Photo credit: Vestry House Museum
Does anyone have any information that might help us establish the artist of this work?
Fashion-based dating should be a good starting point. Lou Taylor could help with that.
If this were a pastel I would immediately suggest Hugh Douglas Hamilton. However, as it is oil on canvas I would be more cautious, although I think HDH is still worth considering.
Here is an oval Hamilton of similar size which is also oil on canvas:
I think this portrait dates from c 1775-80.. The style of the hair is very particular and appears in a good few portraits of men at this date- be it in UK, Europe or USA. The style and narrowish depth of the turned down collar of this tailored wool coat and the use of large buttons could well be from 1775-80. (By the 1780s/90s the rise of the collar became higher and higher.)The elegant striped silk waistcoat with its cream-coloured satin revers and the touch of lace on the cravat made this outfit suitable for smart wear. It is not the everyday tailored suit for country use on an English estate.
See for comparison:
1: Alleyne FitzHerbert by Franciszek Smuglewicz; c 1775 WIKIMEDIA.
2: James Christie by Gainsborough, 1778 Getty Centre no 70.PA.16.
3: The Right Honourable Charles Philip Yorke (1764–1834); 1779-80;
National Trust, 207768.
4: Sir Henry Bate- Dudley by Gainsborough 1780; Pinterestr.
Sadly our website would not accept these 4 images but they are all available on Google
The sitter would have been 24 in 1780, so c. 1780 seems about right.
Hugh Douglas Hamilton moved to Italy (Rome) in 1779, where he began working in oil and became a successful portraitist of Irish and British visitors. He remained there until 1791, when he moved to Dublin. Does the collection know if the sitter visited Rome?
Of course, it is possible that Hamilton used oils on occasion while he was based in London before going to Italy. The picture I linked above appears to be one such example.
We need more information on the sitter, but he looks like a young man who could have gone on the Grand Tour, which would certainly have included Rome.
The sitter, as named, does not appear in the Ford/Ingamells dictionary of British and Irish travellers in Italy 1701-1800.
Could this be by Francis Alleyne who was painting up to 1790 and used this small oval format ?
This portrait strikes me as above Alleyne's level (as Hamilton was), though he is not out of the question.
In 1936, Frank Brangwyn and Arthur Heygate Mackmurdo donated
“..as a gift to the Borough of Walthamstow of the nucleus of an art collection to be founded there in the Memory of William Morris.”
The collection was to be kept in Water House which was to be called the ‘William Morris Gallery’ when the building was due to become available.
i)Mr Brangwyn’s Gift - The Scotsman, May 2, 1936
Tribute to William Morris - Chelmsford Chronicle, 15 May, 1936
Exhibition at Walthamstow - Chelmsford Chronicle, 15 January, 1937
Does the museum have access to the original documentation or accession files of the donations from Frank Brangwyn and Arthur Heygate Mackmurdo, to the Borough of Walthamstow?
Even though this painting was transferred from Walthamstow Library, I expect that it may have come from the same source as other items already in the Vestry Museum and the William Morris Gallery. Over time, It may have become separated from the main part of the collection to other sites within the Borough.
The sitter in this portrait is Edward Longden Mackmurdo of Hackney, the grandfather of Arthur Heygate Mackmurdo. (The birth and death dates also correspond with the official documents, but there is no mention of the name Lloyd.)
There are also two more portraits of Edward and Ann Mackmurdo in the Collection of the Vestry Museum. These are the portraits of A.H. Mackmurdo’s parents.
There were a number of generations of Edward Mackmurdo’s. A. H. Mackmurdo also had an older brother called Edward Longden Mackmurdo.
ii) Mackmurdo family documents
The surname Longdon appears to have inexplicably changed throughout the text above as Longden. The name, as seen in the majority of official documentation is correct as Longdon, although the name of Ann Mackmurdo (other portrait in the Vestry Museum) is officially recorded as having an e.
The collection will look at Elin's request for further information next week, after one of the curators returns from leave.
There is a Edward Longdon Mackmurdo -living at Fornham St Martin-who enlisted in the RMC at the beginning of WW! at Ipswich.
As to the artist-as someone mentioned the Grand Tour- how about someone french like Joseph Duplessis or Elizabeth Vigee leBrun???
Please could the collection let us know if the canvas and its stretcher are actually oval or if the image shown is within a painted oval on a rectangular canvas. In any case it would be helpful to have even a digital snap of the portrait in its frame and to know of any clues on the reverse.
This looks close to Henry Walton (1746-1813). Compare his portraits of Sir Edmund Bacon (Emmanuel Coll) and Sir Robert Buxton (1753–1839), 1st Bt (Norfolk Mus. Serv.) - both on ArtUk. Richard correctly identifies the pastel-like tonality which does indeed call to mind Hamilton's pastels, but, in oils, is typical of the much under-rated Walton.
Is it possible that the painting was by Joseph Wright of Derby (British 1734-1797)?
