Photo credit: National Maritime Museum
This fine and relatively early portrait of Sir John Ross has already been mentioned in connection with an Art Detective discussion on another later one in the National Maritime Museum collection: https://bit.ly/2TIgA7D
It has something of Raeburn about it. As the other discussion has already noted, John Hayter is known to have exhibited a portrait of Ross, but that has not yet been pursued.
The John Hayter portrait of 'Captain John Ross' was no. 306 in the RA exhibition of 1834.
It appears that the portrait by John Hayter of Sir John Ross was bought in 1864 by the Corporation of London for 100 Guineas. There is an interesting account in the 'London Evening Standard' on the 9th Dec. 1864.
The article also seems to infer that the portrait had been kept by Hayter in his studio for nearly thirty years until the 1860's.
There was a proposal at the Court of Common Council to buy the portrait after it had been displayed in the Guildhall for The Lord Mayors day of 1864. It also notes that the Corporation had contributed 100 Guineas towards Ross' expedition. Felix Booth had also famously fitted out the expedition whilst he was the Sheriff of London. (Although he had originally turned it down), it appears that he may have paid £17,000 and Ross £3,000 from his own purse.
The transaction is also recorded in a number of regional Newspapers around the 21st of December that the painting was bought for a 100 Guineas.
The Hayter portrait doesn't appear to be in the collection of the Guildhall Gallery as shown on ArtUK, unless it has been a mislaid or donated elsewhere. Are the paintings distributed across various sites or buildings?
Did the Corporation of the City of London lose any paintings when the Guildhall was damaged/destroyed in the blitz in 1941?
Is there a chance that Archives could be reviewed within the Guildhall Gallery as to what happened to the painting after it came into their possession please?
Incidentally, It also looks like there was another portrait of Sir John Ross in the Ross family as there was a miniature on ivory of Sir John Ross by John Hayter, exhibited in 'The Naval, Shipping and Fisheries exhibition of 1905 at Earle's Court, London. This isn't as surprising given that he was the son of Charles Hayter, the miniaturist.
The painting of Sir John Ross by Hayter on the other discussion was donated to the Maritime Museum by Arthur V. Ross. He was James Clark Ross' grandson. The Miniature, as well as the flag that was raised at the magnetic pole was lent by Cecil C. Ross Esq. He was also a grandson, but a descendent through James Clark Ross' other son.
Can you tell us please what the provenance of the painting above is? It's a little vague on the Collection's website. Thanks.
This came from Sir Robert Leicester Harmsworth, 1st bt. (1870-1937), Liberal MP, businessman and one of the four mainly publishing brothers who all became peers (Lords Northcliffe and Rothermere) or baronets: it was sold at Christie's, 18 March 1838, lot 147, where its was bought by Sir James Caird via Spink's for the NMM.
This discussion has been linked to the group 'Maritime Subjects'.
There havenow been two independent suggestions (from Osmund Bullock in the parallel discussion on the 'other' Greenwich portrait of John Ross, and privately to me by an NMM colleague) that this is probably not John Ross -which is it old received but so-far unqueried identification- but his nephew James Clark Ross. General appearances seem to support it without suggesting who such a good image might be by assuming it shows him between about 1820 and 1835 at latest. J. Beech of London Road, Leicester, showed a 'Captain Ross' at the RA in 1830 (when JC Ross was in fact a Commander in rank, but the terms are informally interchangeable). However his uncle John was then a captain already and both absent on their 1829-33 Arctic expedition, so it Beech's portrait -given he was a provincial painter- might just be another 'Captain Ross', perhaps an army man. John Hayter showed a now unlocated 'Captain John Ross' at the RA in 1834, after the expedition returned but this is unlikely to be it even if it is John since he was then about 56, let alone other appearances.
Attached is a stab at the oil iconography of JC Ross to date from online sources, starting with the present item as a 'probable': hard print (esp. Richard Ormond's NPG listings) I still have to look at
Thinking of artists, I wonder if there is any mileage here in Sir John Watson Gordon PRSA (1788-1864), himself a Scot- as were the Rosses - and also son of a Royal Naval officer....
