Dress and Textiles, Portraits: British 19th C 180 Who is this lady in a black dress with a cameo on a red ribbon, and who painted her?

Portrait of a Lady in a Black Dress with a Cameo on a Red Ribbon
Topic: Subject or sitter

Further information is sought on the identity of the sitter and the artist of this painting. Peterhouse, University of Cambridge does not have more information about this picture in its own records and would be happy to receive suggestions.

Edward Stone, Entry reviewed by Art UK


Sophie Grillet,

It would help to be have a close-up of the plants in the vase, as she may be a botanist. Women botanists tend to be ignored or listed as plant illustrators rather than botanists or plant collectors.
Katherine Wheelwright Saunders (1824 - 1901) is one possibility, although she seems to have a narrower face and no cleft chin.

Osmund Bullock,

I can't identify the tall, upright stems, but the drooping pinky blooms are fuchsias - see attached enhanced image. This would seem to rule out Saunders, who I think worked entirely in South Africa.

Numerous Fuchsia hybrids like these were already widely grown in England by the mid-19th Century, so I fear they won't help us - I think it's just a little informal background vase of flowers. Nor, alas, will the vase itself, which from its shape looks to be Japanese export ware - blue-and-white Arita or similar, and again widely available in Europe in the C19th. Ditto the cameo brooch.

I would guess from dress and hairstyle that the portrait dates from the late 1840s, perhaps a tad later. If someone (certainly not me!) were able to pronounce definitively on the artist - it's a fairly distinctive and rather attractive hand - exhibition records might possibly produce something. But if not, unless there is some clue on the back - have the Collection looked? - I can't see us making much progress with this. A nice portrait, though - there is real character in the face.

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Timothy Taylor,

It seems to be of a business man's wife. The attire and jewellery are surely later Victorian if not Edwardian. Note the carved walnut or mahogany chair with rattan backing. My own family had portraits done and one had similar dress and cameo but not as well painted as above. Mine is thought to be of my grandmother's grandparent, probably 1880s- 1890s, please see attached.

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The sitter's hairstyle is definitely mid-nineteenth century, probably late 1840s as Osmund proposes, with a centre parting and hair smoothly dressed to cover the ears completely -- in total contrast to Timothy's ancestress whose ears are totally exposed in a much later fashion. If only to prompt further debate, I suggest that the portrait has the look of an artist working within the orbit of Pre-Raphaelitism in its early years,

I would date this portrait to c 1845-49. Please see a calotype from the National Portrait Gallery of SOPHIA FINLAY 1843-48 by Hill and Adamson NPG P6 (ii8) The hair style, cut of the dress, the narrow sleeves, V point to centre front of dress, style of small lace collar placing of brooch at centre front neck are all very much the same.

I would date this to the 1850s. I agree with Richard that this painting shows the influence of the Pre-Raphaelites, who would have been more widely known by the early/ mid 1850s.

Edward Stone,

As there is consensus that this is a nineteenth-century portrait, I have removed this discussion from the Portraits: British 18th C group.

Andrea Kollmann,

Could the sitter be Katherine Clerk Maxwell (nee Dewar), wife of James Clerk Maxwell?
The two photos in the attachment show her in the late 1860s.
According to the website of the James Clerk Maxwell foundation (http://www.clerkmaxwellfoundation.org/) Peterhouse College also owns photos of her and her husband.
She died without issue and bequeathed £10,000 to the University of Cambridge to found a scholarship in the Cavendish Laboratory. Maybe this is when the portrait came to Cambridge? All of this is speculation, based solemnly on the similarities (I think I see) between the photos and the portrait, I found no other reference to this portrait.
There is another portrait of her with her husband in the collection of the Cavendish Laboratory: http://bit.ly/2k4Vi2l

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It's likely -- though by no means certain -- that the sitter is the wife (or widow) of a sometime student at Peterhouse or of a fellow or master. I assume that in the nineteenth century students and fellows there were men only but am open to correction on this. Certainly all the masters were men until the present incumbent Bridget Kendal.

Even allowing for the passage of time between the probable date of the portrait and that of the Clerk Maxwell photographs, I do not see the sitters as being the same. The subject of the painting has a fuller neck and face and, unlike Mrs Clerk Maxwell, has eyebrows with a distinctive angled bend.

Jacinto Regalado,

The woman in the portrait under investigation appears to be of stolid middle class stock, neither especially cultured nor intellectual, though no doubt respectable. The facial expression is rather vacant or flat in affect; it seems the painter was not much moved to flattery. The most striking element is the red ribbon, which is vaguely shocking and at odds with the placid blankness of the face. Still, the overall effect is intriguing.

Malcolm Fowles,

If we take Richard's suggestion of the wife of a Peterhouse man, might we not expect to find his portrait too?

Starting from date range of Lou and Barbara, I see two possibles on the Art UK website.

1. William Hopkins http://www.artuk.org/discover/artworks/william-hopkins-17921866-frs-esquire-bedell-231606

2. Barnard Smith http://www.artuk.org/discover/artworks/barnard-smith-18171890-fellow-231517

Both are by Henry William Pickersgill, who clearly has the right level of competence, and gives us someone who was active in the college at the time rather than a one-off.

Further, taking Sophie's original comment on the flowers, Pickersgill also painted "Robert Brown, botanist". The image is not on Art UK but is on Wikipedia, and may have been sourced in Germany.

Would someone please get up close to all three of these portraits and look for clues in the paint?

Jacinto Regalado,

Pickersgill primarily painted men, and his female portraits are less successful. However, in general his pictures tend to have an air of refined gracefulness, which is quite absent in this "square" and relatively prosaic portrait, honest though it may be.

Malcolm Fowles,

So, we have "it's a fairly distinctive and rather attractive hand ... a nice portrait ... there is real character in the face" versus "an air of refined gracefulness, which is quite absent in this 'square' and relatively prosaic portrait, honest though it may be".

Personally, I share Osmund's view from the image alone, and I don't think Jacinto's generalisation of Pickersgill bears scrutiny of his 127 works on Art UK. He is right about the women, though, and I'd say our portrait stands up very well amongst them; indeed a few seem dire.

However any assessment is questionable if not made in front of the actual work. Therefore it is still worth someone comparing the technique of the Peterhouse Pickersgills (and indeed any other of their portraits of known 1845-55 date) with this one.

If this is not Pickersgill (and I only suggested him from logic) it cannot be a one-off by an otherwise unknown artist. It is much too good for that.

Malcolm Fowles,

At the foot of the painting there are two items of interest.

First, the artist is showing off a bit with the necklace, in terms of the way it twists in the light and hangs over the clothes. Does anyone recall this as a motif in other works?

Second, there seems to be a fabric bow, or similar, with its knot under the necklace. Does that change the dating of the clothes? Further, it seems to carry an intricate design, especially in the standing end falling to our left. We'll never tell from this image, but might it be hiding an artist's identifer? Something else for the collection to have a look at.

Jacinto Regalado,

Impressions naturally vary with the observer, but both of the male Peterhouse portraits by Pickersgill linked above (Hopkins and Smith) strike me as significantly more elegant and graceful than that of the lady with the red ribbon. It may be, as I noted, that the painter was simply being honest with her, but one would think that a given portraitist would treat women no less flatteringly than he did men.

I do not, by the way, object to Osmund's opinion of the picture, which I do find intriguing and certainly worth the attention it is receiving here.

Martin Hopkinson,

Has Peterhouse inspected the back of the frame, stretcher and canvas for any information which might be prove helpful including canvas stamp, frame maker's label, auctioneer's or dealer's codes?
An authoritative opinion from a historian of dress as to the date of the sitter's dress would be helpful
Also could the college provide a higher resolution detail photo of the 19th century vase in the background? It could well be possible to identify the pottery which produced it and give a fairly narrow dating for the vase's execution.

Patty Macsisak,

Ref. "A Visitor's Guide to Victorian England" by Michelle Higgs, Pen and Sword, Feb 12, 2014, via Google Books.

The following phases describe the routine for a middle-class widow.

Phase 1 - First or deep mourning - 13 months duration; attire was bombazine covered with crape, widow's cap, lawn cuffs and collar

Phase 2 - Second mourning - 6 months duration; attire was same as above, only less crape

Phase 3 - Ordinary mourning - 6 months duration; silk or wool replaced the bombazine, no crape. In the last 3 months, it was permissible to wear jet jewelry and ribbons.

Phase 4 - Half-mourning (respectable widows) - 6 months duration; colors permitted include grey, lavender, mauve, and black

Based on these guidelines, the sitter may be in Phase 4, but bucking the norms.

Osmund Bullock,

I agree with Richard that this cannot be Katherine Clerk Maxwell, whose features and pale Celtic colouring seem very different.

Malcolm, your approach is extremely interesting...but I don't think it's Pickersgill. Although considered in his earlier career as "natural" and unmannered compared with some contemporaries and predecessors, to modern eyes most of his sitters (bar family) seem somewhat affected and posed in a way this portrait emphatically is not. Actually his oil of Robert Brown [ http://bit.ly/2iJT506 & http://bit.ly/2iK0koJ ] is one of his most unaffected: the original was painted for the the Linnean Society of London in 1837 and is still there - a print after it of the same year http://bit.ly/2j2An29 is widely held. But born at the end of 1773, Brown was a man of an earlier age: in 1850 he was nearer 80 than 70, and this is more likely to be his daughter or even grand-daughter...or would be if he had one. In fact he never married, and he was also unconnected with Cambridge.

Martin, I did address the matter of the vase (Japanese export, Arita-type) above - I should perhaps mention that I worked for a top oriental export porcelain dealer for some years in the 70s & 80s. Re what she's wearing, Lou has written that she thinks that dress-wise it is c1845-49. But I thoroughly agree that if possible we need to see/know about anything on the back.

Jacinto, I was just about to write the same thing - that it's funny how portraits speak to different people in quite different ways. Where you see stolidity, I see benevolent calmness; where you, vacancy of expression - I, intelligent thoughtfulness! To me she is attractive in the eyes of the painter, and he has portrayed her in an intentionally simple, unshowy and honest way. I also think that's the message of the little vase of small, pretty flowers just picked from a garden - if they were to be read in a botanical context the point would surely be made differently (as indeed it is in Robert Brown's portrait). Difficult to be sure at this resolution, but could it be that she has an engagement ring, but no wedding band?

