Sunday, 26 February 2017

George Romney - children's hair

In this post I am looking at some paintings by George Romney.

Romney was a friend of Ozias Humphry, the artist who painted the Rice Portrait. For identification of Ozias Humphry as the artist responsible for the Rice Portrait, you can read art conservator Eva Schwan's report HERE. Page 13 shows Ozias Humphry's monogram in the lower left area of the portrait.

Humphry's signatures have also been detected on a 100 year-old photograph of the portrait, which you can read about on my blog HERE. In that post you can also read about how Romney and Humphry's style of painting were so similar that it took a celebrated court case in 1917 to determine that a painting of the Misses Waldegrave was in fact painted by Ozias Humphry and not George Romney. The case was decided when a preparatory sketch of the portrait was produced which showed Humphry's distinctive monogram of an H within an O.

Like Ozias Humphry, George Romney paintings date entirely to the eighteenth century. He was born in Dalton-in-Furness in 1732 and retired in ill-health to Kendal in 1799 where he died in 1802. So, we can be confident that, like Ozias Humphry, who was functionally blind by 1798, a portrait which is identified as a Romney, cannot date to the nineteenth century.

One of the objections which has been raised against the Rice Portrait, eg HERE, is that the hairstyle of the girl in the Rice Portrait dates the portrait to the nineteenth century, not the eighteenth. But is this correct? If the portrait was painted in 1788 or 1789 as the Austen family have always believed, then Jane would have been about 13 years old and still considered a child and it is therefore childrens' hairstyles that we should be looking at.

If Romney painted children with short, similar styles to the girl in the Rice Portrait, then this would demonstrate that the style could indeed date to the late eighteenth century.

Did he?

Well, let's take a look.

First up - a painting which many believe to be his masterpiece: The Gower Family: The Children of Granville,2nd Earl Gower painted in 1777, which hangs at Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal.

The painting depict the five youngest children of Lord Gower. The eldest girl, with the tambourine is Anne, child of his second marriage, whilst the four younger children are by his third wife, Lady Susannah Stewart.

The girl in the green dress on the left is Georgina Granville, born in April 1769, who later married William Elliot and became Countess of St Germans. Look more closely here at her short hair:

Next, here are the Misses Cumberland, painted in 1773.

The daughters of dramatist Richard Cumberland, Elizabeth (b1759) is on the left and Sophia (b1761) is on the right. They are holding a copy of their father's play The Fashionable Lover, published in 1772. Sophia therefore would be around 13 years old.

Here is Sophia's hair, close-up:

Here are some more examples:

The Vernon Children:

Two Children in a Wooded Landscape:

Portrait of Maria Emily Fagniani as a child (Painted in 1783 when she was aged about 12):

Now compare to the style of hair of the children in these portraits to the style of the hair in the Rice Portrait. Remember, all these portraits were painted before 1800.

And yet it is argued that the hairstyle of the girl in the Rice Portrait cannot date to before 1800.

What do you think?