Pieter, while Beech was listed in the RA catalogue with an address at London Road, Leicester in 1830, he also listed in that year as having an address at Miss Linwood's Rooms, Leicester Square. There is existing correspondence between Beech and Linwood from 1829. He was listed at her rooms in 1831 too, but now also at 34, Hercules Buildings, Lambeth. By 1839 he was still listed as living at 15, Allen Street, Hercules Buildings, Lambeth. The Miss Linwood mentioned was the needlework artist Mary Linwood (1755 - 1845):
Beech was in London in 1830s, albeit on a temporary basis. So it is not quite correct to say that he was provincial artist, in the most accepted understanding of that phrase.
The other famous Captain Ross in 1830 was Captain Horatio Ross, the marksman, racehorse enthusiast and all round gambling fanatic.
Heavens, I was expecting much more resistance to the idea that this might be Clark Ross! And also bracing myself to put together some long and detailed posts with composite images in support - a relief not to have to, as I've a long list of things to write about re Sir John on the other discussion. Actually the thing that kept shouting at me was his extraordinary, top-heavy 'big' hair' - JCR has it thus in all his portraits, while his uncle's style is far less flamboyant throughout. I agree that c.1820-30 is right, and suspect the early part of that range - it's really quite a boyish face, hints of puppy fat, youthful enthusiasm. And no sideburns, of course. The chunky (in shape, anyway) fur wrap is slightly deceptive: it gives him more weight, visually and metaphorically, than the basic portrait; I rather think it was added later, and has since proved more fugitive to over-enthusiastic cleaning - either that or it was unfinished. My guess is that it was added after the 1829-33 expedition, to try and turn a pleasant, lightweight young man's portrait into something more substantial and relevant to his new reputation - or much later for the same reason.
I don't think it can be Watson Gordon. It seems too loose, flat and imprecise for him; and there are some poor passages...his left eye (our right) is a mess, too big, too low, and quite dead - surely WG wouldn't have come up with that? Whoever it's by, perhaps it was unfinished and completed by someone else...or damaged and badly restored? See attached close-up.
To address E.Jones's post about John Hayter. First, I think you may have misunderstood (or it's a typo)...the portrait of Sir John Ross on the other thread is not by Hayter - at least it seems most unlikely, though it's true that it was described as including "by his [Ross's] desire, several objects of interest, illustrative of the enterprise". To find out exactly who it *is* by is the very purpose of the other discussion! We should probably really be talking about it over there, but as you've raised it here I'll reply here too.
Second, I'm pretty sure that Hayter's portrait of Captain (John) Ross, RN (the one that was exhibited at the RA in 1834), was *not* acquired by the City of London for 100 gns in 1864. The Evening Standard report of 9th Dec that you attach (and two similar ones in the London City Press of 10th Dec, and the Galloway Advertiser of the 15th) describing the Court of Common Council's meeting of the 8th Dec to discuss the suggestion, makes clear that there was little or no inclination at the meeting to buy it, and the move to purchase it was withdrawn "for the time" by the proposer for that and financial reasons.
The six provincial newspapers (in Hull, Salisbury, Staffordshire, Sheffield and two in Newcastle) that between 17th and 23rd Dec reported in identically-worded (and very brief) terms - you showed us one example - that the portrait had been purchased by the Corporation for the same price were, I believe, mistaken - the result I would imagine of one erroneous story that misunderstood and incorrectly precised the original report of the meeting, and was then repeated by several others. None of those six provincial papers carried the original lengthy story, and no London paper carried the new one. I also find it hard to believe that the man who proposed the motion first time round was able to resubmit it just a week later at another Court of Common Council (if there was one then).
If it *was* purchased by the City, then they seem to have got rid of it again pretty quickly: just three years later, on 8th Feb 1868, "a fine portrait of Sir John Ross by Sir [sic] J. Hayter" was offered by Christie's at their rooms at King St in London, one of a "valuable collection of modern pictures..the Property of a Gentleman, received from the Country". See attached advertisement.
Quite a number were by Charles, George or John Hayter, suggesting that they may have come from the artist or his family - John Hayter almost entirely stopped exhibiting after 1864, which explains him selling off the contents of his studio thereafter. I should be able to get more details of seller, buyer and (I hope) size from Christie's Archive.