Osmund Bullock,

Like Lou, I still feel it's more likely to be before 1850 than after, and while looking for images with the right hairstyle (of which there are many in the 1840s) I came across the attached (?miniature) portrait (artist not identified) of Ford Madox Brown's cousin and first wife Elisabeth Bromley. Not only do we have the hair, we have almost exactly the same type and arrangement of collar, ribbon and cameo. It is not dated, but Elisabeth died at Paris in June 1846 - she is seen here http://bit.ly/2k9tJF7 (bottom right) in a painting by FMB of the older members of her family, completed in 1844. Sorry, I should make clear I'm not suggesting it's her, merely using her as a dating guide.

Also bottom right in this last portrait is another vase of flowers - rather showier, and in a showier vase...but it is Japanese again. And following up on FMB I came across this little 1846 oil sketch by him** http://bit.ly/2jJ5G3u - Chinese export porcelain this time, but thematically close to ours. And interestingly in an 1847 entry in FMB's diary (a fascinating read) he mentions that he had planted a Fuchsia on his wife's grave. All of which is not to say, sadly, that our portrait might be by him; but it does rather support Richard's suggestion that it "has the look of an artist working within the orbit of Pre-Raphaelitism in its early years". And I do think the artist has something that takes him/her out of the realms of bog-standard mid-C19th portraiture.

[**The ArtUK version of this http://bit.ly/2iLQ4N2 is one of many with pretty poor colour balance]

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Martin Hopkinson,

Osmund - thank you for pointing out that I had not read far enough back in the discussion. I am sure that you are right that this is likely to be of the late 1840s - indeed it is much more like portraits by FMB than by the true Pre-Raphaelites who became his friends. But as you say it is not by Brown , or for that matter very close to his portraits .It need not be by a metropolitan artist. There were portraitists of this calibre operating in East Anglia - and indeed even in Cambridge

This is turning into a fascinating discussion, so, to echo Martin, might we, Art UK, have more details of physical evidence--higher res, images of the back of canvas, marks on stretcher, labels (if any), etc.

Malcolm Fowles,

The portrait on Art UK is scaled down, but the original is accessible. I downloaded it to examine the bow, as discussed above.

I find that it is in poor (digital) condition, with pixel artefacts everywhere. For all I know, the bow might even be plain black fabric and the patterning be all artefactual. Maybe this is done to detect plagiarism, but it sure does prevent investigation.

So to echo Barbara: not only hi. res., but also original information carefully preserved please. (This includes using lossless compression; .png would be preferable to .jpg.)

Jacinto Regalado,

It might help to get a closer look at her cameo brooch. Is it a purely decorative one, with the profile of some generic "pretty lady," or is it something more specific and potentially telling, such as the profile of a Roman emperor/empress, which could relate to her husband's field of study?

Patty Macsisak,

“During the early Victorian era the requirements weren’t as strict as they would become later (after Prince Albert died of typhoid fever, 14 Dec 1861). “http://www.katetattersall.com/mourning-dress-victorian/

“Red I hold to be no color with black and white.”
“Red had long been used as a mourning color. In the Christian Church it represents the blood of Christ. Funeral palls…were usually in white, gold and red.” Ref. “Mourning Dress (Routledge Revivals): A Costume and Social History, Lou Taylor, Routledge, July 15, 2009, via GoogleBooks

Could the red ribbon in this and other examples cited by Jacinto Regalado be funeral souvenirs (e.g., a ribbon from the funeral pall)?

Jacinto Regalado,

I am certainly no expert on Victorian mourning dress, but the three comparable portraits I linked above and this one all strike me as women in such dress. The touch of bright red against so much black might seem "wrong" or visually wayward, but if it is a symbolic rather than a decorative matter, it makes rather more sense.

Malcolm Fowles,

If this is the lady of the Master of Peterhouse, then from late 1847 he was Henry Cookson Wilkinson, who married Emily Valence in 1855. That might account for an engagement ring, if the suggestion is correct, rather than a wedding ring.

She was the elder daughter of Gilbert Ainslie, master of Pembroke College, so the change of name suggests she may have been previously married and widowed.


The previous Master was Rev William Hodgson, who married Charlotte Tarleton in July 1838. Their first son was born in Nov 1839, so she too may have been the right age for this portrait.

See Alumni Cantabrigienses: A Biographical List of All Known Students [of Cambridge University] (2011), or search for Rev W Hodgson Peterhouse in Google Books. [That looks like one very useful reference!]

Malcolm Fowles,

An update: Valence is Emily's middle name, she is recorded in a family tree as Emily Valence Ainslie. Not a widow.


This raises another intriguing possibility, that for the second time in a few days we may find a family historian with an interest in the portrait.

Malcolm, thanks for your excellent ideas, but just one correction. The Master of Peterhouse was Henry Wilkinson Cookson, so the question is are we looking at a portrait of Mrs Emily Cookson, or the about to be married, Emily Valence Ainslie.

Martin Hopkinson,

Of course the sitter may have been a benefactor to Peterhouse, rather than a relation of a Master or a Fellow. The College must have a list of 19th century benefactors. She could have been the mother of a student at the college.

Martin Hopkinson,

She may have been short sighted in one eye - for is that not a lorgnette hanging down from behind the cameo into her lap?

Martin Hopkinson,

Are the dark blue blooms irises? The combination of flowers might well be symbolic.

Malcolm Fowles,

Art UK has portraits of both Cookson and Ainslie, though painted at later dates.

Cookson: http://artuk.org/discover/artworks/henry-wilkinson-cookson-master-18471876-231548, by Lowes Cato Dickinson. There is another (and I think better) close-up portrait, same artist and sitter, in the Abbott Hall Gallery, Kendal.

Dickinson's early works on Art UK are not so fine, and our portrait would sit nicely among them. See (e.g.) http://artuk.org/discover/artworks/rear-admiral-sir-henry-john-codrington-18081877-173406. Dickinson was active in Cambridge colleges in the 1850s: see http://artuk.org/discover/artworks/thomas-gejetan-ragland-18151858-fellow-18411858-missionary-193646

Ainslie: http://artuk.org/discover/artworks/gilbert-ainslie-17931870-195476, by Frederick Bacon Barwell (1831–1922). Barwell's early works on Art UK make our portrait look magnificent, so perhaps he doesn't fit the timescale.

Nor is there much likeness to his supposed daughter in Ainslie's face. But wait, what about his father Henry, who was a Fellow of Pembroke College? http://artuk.org/discover/artworks/henry-ainslie-17601834-195511. He appears to be of the same "stolid middle class stock, neither especially cultured nor intellectual", but in fact was quite the opposite! Look him up.

I am beginning to warm to this woman.

Malcolm Fowles,

I speculate that the sitter is still named Emily Valence Ainslie, but that this is an engagement portrait. It could have been commissioned by either college's Master, her father or her fiancé, but as it belongs to Peterhouse I would favour the latter.

The date would be 1854. She married Cookson on 23 January 1855 at St. Mary-The-Less, Cambridge. (familysearch.org).

No proof, just logic.

Malcolm Fowles,

Could someone tell us whether the style of the "engagement" ring in 1850 was our familiar thin band + jewel to fit your bank balance? If so, this is certainly an engagement portrait and, Martin, she isn't any student's mum yet. :-)

Patty Macsisak,

Via the reference provided by Malcolm Fowles, I find that Montague Ainslie, brother of Emily Valence Ainslie, died in 1853.

Patty Macsisak,

Re: flowers...for the blue flower, consider sage (wisdom, immortality) or salvia (I am thinking of you).

Jacinto Regalado,

So, Emily Ainslie could have been wearing mourning for her brother in 1854, when an engagement portrait could have been painted. She need not look too much like her father if she looked like her mother, also named Emily, a daughter of William Coxhead Marsh, of Park Hall, Theydon Garnon, Essex.


Jacinto Regalado,

The handling of the background, especially on the left side of the picture, is similar to the background of an 1861 portrait by Dickinson:


The back of the chair is also similar, but that is weaker evidence.

This undated female portrait by Dickinson, which I expect is a good decade later and better painted, is more artful and flattering, but there is still a certain "squareness" or stiffness to the pose, albeit mitigated by the rather prettier subject:


As with Pickersgill, Dickinson's clients were mostly men, and unlike Allan Ramsay according to Walpole, all portrait painters are not formed to paint women.

Jacinto Regalado,

Regarding the pre-Raphaelite quality which was noted early on, Dickinson's Wikipedia entry states that he "corresponded and worked with the central participants of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, lecturing with both Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Ruskin. He had a studio in the same building as John Everett Millais and taught Ford Madox Brown."


Martin Hopkinson,

Malcolm - I am sorry that I did not make myself clear - I was suggesting [rather speculatively] that she may have been a donor to Peterhouse much later in life and that her son's death could have been much later in the century.

Malcolm Fowles,

This is getting to the point at which the college ought to look for documentation relating to the portrait.

The end date is January 1855. An engagement notice would give us a start date. I cannot find one either via Google or via the British Newspaper Archive. However, results from the latter suggest major problems in its digitisation of Cambridgeshire papers, with much text rendered as gobbledegook. One publication to include is "University and Church", since both Cookson and Ainslie were Reverends. Cookson conducted marriages, chaired the Police Court, and appears with Ainslie numerous times in University meeting reports.

What's not to like in this story? A mystery woman, a female portrait out of place among the fellows, a hairstyle to rival Princess Leia, pre-Raphaelite influence, postmodern aesthetics and, to cap it all, Victorian era intercourse between ancient colleges. I choose my words carefully. :-)

Surely the present Master of Peterhouse, with her background in journalism, would want to lead this personally!

Yes, Lowes Cato Dickinson had connections with the Pre-Raphaelites and Cambridge. Also worth noting that Frederick Barwell (cited above by Malcolm as the painter of a portrait of Gilbert Ainslie of Pembroke) was a close personal friend of John Everett Millais and Millais frequently used Barwell's studio in the 1850s.

Malcolm Fowles,

To add to Jacinto, here are two other items from Dickinson's Wikipedia entry:

"... he became a partner ... in the firm of Dickinson Brothers of Bond Street ... the firm were photographers ... and **many of Dickinson's portraits were painted from photographs**". That explains the pose problem.

"His papers are at Princeton, Oxford and Cambridge Universities." Would the college please follow this up?

Martin Hopkinson,

Fellows at Cambridge University were NOT permitted to marry until 1860. I do not know at what date heads of college were allowed to be married - possibly not until then too

Malcolm Fowles,

The Alumni Cantabriensis makes it clear that the three Masters Cookson, Ainslie and Hodgson were married long before 1860. Interestingly the old newspapers, where readable, suggest that their wives and children were active in the university community.

Malcolm Fowles,

Ah, I see your point now. This lady can *only* be related to someone who is not a fellow. This takes us very close to a conclusion. I cannot see a young engaged woman having the importance to Peterhouse of, for example, a benefactor.

