Photo credit: The Cheltenham Trust and Cheltenham Borough Council
The Wilson, Cheltenham owns two pictures of horses in harness that share the same distinctive monogram and date.
Does anyone recognise this artist’s work, or could anyone decipher the letters?
Close-up images of the two signatures are attached.
FAP, at first sight.
It definitely reads from left to right FAP. However is that the correct order of initials, or are they FPA?
I have looked in both my original book on monograms and the manuscript volume I have kept since.I do not have it. Logically it should have been by Friedrich Wilhelm Keyl, but obviously it is not. I will keep thinking and hope someone comes up with the correct answer.
The more I have thought about this - I think it is probably by Friedrich Wilhelm Keyl signing with a different monogram, which is not unknown when artists are under contract to another.
It can't be by Friedrich Wilhelm Keyl, as he died in 1871 and the painting is clearly dated 1877.
I've sent an e-mail to the British Sporting Arts Trust. Perhaps someone there will recognize the monogram.
How about H A P -- Henry Arthur Payne ???
I don't think there's an 'H' there, Louis, and certainly not if you want to see an 'A' as well. Nor do I really think a 'W' is involved (pace Peter). I feel the first reading 'FAP' is the right one, but, yes, the 'A' could easily be the surname; and though it's far less likely in this context, such an arrangement is commonly found as a marriage monogram representing husband and wife, as in, say, Francis and Patricia Anderson.
Shifting our attention to what's above the monogram, what do people make of the ligated 'OE' (if that's what it is)? The only thing that comes to mind is 'oeuvre', which is occasionally found in English to mean a single work, and frequently is in its original French. French also has an associated verb 'oeuvrer', to toil or work, generally a literary usage. But I can't find any examples *at all* (in either collective or singular senses) of 'oeuvre' being used on its own as early as this in England, i.e. outside the very long-standing 'chef d'oeuvre', or similar phrases written as French usages (usually in italics), e.g. when giving the titles of French books like "Oeuvres Choisies de Napoléon Bonaparte"
If it does indeed stand for 'oeuvre' (or oeuvra/oeuvré, cf. 'fecit'), might this mean the artist is French? My knowledge of French art approaches zero: has anyone ever come across 'oe[uvre]' in such a context, or am I barking up quite the wrong tree?
Seeing an 'Aitch---- Leaning to the left going up- including the right side of the A- much better possible match than an F-- .unless the F is read backwards???
Or perhaps Helen Allingham nee Patterson . H A P .
I see that the paintings were given to The Wilson in 1936 by a Mrs Elwes. Elwes is quite a well-known name in Gloucestershire and there are at least two large landed estates which are or were owned by the Elwes family or families. Could there be an Elwes connection to the upper initials on both paintings which I read as 'CE'? The paintings could be British and are a standard UK board size at 18 x 24 inches each. I suspect they were a commission for the owner of a local estate, hence, if I am right, the artist may have added the owner's initials above his/her own monogram. I wonder whether The Wilson has any more specific information about their donor, Mrs Elwes, which could help identification of the family commissioning the works. I do not recognise the artist's monogram.
Louis - it's not necessarily a 'backwards' F. Capital F's in cursive script are often written with the crossbars predominantly to the left of the upright and while this isn't cursive, that means that we have no difficulty in reading it as an F. Obviously the main reason it is done like that here is to make a distinctive and symmetrical monogram, but the most likely letters are still FAP.
As Grant say the Elwes are a prominent Gloucestershire family that still own Colesbourne Park near Cheltenham. The obvious Mrs Elwes to donate the pair of pictures in 1936 would have been Muriel (Hargreaves) Elwes (1871-1956) who was to inherit another nearby mansion, Leckhampton Court and who was married to Captain (Henry) Cecil Elwes (1874-1950) in 1901:
From that, Cecil was clearly keen on horses, though he would only have been a toddler when these were painted. So it may have been originally owned by his mother (who seems to have died in 1932), or his father the eminent botanist Henry John Elwes. In that case the following generation may have been unaware of the identity of the painter, if they were a commercial painter who just turned up to produce a number of views of the estate to order.
Cecil's uncle was the artist and traveller, Robert Elwes:
But he and his daughters mainly seem to have worked in watercolour and none of the initials match.
So none of these seem likely for 'CE', though it's possible it stands for Colesbourne Estate.
Mark, neither of your links work, I'm afraid. It's a long-standing problem with URLs that contain anything in brackets, which the AD system inexplicably cannot handle. The simple solution I occasionally mention is to use a URL-shortening service such as https://bitly.com/ (there are others) to make a short version of the link which will do the job. Thus https://bit.ly/2Y5GpU1 & https://bit.ly/30ZfWcs . It also has the advantage of keeping posts shorter and neater, especially where the link is very long and spreads over several lines.