Sorry, I misread the advert. The Charles and George Hayter portraits were *of* them, not by them - they, along with others including Ross, were by John. Which makes it even more likely the collection was his, and derived from the contents of his studio.
I had noticed the sale of 1868 but let's be wary. The portrait of Sir John Ross is said to be by "Sir John Hayter" and, as Osmund's "sic" indicates, John was never knighted. His more eminent brother, George, as Queen Victoria's painter, was in 1842. Also the portraits of Landseer, George and John refer to the group portrait by John that is at the Shipley Art Gallery (RA 1823) and would be one of the most direct comparisons for John's style. https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/a-controversy-on-colour-35526/search/actor:hayter-john-18001891/page/1/view_as/grid
I doubt this sale of 1868 has anything to do with any of the Hayter studio sales (if that is what meant). It is the fairly large collection of "a gentleman". The extent of the works of art listed suggests to me that these are not the collection of John Hayter. However, if it can be proved otherwise, I will be interested to know.
You are wise to recommend caution, Barbara, on all counts - especially as I can find no sign that John Hayter moved out of London after his retirement (at least not until the very end of his life many years later). The journalists who reported the 1864 meeting at which the painting was discussed seem to have been even more confused than Christie's about the artist's identity - see attached.
I will try and look at a copy of the 1868 catalogue this week, and email Christie's Archive for any further information they hold.
We are not yet further on with identifying the artist here but I some time ago updated the NMM database entry from the sitter being stated definitely as John Ross (as when received in 1938) to the greater probability of it being his much more handsome nephew James Clark Ross: see
It also turns out that the usefully comparable portrait of James by Pickersgill (exh RA, 1848), in the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge, is one previously long at Greenwich, originally as a 1920 loan from James's grandson, Basil Ross, to the former Royal Naval Museum in the Royal Naval College:
Though the subsequent story is a bit more complicated, through early misreading of paperwork it became a long-unrecognized 'inherited' loan to NMM, after it took over most of the RNMG holdings in 1934. That staus was only rediscovered in 1991, after Basil's son, Rear-Admiral Maurice James Ross (1908-96) finally asked about it - the first family query of which there is record since 1920 - and said that, rather than having it remain at Greenwich and in store, he wished to offer it to SPRI, where it could be more generally on display. NMM has also held, since 1936, a late-life portrait by Stephen Pearce as part of the Greenwich Hospital Collection, and had later acquired the dashing and (usually displayed) younger one by John Wildman. So with everyone content with the proposed outcome, and after a little remedial conservation, NMM delivered it direct to SPRI in June 1992 on Rear-Admiral Ross's behalf.
It has the feel of a Rough or Quickly done Portrait by George Hayter. This has the same feel, but is a much more polished piece. https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/admiral-henry-john-rous-17911877-11330. There are known Portraits of Both Ross's in Question. That Appears to be the Nephew.
Osmund is right (13/04/2019): we are not seeing the painting in its original condition. However, allowing for possible damage (e.g. to the sitter’s left eye) and over-cleaning, it might be worth considering Andrew Geddes, another Scot, as a contender for the authorship:
At the risk of being a fickle know it all. I'm going to agree with Richard Green. Andrew Geddes is a much better suspect for this art crime. I get the same vibe off of his known paintings as I do from ours.
The only 'art crime' is how Geddes managed not to exhibit at the RSA: allowing we can't currently explain the left-eye problem this is a striking image with a good deal of 'swagger' and such a high probability of being James Clark Ross rather than John that I'm not sure why I'm still being cautious about it. The ongoing problem is that even if a crime, that needs motive and opportunity, and better evidence for 'whodunnit'. Geddes had a long track record of working both in London and Scotland, so at least that seems fair opportunity.
Whoever it is by, there is no suspect in word search for 'Ross' through the Graves RA and BI catalogues (in the former of which , strangely, Geddes's name does not come up on my machine in the archive.org online version, though he's there in force as one would expect as an ARA. ) His BI stuff is also not portraiture: most in the RA was.
However, right at the start of this I wondered about Raeburn and Geddes has a dose of him, so its one of the likelier shots so far and, I suggest, better than the Hayters.