Martin Hopkinson,

It appears that heads of college who were ordained priests could marry , but not lay heads of college - rather strange rules see Bridget Duckenfield, College Cloisters - Married bachelors, Newcastle upon Tyne ,2013, pp. 72-3
This volume undoubtedly says more elsewhere.
So the above may not be the whole story

Martin Hopkinson,

Ainslie was ordained and Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University in 1830. His death in 1870 was reported in the Cambridge Independent Press on 15 January 1870. This , however, states that his predecessor as Master was a Dr Turner, who had been Master for 42 years and that there had been only 2 Masters since 1784.
So Henry Wilkinson Cookson can only have been Master for 2 years after Ainslie's death

Martin Hopkinson,

Malcolm - what I mean is that this sitter or a very close member of her family may have been a benefactor many years after the portrait was painted.

Jacinto Regalado,

Turner was Master of Pembroke 1784-1828; Ainslie succeeded him in 1828 and held the post until his death in 1870. Cookson was Master of Peterhouse from 1847 until his death in 1876.

Jacinto Regalado,

And yes, Malcolm, this portrait must have been painted from a photograph, which might still exist. That would explain not only the rudimentary and prosaic pose but also the rather blank expression. If she had posed for the painter, there would presumably have been interaction between them to encourage a more animated visage.

Martin Hopkinson,

There is an article by Veronica Carter on the Good Women of Peterhouse , Journal of Design History 28, 2, 2015, pp. 113-127 and a couple of publications on donors to the college's library

There is likely to be a relatively modern history of the college

I see no PreRaphaelite influence here either in hair style or dress. The whole look is a moderate version of fashionable style c 1845-50. Nor do I think this dress has anything to do with mourning. The fabric seems to be a shiny black silk satin- used only in the very very last stages of mourning. In c 1845 this would have been after 18m months to 2 years after the start of widowhood. It is funny to be quoted back to myself but my remarks about the use of red in mourning have been placed out of context. The quotes used referred not to the use of a small very bright red, fashionable, trimming, as in this portrait. The first wearer was Lady Charlotte Schreiber in 1856 for her eldest son's comimg of age ceremony. four years into her widowhood. Her daytime dress for the ceremony was 'a simple muslin' [white]with a scarlet scarf to relieve the too bride-like appearance.' As quoted by the Cunnningtons, Mrs Sherwood opted, thirty years later for 'a deep red as a proper alternative for mourning black,' but only if the wearer had to attend wedding during her period of first year's mourning. Wearing red whilst in mourning- even four year's into widowhood, was therefore never usual practice and seems a highly unlikely choice for a widow's portrait. Black was worn as a fashion colour even then. Additionally, neither such a fine and fancy lace collar, as shown here, along with such a large decorative cameo brooch (clearly not mourning jewellery) would have been acceptable for mourning wear- so I am of the opinion that we can rule that idea out. (ref. Taylor, Mourning Dress, 1983. 258.reprint 2010)

Malcolm Fowles,

The Good Women of Peterhouse is a rather ironic reference. It is actuall a modern feminist analysis of a Burne-Jones window installed in Peterhouse in 1870, depicting Chaucer's "The Legend of Good Women". I quote:

"I contend that both poet and artist defined ideal femininity as an expression of masculine mastery, and a ‘good woman’ as compliant to male authority in love and life. I then frame the ‘goodness’ of the window’s figures within the contemporary discourses levelled against female undergraduate students. Taking surviving archival evidence into account, I interpret the decision to include the window’s visual illustration and material incarnation of fragile femininity within the cloistered, homosocial space of the Combination Room as a defensive one, intended to bolster a masculine community that feared itself besieged by power-hungry women."

Given that Emily was the Master's wife then, I wonder what hand she had in the window's creation, and what she'd think of this analysis.

Patty Macsisak,

I agree that the cameo would have been unacceptable for all but the latter stages of mourning. If in fact this is a portrait of Emily Marsh Ainslie, she would have been required to mourn for her brother Montague Ainslie for six months ("The death of a sibling required three months of deep mourning and three months of half-mourning."), but at her option, sentimentally or frugally extended the use of her mourning clothes past the proscribed period ("Half-mourning lasted for three to six months and was represented by more elaborate fabrics used as trim. Gradually easing back into color was expected coming out of half-mourning. All manner of jewelry could be worn.")

Ref. "The Book of the Dead", E. R. Vernor, Lulu.com, Nov 23, 2016, via GoogleBooks

Malcolm Fowles,

Question for the collection. Where is the portrait kept now, and how long has it been there? Is there any memory or photograph of it hanging elsewhere?

Malcolm Fowles,

Lady in a Black Dress: a summary thus far, including a bit of new information.

The portrait is of a young woman wearing an engagement ring, and a (disputed) suggestion of mourning dress.

The dress style is dated to the decade around 1850.

The female subject is almost unique among the male portraits owned by Peterhouse College, which needs to be accounted for.

The style of painting is assessed as being influenced by the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (fl.1848-1853), but not as being painted by one of its members.

Most unusually for a Cambridge College, the Master from 1847 to 1876, Henry Wilkinson Cookson, married in post on 23 January 1855 to Emily Valence Ainslie, 22 year old daughter of the Master of Pembroke College, who was also twice Vice Chancellor of the University. The rarity of this event, her family’s social importance in the University, and of course the Master’s influence, each provides an argument as to why her portrait would be deemed worthy of Peterhouse at the time.

The two college masters were probably very close, perhaps having a mentor-protegé relationship. Both were born in Kendal, to families with deep roots in the clergy of Westmorland. Emily remarried after Cookson’s death, to yet another clergyman; her own death in 1895 was registered in Carlisle and she was buried in Crosby-in-Eden, Cumberland.

Emily’s brother Montague died aged 19 in the Royal Naval Hospital, Gosport, in October 1853. This would explain the sitter’s mourning dress, if such it is; the dress may be a red herring.

All of these threads point to the sitter being Emily Valence Ainslie, painted in 1854 while she was engaged to Cookson. Say, 80% probable.

The identity of the artist is an entirely different matter.

Martin Hopkinson,

Lou is almost certainly correct in saying that this is not a mourning dress - what it is is a morning dress something quite different

Malcolm, thank you for the summary. Eliminating the idea that she is wearing mourning dress, we now need further information from Peterhouse. Especially useful, in addition to any further clues on the painting itself, is how and when the portrait arrived at the college. We should be able to learn more about all this in the next days or week, once contact has been made with the college.

Martin Hopkinson,

The latest book that seems to be a history of Peterhouse is Thomas Alfred Walker, Peterhouse, 1935

Martin Hopkinson,

The Ward Library, Peterhouse has a collection of 19th century photographs of people connected with the college and 'others'

Malcolm Fowles,

Richard, I wouldn't trust any of this portrait's fine detail. I pointed out earlier that *all* of the texture on the dress bow, seems to come from digital artefacts. The same can be said of the right hand.

This is what happens when a .jpg image is repeatedly saved at less than full resolution, even when the area concerned has not been touched. Each time, the software thinks "now what can I compress?" Lord knows how many times this one has been edited; a lot, from the pixellation.

A high quality original image would be most welcome.

Malcolm Fowles,

Thanks Barbara. I hope that the probability put on the date is high enough to persuade Peterhouse that it is their turn now. This should be a joint enterprise. Given the narrowed date range, two main lines of inquiry are now feaible:

1. Comparison of what we know of Emily with what they know of Cookson's wife.

2. Pursuit of their documentation of portrait acquisition, and any relationship with the possible artists mentioned above. This has to included Cambridge's collection of Dickinson's papers, and one also hopes that Princeton and Oxford would not be churlish about giving assistance.

Jacinto Regalado,

The perceived pre-Raphaelite air, to call it that, of this picture is not a matter of the dress or hair, which were no doubt perfectly in keeping with the lady's social context. She is quite obviously not a Rossetti "stunner." However, to my eye, the air is still there.

Jacinto Regalado,

Peterhouse should have photographs of Emily Cookson, which should be simple enough to locate and compare to this painting.

Patty Macsisak,

Concerning Miss Katherine Hodgson (1889*-1935), daughter of Thomas Hesketh Hodgson (1841-1917) and Elizabeth Cookson (1855-1935)...

"Tullie House Museum, Carlisle, holds a large cardboard box of photographic negatives etc. of Miss Hodgson, ref. Accession 67 – 1974, which Miss Clare Fell brought in to Tullie House in July 1974, the accession register noting that the deposit included a few
fragments of sherd pottery and flints, renumbered 67-1974. 1 – 16 (see IRGMA Archaeology Cards). It should be noted that a prior appointment is necessary to consult these negatives, etc.

Besides negatives relating to Miss Hodgson’s archaeological work (Askerton, Bewcastle, Broomrigg, Castlesteads, Glassonby, Mayburgh, etc., also of Lamonby Farm, a clay constructed house at Burgh by Sands), there are negatives of ‘Portraits’ [? Hodgson family members]...."


*Note that other sources say she was born December 6, 1888).

Patty Macsisak,


Concerning Miss Katherine Hodgson (1889*-1975), daughter of Thomas Hesketh Hodgson (1841-1917) and Elizabeth Cookson (1855-1935)...

Patty Macsisak,


Concerning Miss Katherine Hodgson (1889*-1974), daughter of Thomas Hesketh Hodgson (1841-1917) and Elizabeth Cookson (1855-1935)...

Osmund Bullock,

Thank you, Lou, for that calm, clear and expert analysis. I was in any case going to caution against focusing too much on the mourning aspect. Even if she *were* in the very last stages, the wide spread of those requiring some sort of mourning recognition for one duration or another – together with large Victorian families and frequent deaths – would make any firm family conclusions near-impossible. The truth is that for whatever reasons there is a vast number – perhaps even a majority – of mid-C19th female portraits where (if in day dress) the fabric is of sombre hue or black.

Malcolm, Peterhouse has already said that it "does not have more information about this picture in its own records". I don't think it's reasonable to ask that they do another (non-specific) trawl through their archives to “look for documentation relating to the portrait ". Nor are they likely to have the time or staff to "follow up" the Dickinson papers references, which we can do online ourselves** – particularly with Dickinson being (in my view) a fairly tenuous suggestion as to artist. As to the image, I'm not sure what you mean by “the original is accessible”, unless you mean the slightly higher-res version always available in the main ArtUK area from the link on the Art Detective page – if not, do you have a link? A somewhat higher-res (but still JPG) version is normally held by ArtUK and is sometimes available to us if the collection authorizes it. The collection itself may possibly hold a still higher-res image, and will occasionally show us at least a detail. But for many good reasons - technical, legal and logistical - to post a truly high-res PNG here is an impossible ask.

