullock in an earlier post). In the course of trying to find out more about this artist, I came across this discussion. Very interesting to read. I don't have anything of note to add re: the rickshaw painting. I did locate a couple of sites online related to the Marescas in the Naples/Capri area. I am guessing they have some connection to Mario and possibly to the rickshaw artist (see links below). I did send an email but have yet to hear back. They are certainly associated with Mario Maresca Serra, whose work seems to follow in the footsteps of the earlier (and somewhat more sophisticated, in my opinion) Mario Maresca. Also found that a Giovanni Maresca had a son Mario and ran a hotel on Capri (the hotel still operates!) circa early 20th c. Of course these people may have nothing to do with painting, or .. could have painted for easy sale to their guests..

http://maresca-artgallery.tumblr.com/Contact

https://www.facebook.com/maresca.art.gallery/timeline?ref=page_internal

https://books.google.com/books?id=mfUPq7S1dZ8C&pg=PA1901-IA1&lpg=PA1901-IA1&dq=mario+maresca,+artist,+capri&source=bl&ots=zuHXCzuFCs&sig=80iw0jbOqrxP89atHJ-RkCD6W1Q&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAzgKahUKEwiLioO8if_IAhUEbj4KHWsFCtc#v=onepage&q=mario maresca, artist, capri&f=false

This discussion appears to have reached a satisfactory conclusion and I recommend that it should now be drawn to a close. In summary: the painting is most likely to be by 'V G Maresca', one of the artists working in the Maresca Studio of Naples, and was probably painted from a photograph, c.1880s to c.1913. The location is quite possibly Colombo, Sri Lanka. The identity of the sitter is unlikely to be found.

Osmund Bullock,

That seems fine to me, Frances. But what about the other two works identified as coming from the same studio? Both can now have a more correct artist attribution, along with further information on the sitters from our detailed research. Do we really have to open two new discussions to address that - I doubt that much more would emerge? http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/22732-private-r-s-hudson-20th-battalion-104338 and http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/reverend-john-strain-18101883-166453

With current WWI awareness, and the fact that Private Hudson, though personally unidentifiable, was a member of a famous 'Pals' regiment should be of interest [20th Bn (4th City) King's (Liverpool Regiment): the 'Liverpool Pals']. Mind you, Liverpool didn't seem very responsive to Jade's requests for high-res permission, so perhaps I'm too optimistic! Blairs Museum was very helpful, though, and may want to add extra details to the portrait's Your Paintings title or entry - the Rev John Strain was a man of considerable prominence [The Most Rev John Strain, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh].

Jade King,

Southend Museums Service have been contacted about this recommendation.

I will get in touch with Museum of Liverpool and Blairs Museum also.

Jade King,

Southend Museums Service are happy with Frances' recommendation.