(For Geddes a la Raeburn see for example: https://www.artuk.org/discover/artworks/captain-robert-skirving-of-croy-17571843-of-the-east-india-company-brother-of-archibald-skirving-212329/search/makers:andrew-geddes-17831844-459603/page/2)
I think Geddes had the same problem that Wright of Derby had. He was surrounded by other great portrait artists that had a recognizable style. That style gave them the edge. if you look at their paintings you can see how good they were but at the same time you can also see them fluctuating all over the place in terms of style. A little bit from here and a little bit from there. Never really landing on their own definitive look. if the other artists had never existed you would never notice this. But, they did and you do.
Let's just try and stay as close as possible to such evidence as we have, albeit sometimes circumstantial: this of course includes that both of the Rosses and Geddes were Scots, which adds at least a further element of motive. As to variability of quality and style in what was a very numerous 'phiz-mongering' business: not everyone was Hogarth (that's his phrase), Reynolds or Lawrence. Things would have been boringly perfect if they were, and everything has to be judged in its fair context. Geddes was variable but busy and not always on portraits: he also did at least one huge altarpiece, in St James's Garlickhythe.
Love the 'phiz-mongering'.. And Hogarth had a point. It was a Dog's Life already without having to compete with the rest of Europe. As for Judging Geddes and Wright, I'm not. They were very talented very accomplished painters. All things being Equal they are the equal of their contemporaries. But, They got there second. There's only so much room to paint a Portrait that stands out. Dare I say it, Gainsborough was not the best portrait painter in the world. But you knew from 15 feet away that it was one of his Paintings. Also, everyone knew what it had cost you to have that Portrait Painted, because everyone staring at it had already talked to Gainsborough about having one done. So you were rich enough to have him do the work and he rewarded you with a Painting you couldn't get from anyone else. Which was the point of the whole exercise. You didn't or couldn't get that from Geddes or Wright.
This discussion, “Who painted this early portrait of Arctic explorer Sir John Ross?” has attracted 22 comments, dating to March-April 2019 and January this year. In a post on 12 April 2019 Pieter reported that two independent suggestions had led to a tentative change in the identification of the sitter to John Ross’s nephew, James Clark Ross. This change now appears as an option on the collection website. It is a convincing re-identification, given the shape of the nose, the full face and most especially the hair style, features which appear again and again in the list of oil portraits of James Clark Ross attached to Pieter’s post. So convincing that we can conclude and recommend that the identification be changed, and the old one abandoned, if the collection agrees.
That leaves the question of artist. Pieter dates the portrait as probably the 1820s, when the sitter would have been in his twenties, which seems reasonable on grounds of appearance and, as far as one can fix it, the style of the portrait and the costume. As has been observed there are features in the costume which appear unfinished or altered (post, 13 April 2019), although the fine head has been worked to a convincing finish.
The following artists have been suggested or mentioned in the course of discussion. Raeburn, but he died in 1823 and the style does not agree with his late work. John Hayter, who exhibited a portrait of Capt. John Ross in 1834 (post, 28 March 2019) or his brother George Hayter (post, 8 January 2020), suggestions discussed below. J. Beech of Leicester, who exhibited a portrait of “Captain Ross” in 1830, but the precise identity of this portrait is elusive and in any case there is no evidence that this almost unknown artist was capable of a portrait of this quality. John Watson Gordon (posts, 12 and 13 April 2019) and Andrew Geddes (post, 9 January 2020), both Scottish artists, suggestions discussed below.
Turning to John Hayter and his brother George, John was overshadowed by his brother and would probably not have come into this discussion but for his portrait of Capt. John Ross exhibited in 1834. George is a more interesting suggestion and it is worth comparing the portrait under discussion with his 1822 Thomas Graham, Baron Lynedoch or the undated Admiral Henry John Rous, both on Art UK.
As to the two Scottish artists, Watson Gordon’s rather precise handling does not really match our portrait. Geddes is a more interesting suggestion. Given the unusual nature of his self portrait (link in post, 9 January 2020), the first of the two comparisons made, this would need strengthening by other evidence, which the second comparison, to that of David Maclagan, only goes so far.