A view of the back, however, is something we might hope for – as indeed is Jacinto’s suggestion of any photograph they may hold of the Master's wife Emily (they seem to have become engaged in about Nov 1854 http://bit.ly/2j2YF91 ). But I’m not too hopeful about the ones in the Ward Library – the full catalogue entries are not promising. It would also be very valuable if Peterhouse have even a rough idea (perhaps from the accession no. 70) as to when the portrait might have entered or first been recorded in their possession.

**The only papers of his at Cambridge are at King's: 21 letters of c1883-1904 – much too late and unlikely to be on artistic subjects – to Oscar Browning, who was a fellow and tutor there: http://bit.ly/2jdmoHa . The Oxford reference is to a single letter from Rossetti of unknown date in the Ashmolean (whose website seems to be currently down): http://bit.ly/2k62jke . Princeton has a substantial collection of letters to Dickinson from various members of the Pre-Raphaelite circle, but apart from those from Madox Brown (which start in 1851), all are probably too late: http://bit.ly/2kgG8ag . You can email Princeton if you think it’s worth pursuing, but I won’t be doing so unless we have better evidence of Dickinson's plausibility.

Osmund Bullock,

I hope I will be forgiven for trying to slow things down a little here – not least because I’m finding it hard to keep up in terms of deeper research and response. Malcolm’s hypothesis that this is Emily Cookson is interesting, and certainly worthy of that research. But I think the idea that it is 80% certain is way too high. There is actually no *evidence* as yet for it beyond the gender of the sitter, the approximate date of the painting (but see below), and that it may be an engagement portrait because she *may* have no wedding ring (unconfirmed since we cannot see for certain). The rest is supposition based on the idea that she must have been very significant to the College for them to hold the portrait at all; ergo she was perhaps the wife of the Master. If she was so exceptional and important to them, I am a bit surprised that her identity has been lost.

In the opposite direction we have dress and hair evidence that may date it half a decade or more too early for Emily, and that she appears too young (I agree with Richard that the sitter must be more than 22 years old). And although she may possibly have been important to the College, it is at least as likely that (like many portraits we see here) it ended up in their collection by default, i.e. nobody else wanted it – in those days usually because the donor had no children or close family. If – IF – the sitter had living descendants, I would expect such a portrait to have descended with them until well into the C20th – especially granted Oxbridge’s disinclination to hang portraits that are not of distinguished alumnae / fellows / substantial benefactors, and (historically) preferably not women. Families moving somewhere smaller offload large portraits of men first, especially when unidentified (or valuable) – smaller portraits of non-ugly women usually last longer, especially where the sitter is still remembered. Emily died in 1895, and had a daughter Elizabeth (who looks utterly unlike our portrait’s sitter: http://bit.ly/2jOIoZt ) and did not die until 1935 (when she was still living in a big house). She in turn had a daughter Katherine who did not die until 1974, and knew her granny till she was six.

That’s not all. Emily also had a son, Henry (b.1882) by her next marriage, not to mention six step-children aged one to sixteen when she married their father, and to whom she became a mother. That’s a lot of people, with who knows how many descendants, not to want a very decent portrait.

I have many other things to say (e.g. about the idea that it’s based on a photograph – I am quite sure it isn’t), but have already extended this already very long thread by far too much. I really think we need to pause now to give the Collection a chance to see if they can help on those three specifics (though of course *any* real new evidence is welcome – just seen Patty’s info on possible negatives of family members at Tullie House).

Osmund Bullock,

Correction: I cannot find confirmation about this son Henry, b.1882, and it may be wrong; however Emily had even more stepchildren than I thought, several of whom appear to have lived into the 1950s/60s & beyond. They seem to have descendants, so another potential source of family photos - someone has uploaded on to Ancestry a poor photo of the Rev Joseph Hudson, Emily's second husband, who died in 1919 worth a substantial sum for the time (£30K+).

Martin Hopkinson,

Professor Adrian Dixon , who retired as Master of Peterhouse last year, says that he thinks that the sitter is the mother of one of the college's distinguished scientists [ but cannot remember which]

Martin Hopkinson,

The 1906 edition of Walker's Peterhouse is on line [University of Toronto Library]

Oliver Perry,

There's a detailed list of portraits in the College on pages 204-6. The only female subject mentioned is the 16th century benefactor Mrs Wolfe.

Martin Hopkinson,

One of these scientists and one of Peterhouse's most famous Fellows was William Thomson, Lord Kelvin [1824-1907] of whom the college has a portrait of 1869 by Lowes Cato Dickinson. Thomson was painted in 1846 by the leading Glasgow portraitist of the day, John Graham Gilbert [certainly not the artist of this portrait]

There will be several biographies of Lord Kelvin

Martin Hopkinson,

There is a list of portraits in the college in this 1906 book, which does not include the picture under discussion - but one should remember that Kelvin died in 1907, if the painting came from his estate.

Martin Hopkinson,

Another Scotsman and leading academic was the physicist Peter Guthrie Tait FRSE [1831-1901] coauthor with Kelvin of 'Treatise on Natural Philosophy' , who was both a student and Fellow of the college c.1852-4
Yet another Scot Sir James Dewar FRS [1842-1923] , chemist and physi cist, inventor of the vacuum flask , was Jacksonian Professor of Experimental Philosophy and Fellow from 1875.
James Clark Maxwell [1831-79] was a student at Peterhouse in 1850, returning to Cambridge as the first Cavendish Professor of Physics in 1871, but to what college was he attached then?

The Hunterian Art Gallery owns a portrait of Kelvin's wife, Francis Anna, of 1896 by Hugh Goldwin Riviere

Patty Macsisak,

The list of "Eminent Petreans" contains a possibility: William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin (1824-1907). The women in his wife include his mother, Margaret Gardner (d. 1830), his sister, Anna Thomson (b. 1820 d. 1857), mother of James Thomson Bottomley, physicist; his first wife Margaret Crum (m. 1852 d. 1870); and his second wife Frances Anna Blandy (b. 1837 m. 1874 d. 1916). He had no children. His will may contain legacies to Peterhouse.

Martin Hopkinson,

Kelvin's papers are in Glasgow University Library. Birmingham Museum has a portrait by Dyce of James Clerk Maxwell and his mother by William Dyce. His mother died in 1839
The Cavendish Laboratory owns a portrait of him with his wife attributed to the Scottish painter, Jemima Blackburn [1823-1909] . Katherine Mary Dewar's dates 1824-86 - she does not look like the sitter of this portrait. Blackburn's husband was a Scottish mathematician and friend of Kelvin, Hugh Blackburn [1823-99] . His wife was a cousin of James Clerk Maxwell. He was a Professor of Mathematics at Glasgow from 1849 to 1879.
There is a book on Jemima published in 1998, Jemima: the paintings and memoirs of a Victorian lady - a photograph of her in 1852 incidentally shows that the hairstyle in the Peterhouse portrait was still in use

Jacinto Regalado,

The young Thomson in the Glasgow portrait does not look like the lady in question. His mother was married in 1817 and died in 1830, and this portrait was virtually certainly painted rather later than 1830.

Malcolm Fowles,

It is worth placing the Wikipedia image of Sir James Dewar beside our portrait. He was born in 1842, closest to our dating of the sitter's dress. What you you think?

Jacinto Regalado,

It is possible, Malcolm, but hardly certain. The dates for his mother, by the way, according to Rowlinson, are 1806-52.

Jacinto Regalado,

Rowlinson adds that the mother (variably known as Ann, Anna or Agnes) was the daughter of a local shipbuilder in Kincardine-on-Forth and reportedly "a very charming and clever" lady.

Patty Macsisak,

Although the discussion has taken a turn, thanks much to Mr. Bullock for the reference re: the engagement of Emily Valence Ainslie and Henry Wilkinson Cookson. “Tait has doubtless heard from Steele that the Master [Henry Wilkinson Cookson] is imminently to be married to [Emily Valence] Ainslie [daughter of Gilbert Ainslie, Master of Pembroke] who is only 22 years of age. 'Poor Kate of Fitzwilliam Street must set her cap at some other head.' General opinion of the marriage. 'The select few who knew of the disturbance of friendly relations between the neighbouring rival houses thought that the the poor girl was sacrificed for state reasons however...'.”

Is it possible that Emily had “set her cap” on William John Steele (September 16, 1831-March 11, 1855), whose star burned brightly at Peterhouse from 1847 until his untimely death? His friend of long-standing, Peter Guthrie Tait (aka P.G. Tait), named him co-author of “Dynamics of a Particle” (1856). Could the “state reasons” be the protection/isolation of a young scholar whose work held so much promise?

http://www.knoxthedonegalroutes.net/Centenary Celebrations Stranorlar Presbyterian Church.pdf


Osmund Bullock,

Most interesting, Patty - I will look at that later.

I'm not sure Jemima Blackburn's 1852 photo http://bit.ly/2j7NaNC shows quite the same sort of hairstyle - although her ears are covered, the hair is pulled back (to a hidden bun) far more tightly over them, giving it much less fullness when viewed from the front. Ours is basically the same style Queen Victoria often sported from the end of the 1830s, and which became popular after she wore it thus at her wedding in 1840: http://bit.ly/2jSIVtE

Actually Andrea Kollmann suggested Katherine Mary Dewar a long time ago, before the Emily Cookson gallop began - but I agree that it's not like her.

As Patty says, Kelvin had no children, which sounds promising. His mother it cannot be, but a sister is possible - Anna was married at Glasgow College on 8 March 1844, to William Bottomley, JP, a Belfast merchant. According to newspaper reports of the wedding she was "the youngest daughter", and the DNB reveals the eldest was called Elizabeth. But even without looking for the others, Anna's elder son J T Bottomley had a daughter and three sons, at least one of whom married and fathered children in England after WW1 (though another son settled in Hawaii c1900). And Kelvin's brother James also had surviving children. This again seems too big a tribe for Anna's portrait to be unwanted - and besides, after being elected a Fellow in 1845, Kelvin seems to have little direct connection with Peterhouse (or indeed England), and I slightly doubt a portrait of a female relative would have ended up with them: possible, though. A more likely candidate would be a Petrean scientist whose link to Peterhouse remained strong - perhaps one who remained in Cambridge for much of his career and/or actually died there.

Martin Hopkinson,

The scientist could be a Petrean who became famous after the publication of Walker's book, of course. So as Osmund hints, we probably need to look further. This sitter could have had children as late as the 1860s.

Malcolm Fowles,

Dewar is the only scientist in the "Eminent Petreans" list who really fits our clothing dates. Does anyone have the means to check his will?

To get a list of Ever So Slightly Less Eminent Petrean Scientists we either need the help of the college or a long trawl through Alumni Cantab.