Actually I think the 'F' probably *is* backwards - reversed asymmetrical letters are often found in cyphers and monograms, almost always in order to create (as Mark says) symmetry in the overall design. This is commonest where there is a repeated letter (R is particularly favoured); but where there are two different letters with similar shapes & elements, a near-symmetry can also be achieved. Thus P/R & P/B work well, and P/F (as here) is acceptable; the mixture of straight and curved top elements is visually not ideal, though, and E/F (for example) would look better.
I agree that the conjoined CE (or possibly OE) above is far more likely to relate to some place or person than to my fanciful ‘oeuvre’ idea. ‘E’ for Elwes is certainly tempting, but I too am having no luck with finding a suitable CE in the Elwes of Colesbourne/Leckhampton lineage. I wish there were a close link to the Elwes family of Billing, Northants, who repeatedly use the first or middle name ‘Cary’ and in some cases hyphenated as ‘Cary-Elwes’...but there seems not to be. ‘Colesbourne Estate’ is certainly possible, but I wonder whether the Colesbourne family are a red herring (despite its close proximity to Cheltenham) – could a member of the Billing family have retired to Cheltenham, as so many upper middle-class people did?
We really do need to discover the exact identity of the donor, Mrs Elwes: can the Collection help?
One thought. Marion, could we see close-ups of the part of both pictures showing the the horses' upper head & eyes (see attached)? The carriage horses of aristocratic owners usually had silvered brass harness fittings in the form of family crest, arms or coronet fixed to their leather blinkers. I think there are crests here; and though even the original paintings may not show enough detail - they would be less than half-an-inch high - it might just be possible to make out if they resemble the Elwes crest (a bunch of five arrows encircled by a snake) or not - also attached.
The other painting is at https://bit.ly/3h64wt9
Two paintings- four different horses- and lovely horses at that- no old nags. To own four matched carriage horses like that - the owner would be very rich I guess.
Osmund, sorry for the delay in attaching close-ups of the two sets of harness.
No problem, Marion, and thank you. I think crests with motto scrolls beneath are intended; but as well as being indecipherable, most of the four seem to look different. It could well be that the artist didn't attempt any detail, he just put some vaguely crest-like splodges of paint in the right places.
It looks like it's either going to be TAP, ATP or TPA. However, with the enlarged 'A' this gives it more emphasis. Therefore, I do think this has got to represent either the first name or surname so ATP or TPA is more likely. One potential candidate for ATP could be Alfred Thomas Porter (1854–1937). He is listed as exhibiting at the RA from 1882-1919 from 38 Great Ormond Street in 1881.
Thanks Nicky. Although A T Porter fits the date of 1877 he was noted as a painter of historical subjects, for example gladiators during the time of the Roman Empire. I couldn't find any reference to paintings of horses by him. These two works strike me as being by a specialist in the genre, available for commissions from well-off Victorian owners of horses. As Peter and Malcolm suggested in July last year the artist initials are (probably!) FAP or FPA. The light coloured stone in the building in the image above suggests Cotswold Stone to me, which I think may be a further clue in suggesting that the pictures are likely to be local to Cheltenham.
There's not much I could find online for Alfred Thomas Porter, but as it happens one of his two pictures on ArtUK is a triptych featuring quite a lot of horses (at the IWM):
Though that does date from 1919, 42 years after the date of these two, which would have had to be right at the start of his career. The notes on both his ArtUK entries say they are signed with initials (ATP in that case, AP monogram in a portrait that probably dates from the 1880s-90s) though I can't make either out on the ArtUK copies to check if they match the monograms seem here.
That said I still tend to read the initials as FAP as well. I also wonder if such an elaborate monogram might indicate a gifted amateur artist rather than a professional - though a specialist painter is still very likely.
Osmund - Belated thanks for fixing those links. I usually like to 'show my workings' with links so people can see the source or where there might be useful info in the URL (as with the ArtUK ones) but bitly is very useful for longer links or where there are disruptive characters and I shall try to remember to use it.
I actually think your first instinct about the fittings is correct and any apparent differences across the four horses are due to showing highlights on the leather in paint. Unfortunately nothing much has been painted of the crest except a blob and the motto underneath, though that might be enough to rule out the Northants (Cary) Elwes with their motto being above in the example you gave.
The most likely donor must still be Muriel Elwes from the date. My 'Colesbourne Estate' was an even more desperate guess that your 'oeuvre' and it could be that they actually came from the property she inherited, Leckhampton Court, where the family moved in 1872, shortly after she was born, so these could have been painted there. Her mother was an heiress of the Platt Brothers company, the biggest textile machinery manufacturer in the world, so they weren't short of money. As Grant says the stone may be indicative of a Cotswold location, which would apply to either estate - Muriel basically married the boy next door.
In some ways it's an odd donation to make to a public gallery. With no known artist or explicit local connection, they're the sort of pictures that would mean more to the family than the public. The Elwes don't seem to have given much else and I'm not sure if they've ever been big art collectors, plants and trees seem more their thing. So it may just be that the the Gallery was asking around for stuff and, as local worthies, they gave a couple of attractive pictures.