Lyon and Turnbull auction house stated in the Joseph Wright entry (lot 223) for its Nov 18, 2020 auction:
“Joseph Wright is one of the most successful artists of the Age of Enlightenment, known primarily for his atmospheric paintings using chiaroscuro in order to emphasise the contrast of light and dark. Born to a prosperous family in Derby on 3rd September 1734, Wright moved to London in 1751 with ambitions of becoming a painter. For two years, he studied under the portrait painter Thomas Hudson, who also counted Joseph van Aken and Joshua Reynolds amongst his students. Wright then returned to Derby, and besides some notable periods away such as Liverpool from 1768 to 1771 and Italy from 1773 to 1775, he always found himself called back to his hometown, where he lived until his death in 1797.”
I am attaching:
Portrait of Henry Flint (face, curls, neckerchief, collar, lace)
Portrait of Old John Tonson Head Waiter at the King’s Head Inn, Derby (face, curls, neckerchief, collar)
I have also attached A Portrait of Joseph Wright of Derby held by the Yale Centre for British Art that is presently attributed to Richard Hurleston (British, active 1763-1780) but which used to be attributed to Joseph Wright of Derby.
Please google Portrait of Hugh Wood (collar, striped waistcoat with folds).
I am writing from Vestry House Museum, thank you all for your interest in this painting and your help to identify the painter. We have checked the labels on the back of the work but they provide very few clues as to identity of the author.
I have attached images here of the front and back of the framed painting and details of each of the labels. There is also an inscription on the back of the canvas which can be seen but is very faint and hard to read.
Please let us know if you are able to decipher the text on the back of the work, from what I can tell it reads 'Edw' Longdon Mackmurdo Esq'/painted at Se*** S*****/for £179/****** 21x25'
Brilliant to have these images, thanks to the museum. The inscription reads along the following lines:
Edwd Longdon Mackmurdo Esqr [final d and r raised up]
painted at Ge**** [Geneva?] S?*****
Octor 21 a 25 [final r raised up]
If this was painted in Geneva in 1779, it raises the possibility of the artist being Jean-Étienne Liotard.
could be Genoa?
We need a view on the costume
I don't believe this is by Liotard, nice though it is. Nor do I think the inscription says Genoa. It is just possible that the second line ends with a two word name of the artist, I suppose. The date of the picture, 1779, fits well with Lou's dating of the costume (6 June). I suspect that the costume is English, brought by the sitter on his travels.
Geneva Saneva if that makes sense?
Whats that trick they use on Fake or Fortune to read marks on the back of paintings? Was it Ultra Violet light???
I suspect the painter’s name was near the top of the verso (starting where the smudges are).
In defence of the painter being Joseph Wright of Derby, please see the attachment. It is from the website Eldreds.com. “JOSEPH WRIGHT OF DERBY, English, 1734-1797, Portrait Of A Man., Oil On Board, Oval 11¼" X 9¼" Sight. Framed.”
The verso shows the same short “1” for the “1795” and the same style of “7”. It also shows a similar word plus two number combination (“aetate 46.47”. The word “aetate” means age. Therefore, I believe that part of the inscription is not the date starting with “Octor” but “Aetate 21.25”. This would make sense given that Edward was born in 1756.
I wonder if the second line of the inscription reads:
"painted at Geneva Geneva"
The first 'Geneva' being indistinct, it was repeated in larger, clearer letters. It's not easy writing on the reverse of a canvas if you lack experience.
I agree: Geneva Geneva
On the basis that this portrait was painted in Geneva, who might be the artist? A search using the term "portrait" of the collection of the Geneva museum of art and history throws up a number of possible candidates, which I list on the quickest preliminary assessment in a sort of order for consideration. Not that I know about portraiture in Switzerland at this date. Yet one has to start somewhere.
Jean-Pierre Saint-Ours (Genève, 1752 - Genève, 1809)
Jens Juel (Gamborg Figen ou Balslev, 1745 - Copenhague, 1802), who was in Geneva in 1779
Guillaume-Henri Potter (Genève, 1760 - Genève, 1839)
Louis-Ami Arlaud-Jurine (Genève, 1751 - Genève, 1829)
Jean Preudhomme (Peseux, 1732 - Neuchâtel, 1795)
Jacob- I have been looking at the work of the artists you list. Louis Jurine seems to have a similar style ,but only seems to paint miniatures.
I have come across Jean Liotard who did oils,but prefered pastels-who's work looks very similar.
And of course Angelica Kaufmann was Swiss, but where she was in 1779 I don't know.
For your consideration, a French printer named Pierre-Michel Alix produced works based on the work of painter Jean-François Garnerey. See for example the following print of many in a museum in Geneva:
“Portrait de Jean-Jacques Rousseau”
Pierre-Michel Alix ( Paris, 1762 - Paris, 1817 ), graveur
Jean-François Garnerey ( Paris, 1755 - Auteuil, 1837 ), auteur modèle
Marie-François Drouhin ( Périodes d'activité : Paris, 1791 à 1813 ), éditeur
DIMENSIONS feuille: 272 x 234 mm (ovale)
MATÉRIAUX aquatinte, impression en couleurs au repérage
MENTION OBLIGATOIRE MAH Musée d'art et d'histoire, Ville de Genève. Ancien fonds
NUMÉRO D'INVENTAIRE E 2011-0113
Pierre-Michel Alix also produced prints based on the work of Charles Philippe Amédée Van Loo.