Malcolm Fowles,

It's not so much "became famous" after 1906, but rather "could have bequeathed". Dewar died in 1923, which timescale is also feasible for the corporate memory that passed down to the recent Master.

Malcolm Fowles,

Lady Helen Rose Dewar, who might have inherited such a portrait from Sir James before it reached the collection, died 7th Jan 1935. They had no children. So 1923-1936 might be a sensible period in which to look for a bequest, emphasising the start and end.

Jacinto Regalado,

Dewar's parents were fairly well off and lived in Kincardine, which is near Edinburgh. If this is a portrait of his mother, the artist should have been someone active in Edinburgh and presumably Scottish.

Malcolm Fowles,

They lived in Tulliallan, a little north of Kincardine. At the time there were no bridges over the Forth from Edinburgh, so they may have looked culturally towards Perth.

I've a list of 24 candidate artists based on dates of birth and death allowing activity from 1845-55. So far I've looked at 3.

Several works of http://artuk.org/discover/artworks/view_as/grid/search/makers:john-zephaniah-bell-17941883 are owned by Perth and Kinross Council.

The *mature* works of http://artuk.org/discover/artworks/search/keyword:john-watson-gordon are, unfortunately, also quite interesting, especially some backgrounds. Unfortunately, because at this rate it'll take ages!

Patty Macsisak,

William John Steele became a Fellow of St Peter’s College in 1854, removing him from the pool of available batchelors.

A letter covering the period January-February 1855 refers to his illness. https://janus.lib.cam.ac.uk/db/node.xsp?id=EAD/GBR/0273/M. TAIT 7

A letter MaRCH 1855 refers to his death. https://janus.lib.cam.ac.uk/db/node.xsp?id=EAD/GBR/0273/M. TAIT 7

The most comprehensive biography I've found for Steele is here...http://millroadcemetery.org.uk/william-john-steele/

Martin Hopkinson,

The 1935 edition of Walker adds a lot more scientists and philosophers who were fellows , one of whom particularly stands out, Sir Robert Ludwig Mond [1867-1938], chemist and archaeologist. He was born in Farnworth, Widnes, the elder son of Dr Ludwig Mond, the major donor to the National Gallery.
His mother, Frida Lowenthal, left a large collection of material relating to German literature to King's College, London. However her dates 1847-1923 and marriage 1866 are too late.
Our portrait does no appear in Walker's 1935 list of portraits [pp. 124-6]
The other scientists and natural philosophers listed are
Frederick Fuller Fellow 1843 tutor of James Clerk Maxwell
William Jack [1834-1924] Fellow 1859 Mathematician . Portrait in Glasgow University
Robert Kalley Miller [1843-89] astronomer Fellow 1867
George Hartley Bryan [1864-1928] born in Cambridge. Fellow 1889 Pioneer of the mathematical treatment of motion in aviation
Barnard Smith [1817-90] Fellow 1840. Mathematician There is portrait of him by H W Pickersgill in Peterhouse
Robert Morten Fellow 1866 Mathematician
One student should be added George Chrystal [1851- 1911] pupil of James Maxwell. Fellow of Corpus who studied wave patterns in large bodies of inland water.
It does not seem to me that any of these are relevant

I wonder if Adrian Dixon's information is garbled. He was a fellow pupil with me in the 1950s.

Jacinto Regalado,

Malcolm, to my eye Bell looks closer in style to our portrait than Gordon, especially the portrait of Robert Fitzroy Bell.

Patty Macsisak,

The ancestors of Gilbert Ainslie are well represented on Art UK, including his grandfather James Ainslie, MD (1732-1790); his grandmother Margaret Farrer Ainslie (1731-1765); his aunts, "The Ainslie Sisters" (Agnes Ainslie (1788-1835) and Margaret Ainslie (1789-1868)); his father Henry Ainslie, MD (1760-1834). Unfortunately, I do not see any cleft chins (a dominant trait) or any other great similarity with the sitter under discussion.

I find no paintings or photographs of the family of Emily Coxhead Marsh (Mrs. Gilbert Ainslie), with one exception. Her nephew was William Swaine Chinsenhale Marsh (1857-1929) and thus the first cousin of Emily Valence Ainslie.


Osmund Bullock,

You’re unlikely to get a view of Dewar’s will without paying the usual £10. But Peterhouse will, I imagine, know if there was a significant bequest from him.

Dewar does seem possible at first glance, as from the 1870s he lived half the time in Cambridge (and half in London), had no children, and left a considerable fortune (£129K in 1923 - his widow Helen in 1935 £101K). He is also said to have had a significant collection of art & antiques. But the sitter cannot be his mother, Ann Eadie - as you say, Jacinto, she was born in 1806 (or 1803, sources differ). He seems to have had only one sister, Ann, but she’s too young for our sitter (b.1846). And besides, even if there *were* a suitable sister, Sir James had numerous nephews and nieces from his five brothers – in 1902 he was in close touch with one nephew, Dr Thomas Dewar, who didn’t die until 1931. Dr Thomas and his siblings (who were all living in the 1920s & up to the 1940s) in turn had a number of descendants, including a gt-nephew of Sir James, Major-General George Lammie, who lived down south, was an ADC to George VI and didn’t die until 1946. So again we have to ask why, when there were many close family still alive, such a portrait would have been given to an institution that had only a tenuous link to the sitter.

I even considered Sir James’s mother-in-law Elizabeth Banks (who was at least born at the right time – 1821). But if her it would doubtless have stayed with her daughter Helen (Dewar’s widow) until her death in 1935 – and her executors then were her (?gt-)nephews, members of the distinguished Dickson legal family. Helen’s sister was married to Lord Dickson, and the Dewars and Dicksons were close – Lord Dickson and his brother (who married a third Banks sister) were proposed for fellowship of the Royal Soc of Edinburgh by Sir James, and Lord D. returned the favour by proposing two of Sir James’s nephews in the 1900s. With such close-knit relationships of blood and friendship, I cannot see *any* family portrait (let alone one of a direct and recent forbear) being cast off to languish in a (presumably) reluctant college’s back passages.

I fear Dewar is another non-starter...and I think I’m probably going to leave off these deep searches until we know at least roughly when the College acquired the portrait!

Martin Hopkinson,

The second of these attachments will be recognisable and idenifiable for someone like Jacob Simon author of the National Portrait Gallery's Directory of framemakers

Malcolm Fowles,

To me, the left hand ring is even more ambiguous.

After Osmund's caution I had another look at the Art UK image and thought there was a double band, i.e a wedding ring behind the engagement ring. Goodbye Emily.

Whereas here, only one band with a shadow in front of it reaches the fourth finger. However there's a glint next to the mount where perspective says the engagement band should be. Hence the ambiguity. Thanks for that, Monsieur l'artiste!

Thus an engagement portrait is still possible, so keep provenance from within the college in mind.

Julia Abel Smith,

I have come to this conversation late, but in October 2015 I coordinated the data and arranged the photography of the oil paintings at Peterhouse for Art UK. This portrait had been moved to a college store, which is where we photographed it.

Significantly, it was stored with 'Portrait of a Gentleman Holding a Glove in His Left Hand' and the two portraits had previously been hung together in a Fellow's room. I can confirm that the College was unable to give me any more information about either picture.

The portrait of the gentleman holding the glove is similar to the sitter in Pickersgill's portrait of Barnard Smith, which was painted in 1854, when Smith was c37.

It shows a younger man with bouffant hair, but the same enquiring eyes, broad forehead, small mouth and long nose. (See attachments below)

It could well have been painted by the same artist as the lady with the cameo brooch c1844 when Smith (aged 27) was Dean at Peterhouse. He was a mathematician and cleric and there is some useful information about him in the notes in Nigel Richardson's book on 'Typhoid in Uppingham', see google. He does not have an entry in ODNB.

As Martin has pointed out, Cambridge Fellows were not permitted to marry until 1860, and Smith married in 1861. The detail of the lady's left hand, provided by the college, appears to show a wedding band beneath the second ring and I wonder if the portrait of a lady with a cameo brooch depicts the mother of Barnard Smith?

Malcolm Fowles,

The problem with this being Smith's mother is the mismatch between the date of her clothing (earliest 1845) and features, and his birth (October 1817). His brother and sister?

Although, as Malcolm points out, there is a certain ambiguity, on balance I agree with Julia that we see a plain wedding band half-hidden by a jewelled (presumably engagement) ring. However, I do not believe the unknown sitter in the glove portrait is Barnard Smith, even at an earlier age than Pickersgill's sitter. The former has a considerably broader nose than the latter and the line between his lips has a pronounced undulation whereas the equivalent in the Pickersgill is absolutely straight.

Great job, Andrea, on identifying the label of the frame-maker and this information indicates that any framing or conservation was done in London by the firm of William Whiteley (in but one aspect of his multifarious activities as the "universal provider" of Bayswater and therefore probably well before 1900). Clara Crawshay Smith would be about the right age, but finding a photograph of this woman will not be easy, given her married name is Smith.

But if we are thinking that the unknown man (unlikely to be Barnard Smith) at Peterhouse was hung as a pair with our unknown woman, then the search continues.

Malcolm Fowles,

These could easily be the same man. There is nothing that definitely rules them apart. Differences are sufficiently explained by the opposite sidelighting and artistic skill or interpretation. I am particularly convinced by the chin, and fairly persuaded by the eyebrows and mouth.

Having hung together, the two unknowns might therefore be paired engagement portraits. But if so, poor things, Smith's college Fellowship would delay their marriage until 1861. If you think there is a wedding band, this cannot be Clara.

Jacinto Regalado,

They do not look like the same man to me, even if that is not out of the question. For one thing, the Pickersgill portrait does not appear to show a cleft shin, and the other portrait does.

Tim Williams,

Surely the portrait of the man with the gloves is painted before Barnard Smith was even born? It looks much earlier than the portrait of the woman with the cameo, circa 1800-10ish? It is also a quite a bit smaller than the woman with the cameo.

I have to agree with Tim. The man with the gloves would seem to date to the late Georgian or Regency period, according to his dress. Lou might like to confirm. If so, this man is not going to be the spouse of our sitter, but he might be related in another way, if these two pictures traditionally hung together.

The glove portrait and our picture have consecutive collection numbers, 71 and 70 respectively. I wonder whether that has any historical significance – indicating that they were donated at the same time from the same source – or whether these numbers simply relate to the recent Art UK project.

Julia Abel Smith,

I am afraid that the numbers have no historical significance other than that the portraits were listed consecutively by the college, having been hung in the same room before storage.

As you suggest, Richard, these are the numbers I gave them for the purposes of our project.