I think this discussion shows up the difficulties of making an attribution on stylistic grounds from an on-screen image in the absence of supporting documentation. It seems to me that the discussion could now be closed, subject to the collection, on the basis that while the identity of the sitter can be confirmed as James Clark Ross, rather than John Ross, the identity of the artist has not been determined and should be considered as unknown unless the collection wishes to attach the name of, say, George Hayter or Andrew Geddes, with a suitable qualification to indicate the tentativeness of the attribution. Pieter: what do you think?
Does the National Maritime Museum have any idea as to where this portrait was received from in 1938 please?
I did ask last year, but I don’t think it was ever addressed.
Sorry I missed the query on provenance which I will revisit when in the office sometime this week: it's a Caird Collection painting which means the NMM's founding benefactor Sir James Caird paid the bill and I think at auction, probably without any provided, but TBC.
It's clear we are not going to reach a firm conclusion on artist here, but we have got further forward and I agree sufficiently so to be firm on it being James Clark rather than John Ross, and probably no later than about 1830. It will have to stay 'British school' for the moment but we can note George Hayter or Geddes as possible artists in the general description. I'll pick up the NMM end of that in the week, but otherwise happy to call a halt, with thanks to all who have chipped in.
The undoubted NMM portrait of John Ross is also still an unresolved and linked puzzle in the pile:
I did a day's work on portraits of both the Rosses in the Heinz Library (NPG) early last year, but as is my wont failed to collate and write up the results. Although much was of interest, there were no major discoveries. But I did find in the boxes a couple of photos of this portrait that make clear that the recent suggestions (one mine) that the sitter is the nephew James are not new at all; and in addition, one of them gives us a clue about its early C20th provenance.
The first one came to the NPG from the NMM in 1961, and is identified as 'Sir John Ross' on the back - but someone has struck through the 'John' and altered it to 'James Clark - ?', a change given a subsequent tick by someone else. The second photo is much earlier, and though the emulsion seems to have deteriorated, it is almost certainly the same portrait. The rear stamp is illegible, but it’s inscribed '? Sir James Clark Ross / by John Simpson ? / Mr Chatto / 28 Jan 1913’. See attached. The ‘John Simpson ?’ attribution seems likely to have been just a suggestion**, rather than based on any firm information. I don’t know if any of these annotations was by a NPG staff member or when they were made – perhaps Jacob might recognise the handwriting? And I wonder if the NPG has anything further on Mr Chatto – did he send the photo to them for an opinion in 1913, or perhaps offer it for sale?
**The prolific and successful John Simpson (1782–1847), for some years Lawrence’s assistant, is a reasonable contender – he certainly painted other naval men in the 1820s. But if it were by him, I think it would have to be more of a sketch than a conventionally finished work; and though that’s perfectly possible, as Jacob says, without either documentary evidence or a number of directly comparable works, we can take the idea no further.
It is a Lawrence-type head and face, but of course that doesn't prove Simpson did it. Here is his portrait of Wellington:
However, his finished portraits are generally tighter and more prosaic than Lawrence's, certainly less painterly.
Indeed...which is why I thought it would have to be a sketch or unfinished work if by him. There is, though, a similar looseness and freedom in the handling of the clothes in his 1829 portrait of his friend Clarkson Stanfield: https://bit.ly/3jaX9Rs. And there are good circumstantial reasons why finishing such a portrait might have been difficult in the 1820s: Ross was in England for a total of just 3½ of the 14 years between 1819 & 1833, the rest being spent on no less than five long arctic expeditions.
But this is all speculative, and I agree that closure seems sensible...unless, of course, we are not only able to identify the right Mr Chatto, but can track the provenance back further than him.
Thanks Osmund: Simpson is another interesting idea, not least in that he was in Portugal for a period from 1834. I've never seen how long but, as you indicate, timing (inc. age, dress as well as sitter's movements) is a significant element in this case. His exhibited portrait of Stanfield (SBA 1829) -the one you give the link to - is less indicative of the possibility than the other one still in family hands: I attach a rather poor image, scanned for Powerpoint use from a 35 mm slide I took in the mid 1970s and I must get a better one. It has much more of the Ross's spirit. (In B&W it is also frontispiece to the 1979 Stanfield exh. catalogues, Bonn and Sunderland.)