Here is one of Van Loo’s works at the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, D.C.
“Soap Bubbles, 1764”
Note the curl on the middle child’s head matches the curl in the mystery painting.
I notice this image has dissapeared for copyright reasons! I wanted to look because I noticed an amazing similarity to the image of Prince Frederick Adolf and I wanted to compare them!
A message for ArtUK
This portrait was painted in Geneva in 1779. On this basis I suggest that the portrait should no longer be in my group for 19th century portraits. It might be added to the group for continental paintings.
What has happened to the image of this portrait at the head of this discussion?
I wonder if the inscription on the reverse should be read as 'painted at Genova Genova' (the Italian name for Genoa)? Genova was a well-established point of entry into Italy for British and Irish Grand Tourists arriving by sea and it seems more likely that Mackmurdo would find himself there than in Geneva. If the portrait was indeed painted in Genova, in 1779, this would bring British and Irish artists back into consideration, as well as allowing for the possibility of an Italian hand. It is worth noting that Hugh Douglas Hamilton moved to Italy in 1779 (and stayed there, mainly in Rome but also in Florence, Venice and Naples until 1792), as stated by Fintan Cullen in the Oxford DNB and other publications.
The Imaging team have restored the image, apologies for any inconvenience. The discussion has been added to the Continental before 1800 Group and removed from 19th Century British Portraits.
The inscription on the reverse of the portrait is in English so I think “Geneva” is more likely than “Genova” (Richard’s post, 12 July).
It would be worth contacting “Collections des Musées d'art et d'histoire” at Geneva for advice as to the artist. There is an email address on their website. I can do this next week unless someone signals in the meantime that they are on the case.
Chris Rumelin might be able to advise as to which of his colleagues would be the most appropriate contact there
Very helpful, Martin. I have his email address so can do as you suggest
it might be worth asking Duncan Bull at the Rijksmuseum for his
I have now e-mailed Chris Rumelin at the Geneva museum.
The problem with the inscription reading "Geneva Geneva" is that the writing is neatly centred, which would seem to make the idea of a correction unlikely . The more I look at it the more I see the second word as "Street"
Oliver raises the question of the inscription. I suspect that it was written in two parts. Firstly, "Edwd Longdon Mackmurdo", centred, and in a stylish hand. Secondly, the remaining details. ‘Street’ is worth considering but personally I don’t think this works.
I have had a helpful response with suggestions from Christopher Rumelin at the Geneva museum. On the artist, he has suggested two colleagues to approach which I shall try to follow up but this will take time. On whether there might be a record of the sitter in Geneva, he writes:
“Unfortunately there is - to my knowledge - no record of people visiting Geneva during the 18th century. If there are any records, this might be at the Archives de l'Etat (state archive), please see their website: https://ge.ch/archives/
There is another source: the manuscript collection (including private papers) at the municipal and university library, it is always worth checking with them as well: https://archives.bge-geneve.ch/archive/catalogue/inventaires/tous-les-inventaires/n:89
I don't think you will find anything in the municipal archives, they are too young (founded only mid 19th century).”
On a quick search, I’ve had no luck with the two collections above
Here are some more photographs of the inscription on the back of the canvas, including some close-ups and different angles. The text is still very hard to decipher though!
Jacinto and Louis both mentioned that this might be by Liotard. I am wondering why it could not be by him.
Christie’s had a pastel by Liotard (“Portrait of Philibert Cramer”) in an auction in January 2021. There are two photos and a long write-up about Liotard on that entry. The write-up states: “The portrait of Cramer is thought to have been made around 1758, shortly after Liotard’s return to Geneva from Holland, when Philibert was about thirty years old.”
“JEAN-ETIENNE LIOTARD (Geneva 1702-1789)
Portrait of Philibert Cramer
with period frame and glass
pastel on blue paper, mounted on canvas
25 x 211⁄4 in. (63.5 x 53.8 cm)”
Despite the work being a pastel, the sitter has frothy white lace below his collar that is very similar to the lace in the MackMurdo portrait. The photo of the verso shows the date “1779” - its appearance is very similar to the “1779” on the verso of the portrait of MackMurdo. In addition, the flourishes on the names seem to match the style used for MackMurdo’s name (the flourish on the “L” of “Longdon” is like the one on the P” of “Philibert”). And, the artist did not sign his name in that section of the verso. Finally, the spacing of the lines of text seems to be quite similar.
I have attached composites to assist with the comparison.
My third attachment is the failed attachment from my comment of 17/06/2021 @ 18:15
The two words following "Painted at" remain uncertain, and the first word may not be Geneva.