Malcolm Fowles,

Who decides what portraits are hung in a Fellow's room? Is it "Look at what we have and choose", "Take what you are given", or something more informative to us?

The inevitable questioning about hung paintings might be how stories are passed on, such as "the mother of an eminent scientist". For all we know, they may be fabricated to satisfy the questioner. Oh to find and talk to the Fellow who last had our portrait!

Malcolm Fowles,

"Dr Philip Pattenden of Peterhouse ... generously shared [his] knowledge of Revd Barnard Smith." (Richardson, "Typhoid in Uppingham", Acknowledgements)

Patty Macsisak,

A question for Cambridge historians, was it unusual for other colleges to display or hold portraits of young-ish women in mid-19th century? What were the most compelling reason(s) to do so?

Do you know of a female who played a significant role in a Peterhouse Fellow's research, her role only belatedly recognized?

Osmund Bullock,

Clara Crawshay (bp Oct 1819) did not marry Barnard Smith until Oct 1861, when she was 42 - and it was her first marriage. Fellows could not marry until 1860, so she could hardly have been engaged before then either. So a portrait of even 1855 is too early for her to be wearing a ring of either sort - unless it was painted in later, of course. She was moreover from a very wealthy family (they made their money in Welsh ironworks) – the image of the portrait is to me modest in both senses. And because of their wealth they were an enormous, healthy family – Clara (who lived to the age of 97) had nine siblings, and though I've not checked them all, several married and had large families of their own. There were also many first cousins, and clearly the whole family was close: nephews and nieces and cousins are often found staying with relations in their many big houses at the time of the censuses. So the usual question arises: why would the College have ended up with the picture with so many close family members still around?

I do have one hypothesis – but it is really most unlikely. Clara’s youngest sister, Julia Crawshay, married first in Dec 1849 when she was 25 or 26. The marriage went badly wrong, and she was an early beneficiary of the 1857 Matrimonial Causes Act, which allowed her to divorce her husband Francis Cole for adultery and desertion in 1862-63. She had a daughter from the marriage, and re-married shortly afterwards. It’s just possible that the portrait was too painful a reminder for her of such an unhappy experience, and so it went to her sister Clara – and then when she died in 1916...well, that’s where it goes wrong for the usual reasons. Clara had no children, but her two executors were her nephew and a nephew (and namesake) of her late husband, so everybody was still talking. I don’t buy it at all – the English aristocracy were made of sterner stuff, and they could always have had the rings painted out if it troubled them that much.

Barnard Smith was also from a wealthy background and had a large family – at least eight younger siblings who had lots of children, though he had none himself. Incidentally, his year of death is wrong on ArtUK. Barnard Smith died unexpectedly on 29th December 1876 at the parish in Rutland (Glaston) where he held the undemanding but lucrative living granted to him by Peterhouse after his marriage. Unlike some he also lived there, hence his work at Uppingham. He was buried in the churchyard on the 5th Jan 1877.

Osmund Bullock,

Sorry, I should clarify that Barnard Smith was elected a Fellow in 1840, so it seems vanishingly improbable they'd have become engaged before then, and endured a 21-year engagement. He actually resigned his fellowship in 1861, so could have married Clara whatever the rules.

Osmund Bullock,

The most logical scenario is that a Fellow with rooms in College where portraits of his own family were hanging (permitted, I’m sure), died without any close relations and left a will in which he left much or all of what he had to the College (or possibly was intestate). And thus, by default, they inherited (or were stuck with) family portraits that they probably didn’t much want. A family might well offer a portrait of a Fellow or distinguished alumnus to his College and be accepted – but I can’t imagine them accepting one of a woman who had no direct connection (unless, of course, it came as part of a financially important bequest whether they liked it or not).

Malcolm Fowles,

To me, Osmund's scenario implies that the correct way forward would be a forensic exmination of past bequests. That's beyond us, and Poeterhouse would would be the sole source of much of useful material.

Sounds like a job for the Women of Peterhouse, for whom the pertrait is obviously an icon. Also sounds like fantastic research practice for a suitable student.

Malcolm Fowles,

Dear me, spell checkers have ruined my typing!

Malcolm Fowles,

I note belatedly that the phrase "cleft chin" has appeared more than once here.

In the very first post, it refers to our sitter. It was picked up by Patty to rule out an Ainslie heritage.

Nor far above here, Jacinto ruled out Barnard Smith as the unknown gloved gentleman.

The connection is of course that the unknown gentleman used to hang next to the unknown lady. From the clothing dates, perhaps father and daughter, and related to whoever bequeathed them.

I suppose there is a similar lack of evidence about the gentleman. Nothing on the back of the frame? Nothing on hidden canvas in either case?

Malcolm Fowles,

In general there are too many beards.

William Hopkins http://artuk.org/discover/artworks/william-hopkins-17921866-frs-esquire-bedell-231606: shows a suspicion of a cleft chin; the artist is Pickersgill . Not in the "Eminent Petreans" list, but certainly renowned in the college.

Sir James Dewar, in the only revealing image online at https://media1.britannica.com/eb-media/73/101973-004-F0247DE2.jpg, also shows a possible cleft chin.

We need a sister of the right age. Hopkins may be a bit old.

Presumably in the age of photography, Peterhouse may also have unpublished images of Fellows.

Jacinto Regalado,

Were the Crawshays Welsh themselves? I ask because it had occurred to me before they were mentioned that the lady might be Welsh based on her looks, though perhaps I'm simply imagining that.

Patty Macsisak,

William John Steele (1831-1855) may suit Mr. Bullock's scenario but whether his two brothers (who with him at death in Cambridge) would have left personal property or a family portrait behind seems unlikely. The sitter appears to be a middle class woman so it would be interesting to confirm the financial status of the Steele family (I have looked for and not found a will for William John Steele).

Osmund Bullock,

Not quite sure who you were hoping would pay for it...but in fact you're in luck, it's amongst those viewable on Ancestry. Mind you, since my Ancestry subscription costs me £120 a year (and much of the use I make of it ends up on here) I guess it's *me* who's paying for it!

I'll post an image anyway, but it's no help, I'm afraid. Hodgson's will leaves all his property "of every description" to Lt-Col William Tomkinson of Willington, Cheshire and the Rev John Hodgson, Curate of St Anne's, Westminster (i.e. Soho), in trust for the support of his wife Charlotte during her lifetime; after her death his entire estate passes to "all & every of my children equally to be divided between or among them if more than one" once they attain the age of 21, or if a daughter, marry (no child's name is mentioned). If, after the death of his wife, no such child or children reach the requisite age/status, then his estate is to be distributed as if he were intestate and had not married (i.e. to his heirs-at-law within his blood family). No mention whatsoever is made of Peterhouse as a beneficiary.

My first thought on reading the will was that at the time of writing (July 1842) he probably had no children - and that therefore it was possible that after his wife's death (which was in 1860) the heirs might have been very distant relations, and perhaps not interested in any portraits he had. A useful cautionary tale, therefore, to discover that in fact he already had two when he wrote it - William (b.1839), who followed his father to Peterhouse and into the church, and Mary (b.Apr/May 1842). A second son Thomas Tarleton H. was born Spring 1847, just six months before the death of his father - he became a wealthy stockbroker, married three times and had at least seven children. His brother the Rev William (the son) also married and had seven of his own.

Col. Tomkinson, the first trustee, was his wife's brother-in-law, and a veteran of the Peninsula and Waterloo. I'm not sure about the other, the Rev John Hodgson, but he was doubtless a cousin: he was a close contemporary (b.1805 - the Rev William was b.1800), though not a brother, and their birthplaces were within a couple of miles. William had at least four siblings, but the Hodgsons are an unlikely family for the portrait - they were modest farmers (about 100 acres) in quite a remote part of Cumberland near the Solway Firth. The Rev John moved south and did marry in 1842, and with the oriental vase I suppose one might make a case for his wife, Helen MacLeod, as she was born in 1811 in the East (her father was a judge in the Bengal CS); but it's really a bit early, and both their daughter and one of their two sons survived to adulthood, married, and had numerous children of their own.

William's wife Charlotte was from a much classier and wealthier family in Cheshire; but three of her four sisters married (and before 1840), and all had children, as did her brother the distinguished sailor Sir John Walter Tarleton.

As ever, in my opinion we have far too many close relations and indeed descendants for the Master William Hodgson to be our man.

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Patty Macsisak,

According to his wishes, Rev. H. W. Cookson was buried at St. Andrew's Church (aka Cherry Hinton Parish Church) in 1876. A renovation program (1875-1880) included donation(s) by his wife as a memorial. As the relationship between Peterhouse and this church was ancient; the need for church renovations was pressing; the donation sizable and the fact that Rev. Cookson was held in such high esteem might explain why a portrait of his wife found it's way into the college.

Ref. Via Google eBooks:

The Building News and Engineering Journal, Volume 41, 1881.



P.S. It has not been noted that Lowes Cato Dickinson often painted the faces of his sitter, paying another artist to paint the remainder of the portrait.


As I looked through the works of Lowes Cato Dickinson, I found a chalk drawing of "A Mother and Daughter" (1850). This woman has the same thin upper lip, cleft chin and tri-part hairdo as our sitter. The woman appears to be about 35 years of age and the daughter in the 12-16 year old range. The woman's costume seems consistent with period photographs of the early 1850s (sloping shoulders, wide sleeves, blouse or insert with white lace collar).


Patty Macsisak,

Mr. Bullock, thanks much for pursing the will of Rev. Hodgson. Your post only showed up this morning. I, too, have an Ancestry subscription, but need to upgrade to include UK data.

Osmund Bullock,

I spent a long time yesterday developing a quite convincing argument that this could be the mother of the Scottish mathematician Robert Kalley Miller, who died intestate in 1889 at the age of 47, a sister his only known living kin; she in turn died in 1929, and without issue. Fortunately I made a last check of the Ward Library catalogue for possible photos of Miller, who was a Fellow (from 1867) – there probably isn’t one, but there is something else that suggests all our work of the last few weeks has been pretty pointless...we seem to have been looking a hundred years too early!

I can’t find a way to give a link straight to the item, but go here https://www.pet.cam.ac.uk/special-collections-ward-library and click on the ‘Ward Library online catalogue’ link near the bottom. On the search page that appears enter in the ‘title’ box the full phrase ‘Photographs of Peterhouse College paintings and portraits’. This will take you to the item: click on ‘Catalogue Record’, and you're there. Towards the bottom of the list of “34 col. photographs of College paintings and portraits...” (under ‘General Notes’) you will find listed “2 photographs of paintings of unknown female ancestors of B. Wormald”. “B. Wormald” was [Thomas] Brian Harvey Goodwin Wormald, distinguished historian and for over 65 years a Fellow/Emeritus Fellow and senior officer of Peterhouse. He died in 2005! His extensive obituaries (Times & Independent) are transcribed at http://bit.ly/2jPmsux and http://bit.ly/2klbD6V . Or you can see an image of the original Times obit (with portrait drawing by Robert Tollast) attached.