I also see above that I'd already reported that the Ross portrait came from Sir Robert Leicester Harmsworth, 1st bt. (1870-1937) via a Christie's sale of 18 March 1938, lot 147. He was one of the publishing family and the obvious association of anyone with the name of Chatto (new to me in this context) is the publisher Chatto & Windus. As Wikipedia immediately points out 'The firm developed out of the publishing business of John Camden Hotten, founded in 1855. After his death in 1873, it was sold to Hotten's junior partner Andrew Chatto (1841 [sic]–1913)....' . The NPG photo bears the date 28 Jan 1913, which is shortly before he died on 15 March that year, after retiring in 1912 but, as ODNB adds, 'The eldest of his sons followed him into the business and became a nominal partner in the firm in 1893, although his real interests were outdoors. A younger son, Thomas, joined the antiquarian firm of Pickering and Chatto', so it could have passed to them. It also notes that ' [Andrew] Chatto was greatly interested in the progress of modern science and astronomy and spent much of his leisure time in this study', so Ross, as a scientific navigator and first discoverer of the North Magnetic Pole would certainly have been a figure of interest to him, Chatto was (acc. ODNB) born in November 1840 and Ross died in 1862, so it is unlikely rather than impossible they knew each other, but there is plenty of scope there for Chatto to have picked up the portrait at some later point.
I am delighted that Osmund has flagged up photographs in the Heinz Archive. As to the handwriting on the one dated 1913 it is not that of the director, Charles Holmes. It may well be that of his assistant, James Milner, but this would need verification through NPG records. In a sense this is not central to the case. Of greater interest are the two names mentioned, Chatto and John Simpson. On Chatto it would be worth investigating when the Heinz Archive reopens the file, “Correspondence received 1913: C” (ref: NPG104/4/2) and also the file, “Notes on Sitters” in the hope that information might emerge to clarify who Chatto was. On Simpson this would seem to be an attribution seriously worth considering. Why would the portrait be attributed to such an obscure artist in 1913 unless there was an obvious rationale? We should look at the record of his work in the Heinz Archive. Something for you, Osmund, in due course, since you have begun this?
Your call Jacob on whether still to close this or leave open: in the light of Osmund's points the latter may be better, or anything further just becomes a limited private debate. I will anyway note Simpson as a third 'possible' in the NMM record. If that firms up it would make an interesting addition to the NMM group (Stanfield, Captain Peter Heywood - the pardoned 'Bounty' mutineer - and Captain Marryat).
I'm happy to do that, Jacob, assuming I'm still alive - I don't suppose that pro tem the NPG/Heinz staff are looking such things up, are they...at least for, um, favoured researchers?
I had considered Andrew Chatto, and thought he was likely on a "right type of person" basis. I couldn't, though, see anything else to connect him with an arctic explorer: there seemed to be nothing genealogical, and by then I was too tired to check the ODNB...which was very silly as I already had it open for calculating Ross's years in England. Well done, Pieter: his strong interest in science and astronomy - rather unexpected in a dedicated man of letters - must make him, or one of his sons, very much the most likely candidates
The online collection description is now updated. A final point I have added, and more obvious when looking at a full-screen image, is that the picture is clearly not finished, though probably too advanced to just be considered a study: if mentioned above I failed to take sufficient notice. The most evident sign is the very sketchy painting of the fur trim of the cape in the lower part, with dark marks of under-drawing as well as the white waistcoat showing through. This also might account for the problem with the left eye. Albeit no more than a thought, it is possible it was left this way when Ross sailed for the Arctic in 1829 before a final sitting and for some reason - even perhaps his changed appearance after three years there - the matter was not concluded after his return: if it is by Simpson the lapse of time could also have been lengthened by his departure for Lisbon in 1834.
Attached is a slightly amended version of my James Clark Ross portrait list of 20/04/19 (15.44), the prime correction being the slip that attributed John R. Wildman's portrait to Stephen Wildman. I think my wire was more crossed with Stephen Pearce in doing so, but apologies to him none the less.