I don’t know why it suggests there are two female portraits – I suspect an error, or there’s another one we don’t know about (?a watercolour) – but presumably one of them is ours. If rather garbled, it more or less fits Adrian Dixon’s recollection (via Malcolm Hopkinson) of “the mother of one of the college's distinguished scientists”, in that further research suggests it is likely to be an ancestral portrait from his mother’s family, not his father’s.

Could the College please check these photos, please, and what is written on/recorded with them? Meanwhile I have emailed one of Mr Wormald’s sons to see if he knows more, and await his reply.

Osmund Bullock,

Perhaps unwise not to await confirmation...but if Brian Wormald’s family is indeed the source of the portrait, I then I believe it must be of Eleanor Coulson Matteson (1829-1909), who on 23rd August 1848 married at Bishop Wearmouth the (to be) Rev Harvey William Brooks (1818-1882), then a mature undergraduate at Magdalen Hall, Oxford. She was the daughter of John Matteson, living at the time of her birth in Canonbury Sq, Islington, but who later moved (?back) to Co. Durham and became a successful glass manufacturer. Harvey Brooks was the grandfather of Ada Wynifred Harvey-Brooks (1879-1960), who married the Rev Charles Octavius Richard Wormald (1879-1951) at Solihull in June 1910 (shortly after he changed the family name from ‘Wormell’). Charles and Ada were Brian Wormald’s parents.

She’s a bit younger than I’d have hoped, so if I’m right the portrait must presumably date from the early 1850s (and I’ll stop asserting it must be late 1840s). There is a lot more to relate about both the Wormald/Wormwell and Harvey-Brooks families, but it will have to wait – however, there are several things that lead me to believe we may finally have the right candidate. More shortly.

Yes, this is just what I had in mind much earlier in the discussion when I noted that our portrait of an unknown woman showed direct knowledge of the Pre-Raphaelites. One might also cite John Brett's slightly later portrait of Emily Patmore (RA 1856) at the Ashmolean, for a similar intense focus on the face and details of costume, albeit without the striking frontality. https://www.artuk.org/discover/artworks/mrs-coventry-patmore-141741/search/actor:brett-john-18311902/page/3 All of which points to a date in the early to mid 1850s.

Patty Macsisak,

I hope that Mr. Bullock's work brings the discussion to a successful conclusion, but I respectfully request someone enlighten me as to why a portrait of an unknown ancestor (much less a female ancestor) of B. Wormald would interest Peterhouse.

Martin Hopkinson,

Will there not be a mention of any recent Wormald Gift or Bequest in this century in the annual Peterhouse Newsletter?

Tim Williams,

Martin - there does appear to be, if you search Wormald in the same library catalogue there's something in the 2004/2005 annual record (probably an obit and details of bequest: PET.699.2.29 ) and subsequently there is an exhibition/catalogue in the Ward library 'From the Library of Brian Wormald 1912-2005' (PET.612.A.63 ) - so he must've bequested books and other material. The catalogue was written by Scott Mandelbrote who surely knows the details of the bequest intimately:

[email protected]">[email protected]" target="_blank" >http://www.hist.cam.ac.uk/directory/[email protected]">[email protected]

Tim Williams,

That was supposed to be a link to Scott Mandelbrote's profile page, but his email is: [email protected]

Since I've only just jumped into this thread, I'll leave it to you Osmund to email Scott as you've done all the leg work!

Osmund Bullock,

Hah, I'd just spotted those, Tim. As you say, Scott Mandelbrote must surely know, and I've just emailed him as you suggest.

Leg work or no (and plenty more work ahead to try and collate the mass of genealogical research into a succinct and convincing case), I don't feel proprietorial about this. So please jump away.

Osmund Bullock,

Yes, it was unwise of me not to await confirmation!

Mr Madelbrote immediately forwarded my email on to Jodie Walker, the immensely helpful librarian at the Ward Library. She is already involved in this discussion and related research, and replied, "I double checked the catalogue record and whilst the record does refer to '2 photographs of paintings of unknown female ancestors of B. Wormald' neither painting is the one currently under investigation ... Earlier last week I looked through this particular box of photographs in the hopes that the portrait concerned would feature and have some note on the back concerning its origin, unfortunately this was not the case."

So we're back to square one in terms of provenance, with very little hope of getting any. All we have is part of a label whose design suggests the picture was in West London for restoration/framing (or just storage) at around the end of the 19th (or early 20th) Century - an unlikely place for a Cambridge College to use, so probably not acquired by them till after that. Though now irrelevant, that fitted Brian Wormald's maternal family perfectly - they were based in Westbourne Park at exactly the right period, 5 or 10 minutes' walk from Whiteley's! My abandoned Robert Kalley Miller idea remains plausible, but will be impossible to confirm either way.

The only other thing that might be worth doing (though perhaps previously done) is to look at the foot of the canvas out of the frame - online images of the Nov 2015 Ladies' Dinner (thanks for the link, Ms Macsisak, and see also http://bit.ly/2kgPPt7 ) lead me to think that the ArtUK/PCF photo may have been taken with it in place. If the painting has as normal slipped down to the bottom of the frame rebate, there could be as much as 2 cm lost to view - just possible that a signature is hiding there, though at this period signing was far from universal. I've already mentioned this to Jodie in my reply to her email.

Sophie Grillet,

So all these mothers, wives and sisters have so far not led anywhere. I assert again that she may be unrecognised botanist. The fushias and horsetail plant were very eagerly sought-after plants in the mid 19th century. Plant-hunting was like a gold rush. This woman does not appear to be a lady of leisure, and I can easily imagine her making intrepid journeys east, most likely alongside a husband, to find specimens for gardens and for Kew. (In any case, that's what she's doing in India in the romantic short story I have been inspired to write about her.)
That doesn't at all preclude the possibility that her sons or grandsons became scientists.
It would be interesting to know whether the red ribbons many of these women are wearing around their necks have any significance beyond fashion.

Sophie Grillet,

Is the curtain fabric in the man with glove painting the same as the tablecloth in the lady's painting?

Jade King,

Apologies in advance for the completely unfounded nature of this comment, but Sophie Grillet's observation that the lady may be a botanist led me to think of painter/traveller Marianne North. Here she is in a self portrait: https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/marianne-north-18301890-87609 (see over the ears hairstyle in 1866).

North never married, and I can't imagine any portrait ofthis nature would go undetected and turn up at Peterhouse... just a wild speculation.

Andrea Kollmann,

I came across a remark about John Kendrew who became a Fellow at Peterhouse in 1947:
“As Keeper of Portraits, John Kendrew served his college with distinction. Not only did he catalog all, and trace the provenance of many, of the pictorial possessions of the college, he also undertook to have several of them X-rayed and cleaned […].” http://bit.ly/2lmGQql

Might there be something in his papers? And where are they? I found nothing in the online Library catalogue of Peterhouse referring to them.

Martin Hopkinson,

The Bodleian Library in Oxford has some of Sir John Kendrew's papers NCUCAS 11.4.89 listed at some length on discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk

Martin Hopkinson,

Kendrick's mother was a very distinguished art historian, Evelyn Sandberg Vavala, known particularly for her studies of Italian painting before 1400.

Osmund Bullock,

Interesting. Sir John Kendrew (1917-97) died unmarried and was a scientist, which I suppose makes him a possible source for the portrait himself (though obviously not of his mother Evelyn May G nee Sandberg 1888-1961). His parents must have separated early on, as according to the DNB he was brought up by his father - his mother presumably remarried. So if the painting was his it seems unlikely to have come from her family (who were clerics & missionaries in India). The likelihood rapidly peters out on his father's side, too: on one side North Yorkshire yeoman farmers, and on the other Orcadians from around Stromness of unknown status and occupation (but pretty unlikely to have commissioned a portrait like this).

It would be very interesting to know what (if anything) he concluded about the portrait in his researches - though presumably the fruits of his research must have been absorbed into the College's cataloguing of their collection.

Edward Stone,

The College has checked again through an old set of files on its pictures (presumably compiled by John Kendrew around 1960) and found the attached entry which seems to relate to the picture in question.

It proves that the painting was in the College’s possession in April 1954 when it was ‘cleaned by Miss Silk’. It also seems to have been on display in the College’s Parlour in 1960.

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This paper record must refer to a different portrait than the present one, albeit also with a laced collar and red table covering, since the Latin inscription transcribed in red, top right, dates it to 1615 and the sitter's age as 20. 'Sex?' in pencil, bottom right, also suggests a query not at issue here.

Edward Stone,

Peterhouse agrees that the paper record does seem to relate to the painting Andrea mentions. The collection has not found a record which might relate to the painting under discussion.

Patty Macsisak,

Ref: http://bit.ly/2kgPPt7

Thanks to Mr. Bullock's reference of one month ago, I notice that the portrait under discussion is mounted directly under the portrait of Henry Wilkinson Cookson, Master (1847–1876) in the College Hall of Peterhouse. Surely, a portrait of an unknown sitter would not have been placed in such a rarefied location or position.

Patty Macsisak,

In the above collection of photographs, there is a plaque which describes the renovation of the College Hall in 2006-2007. It would be interesting to know if the position of the portrait under discussion can be traced to the renovation. If so, perhaps there is correspondence which verifies the unknown sitter as the wife of H. W. Cookson. Further, as Katherine Hodgson, granddaughter of H. W. Cookson and his wife Emily Valence, is know to have donated a 2nd portrait of H.W. Cookson by Lowes Cato Dickinson to Abbott Hall Art Gallery at/near the time of her death, perhaps her will provide details of other family portrait donations.

Osmund Bullock,

Ms Macsisak, I think the portrait's hanging position in the photo is a red herring. My guess is that it was only put there for the 2015 Women's Dinner – no other portraits, however distinguished the sitter, seem to hang at that low level in Hall. The dinner celebrated the 30 years during which women have been admitted to Peterhouse, and I suspect its placement directly behind the Master's chair was a gentle and humorous rebuke to the College for its overwhelmingly male past, and the lack of female faces to be found on its walls – that’s why a group of alumnae decided to pose with the Master in front of it, and captioned the result "plus the anonymous lady portrait!". Unless it has been hung somewhere non-public as a light-hearted feminist icon – 'the woman that the men all forgot about' – I imagine it is back in the College store; what else can you do with a portrait you know nothing about, not even if the sitter was connected to Peterhouse at all? I'm sure they'd love to hang it publicly if we could discover a valid reason for them to do so (and I'm sad that so far we've failed); but they probably have plenty of nice portraits of known and connected sitters in storage that have a better claim to limited public wall space.

The Cookson possibility has already been discussed at some length above. We still have no evidence whatsoever that it is his wife, nee Emily Valence Ainslie, and there remain a number of good reasons why it is unlikely to be. The College librarian has been involved in this discussion from the start, and has searched assiduously for any references to the portrait that may help – I rather doubt that she will have overlooked any "correspondence which verifies the unknown sitter as the wife of H. W. Cookson" (or indeed of anyone else).

Patty Macsisak,

I suspect that a reminder that anonymous was (too often) a woman was unnecessary.

Patty Macsisak,

I have another candidate for the sitter: Adeline Mary Rowsell (1839-1915), wife of James Porter (1827-1900).

On the death of H. W. Cookson, James Porter became Master of Peterhouse (1876-1900), Vicar of Cherry Hinton (1880-1882), Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University (1881-1884). He married Adeline Mary Rowsell in June 1877 when she was 37 years of age. She was the daughter of Rev. Evan Edward Rowsell (1804-1875), rector of rural Hambledon Church, Surrey (1859-1875) and the twin sister of Julian Henry Rowsell (1839-1913).

Below is a photograph of Rev. Evan E. Rowsell and his family (presumably, with his five oldest children). I have contacted the family for confirmation, but I suspect that Julian Henry Rowsell has his left hand on the shoulder of his twin Adeline Mary Rowsell. As far as I know, the photograph is not dated. I have been unable to determine Julian Henry Rowsell's college or date of graduation, but I did find that their older brother Walter Frederick Rowsell (1837-1924) had graduated with a B.A. from Cambridge before 1861.


James Porter and Adeline Mary Rowsell did not have children. Her will was probated in London August 27, 1915.

P.S. Sarah Rowsell (1798-1882), the elder sister of Rev. Evan E. Rowsell, was married to Sir Charles Barry (1795-1860). (Perhaps this family relationship will lead to candidates for the artist.) His son, Sir John Wolfe Barry (1836-1918) married Rosalind Grace Rowsell (1845-1937), the youngest daughter of Rev. Evan E. Rowsell.

Osmund Bullock,

Although there is some disagreement as to whether the portrait dates from the second half of the 1840s or the first half of the 1850s, I don't think anyone is suggesting a date after c1855. We also know from the ring(s) that the sitter was at the time married or at least engaged. As you tell us, Adeline Rowsell was born in 1839, and did not marry (for the first time) until 1877; this would seem to rule her out pretty categorically on two counts.

[In your wonderful photo (which I think dates from the early 1860s), the seated woman with her hand on the Rev E E Roswell's upper arm is, I think, more likely to be his wife, not his daughter. The woman standing on the right could be Adeline, however, while the one on the left is probably the eldest daughter Annie Marion with her significantly older husband (m.1857), the Rev William Haig Brown, a schoolmaster. The young man behind on the right could possibly be Julian (though as you've found he doesn't seem to have taken a degree, and by the time of this image may already have been in Australia); but it seems more likely to be the eldest son Walter Frederick who took his BA in 1860, was ordained in 1864 and married in 1867.]

Patty Macsisak,

In the 1861 census, the household of Rev. Evan Edward Rowsell included his wife Anna Maria Baker Rowsell (age 53), Annie Maria (sic.) Brown (age 25), William Haig-Brown (age 37), Adeline Mary Rowsell (age 21), Flora Catherine Rowsell (age 18), Rosalind Grace (age 15), 2 Brown children (age 2 and 11/12), James Porter (age 33), William Archer Porter (age 36) and a number of servants. I did not find either Walter Frederick Rowsell or Julian Henry Rowsell in the 1861 census.

Below is a photograph of William Haig Brown (1823–1907), husband of Annie Marion Rowsell, dated September 1861.


Rev. Julian Henry Rowsell of Dapto conducted the first service in East Kangaloon in 1867, the earliest Australian reference I could find for him. I did find this death notice "April 18, 1865 At Armadale, N. S. W., aged 32, Evan Edward Rowsell, esq., solicitor, eldest son of Rev. E. E. Rowsell, Rector of Hambledon, Surrey." In a list of surrenders, I find this notice dated August 22, 1865 "Evan Edward Rowsell, deceased, late of Armidale, solicitor. Liabilities, £1997 8s. 3d. Assets, £268 5s. 6d. Deficiency, £1729 2s. 9d. Mr. Sempill, official"

Osmund Bullock,

In 1861 Walter Fredk Rowsell was in the household of Lord Seafield at Cullen House, Banffshire, tutor to the Earl's son Lord Reidhaven.

This is all very interesting, but - and I address myself here as much as you - it is little or nothing to do with the sitter in the portrait, who (for the reasons already given) cannot be Adeline Rowsell, wife of James Porter.

Patty Macsisak,

I am eagerly awaiting a candidate that more closely resembles the lady in black pictured with Rev. Evan Edward Rowsell. The face, the hair, the dress, even the brooch are remarkably similar. I wish I could share your certainty about the date of the portrait under discussion, but it does not surprise me that women in a rural vicarage would be lagging fashion.

Although it is hard for me to read her as Anna Maria Baker Rowsell (a woman aged 52 when son Walter Fredick Rowsell graduated from Cambridge in 1860), I followed your suggestion and find that her father William Baker, coroner for East Middlesex, died in 1859 (The Manchester Guardian, 24 February 1859) which may explain the black dress.

Osmund Bullock,

Well, the circa 1845-55 date range for the portrait is hardly only my opinion - but we'll just have to agree to differ on that, as on pretty much all the rest! But to get as far as possible away from disputed subjective judgements, can I clarify what you are saying here? You're suggesting that our portrait in fact dates from after Adeline's marriage in April 1877, or at least her engagement (probably a few months earlier): is that right?

P.S. I think Lou disposed of the black dress/"mourning" issue pretty definitively some weeks ago.

Patty Macsisak,

No, I am not suggesting that the photograph dates from her marriage in 1877 or her engagement (for which I have no date). A date of ca. 1855-1860 seems most likely.

Now that I see the 1861 photo of William Haig Brown referenced above, I believe you are right that he is the man on the left. He took Holy Orders and became engaged to Annie Marion Rowsell in 1855 and married in 1857; it seems likely the woman next to him is Annie Marion Rowsell, but I am unable to tell if she is wearing a ring.

The man standing on the right could one of three sons of Rev. Rowsell. The eldest was Evan Edward Rowsell (1832-1865), esq., who by 1857 was admitted as a solicitor at Sydney, N.S.W. His 1865 obituary states that he was educated at Rugby School by Dr. Thomas Arnold, Headmaster 1828-1841, but the obituary does not mention a college. His second son, Walter Frederick Rowsell (1837-1924), graduated with a B.A. from Cambridge in 1860. His third son, Julian Henry Rowsell (1839-1913), attended Leeds Grammar School ("Removed to prepare for college at home, Mids., 1857. Afterwards entered a Sol (?) office; thence emigrated to Australia.") but no record of a college has been found. He may have emigrated before 1861 since he does not appear in the census.

Patty Macsisak,

Did you notice the similarities between the chair in the portrait above and the one in the photograph of Rowsell family?

Osmund Bullock,

Yes, but they're really not *that* alike. The Rowsell chair has a buttoned leather back, while our sitter's is woven cane - the carved cresting comes down the sides much further, too.

Yes, agreed about the others you mention, and it is certainly a son on the right (no-one else would be touching the woman in front, whether mother or sister, and rarely the latter); the same etiquette of physical proximity indicates that Haig Brown (no question that it's him) is already married to Annie Marion, ergo post-1857. It must be Walter behind - even if they were still in England (very doubtful) there is no reason for Evan Junr or Julian to be carrying a mortar-board. Like that carried by Haig Brown, this is the sign of a schoolmaster (Walter was a tutor in 1861), or possibly a recent graduate - in those days solicitors did not take degrees, so only Walter fits the bill. As I said before, this photo must date from the early 1860s.

So you're not concerned about our sitter's engagement/wedding ring, then?

Julia Abel Smith,

Also on the ArtUK site is this portrait of Lady Sophia Elizabeth Caroline Hervey (1811 -1863), daughter of 1st Marquess of Bristol, who married William Howe Windham of Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk. The National Trust dates the picture (at Felbrigg) to c.1850.

I am not suggesting that Lady Sophia is the mystery lady at Peterhouse but wanted to highlight the similarities in dress, hairstyle pose, and setting, of such a high status sitter.

At 125.5 x 100.5 the Felbrigg portrait is larger than that one at Peterhouse - 91 x 70.

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Patty Macsisak,

Mr. Bullock, it is not clear if any of the women in the Rowsell photo is wearing a ring. In regards to the sitter, it is not clear what her ring means.

Osmund Bullock,

I thought we'd established that the sitter in our portrait is wearing (and seems to be almost displaying) either an engagement ring, or an engagement ring plus part-hidden wedding band? Peterhouse were even kind enough to provide a close-up so we could see more clearly. What were then called 'engaged rings' much like those of today were certainly around in the 1840s, and as 'betrothed rings' long before that; and in this country the wedding-ring finger at this period was unquestionably the same as it is today (and as far as I'm aware reserved for the purpose). If you disagree with that I'm perplexed that you didn't raise it when we were discussing the matter.

I must also say that I'd be amazed if this portrait is of someone 15-21 years old, which is the age Adeline Rowsell would have been in 1855-60. Richard in fact expressed the view (and I concurred) that even 22 was too young - it was one of the reasons identifying her as Emily Ainslie was problematic...but frankly even Emily's a better match than Adeline.

Anyway, I think I've said all I can usefully say about this idea, and my view remains very different to yours.

Sophie Grillet,

I think she is in her early 20's. Not a wrinkle! She has a rather Dutch face, with the rounded chin and short, broad nose. But if the man with the gloves is her father, as seems very likely given the eyes and the cleft chin and the clothing dates, then his identity might be easier to find out than hers. Did anyone get somewhere with that?

Amelie Smith,

It might help if the painting were professionally cleaned; the background is missing a great deal of detail and is largely brown.

Betty Elzea,

An excellent portrait. I always respect Lou Taylor's pronouncements on costume dating. My opinion is that the vase is mould-blown 'milk' glass, probably Bohemian. I am not an expert on cameos, but this is a shell cameo, and there must be some firm dating for the production of these. Alas this does not help with identification of sitter or artist - only dating.

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