Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait miniature of Lt. Col. Thomas Grosvenor (1764-1851) wearing the uniform of the Grenadier Company of the 3rd Foot Guards 

Anne Mee (née Foldsone) (c.1770/75-1851)

Portrait miniature of Lt. Col. Thomas Grosvenor (1764-1851) wearing the uniform of the Grenadier Company of the 3rd Foot Guards, Anne Mee (née Foldsone)
Watercolour on ivory
Oval, 71mm (2 13/16 in) high
Hans Freiherr von Reitzer, Vienna; Sothebys, London, 16th April 2008, lot.98; Private Collection.
Jean de Bourgoing, ‘English Miniatures’, 1928, pl. 29; D. Foskett 1979/1989, ‘Miniatures: A Dictionary and Guide’, p. 319, pl. 87E; where incorrectly identified as ‘Hon. Susan Carew’.
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Gold frame set with half pearls, glazed reverse with hair locks .

Anne Foldsone had an early introduction to painting through her father, John Foldsone, a London-based portrait painter. She began to paint herself at around the age of twelve and was a pupil of the portrait painter George Romney. She soon became the sole support of her mother and eight brothers and sisters. Her role as a professional portrait painter exposed her inevitably to comment about her character and sex, for example, the poet William Hayley described her as a 'young female genius in miniature' and 'a pretty, modest and sensible girl'. Horace Walpole, the ageing diarist, however called her 'a prodigy of dishonest impertinence'.

Anne was introduced to Queen Charlotte and with her sister she was placed to board with a Madame de Lafitte who lived in a house in the cloisters at Windsor. One of Madame de Lafitte's duties was to read German with the princesses, and she was often accompanied by Anne who would paint miniatures of the Queen and her daughters. Anne married Joseph Mee in 1793 and thereafter was generally known simply as 'Mrs Mee'. It is recorded that her husband would only consent to let her paint 'Ladies Only' and they were not to be accompanied into the painting room by gentlemen, making the existence of the present work even more intriguing. In 1814 Mrs Mee completed an important commission for George IV to paint a series of large miniature portraits of fashionable ladies - these were engraved as 'The Gallery of Beauties of the Court of…George the Third', a reference to other series of court beauties painted in the seventeenth and early 18th centuries. Mrs Mee died in Hammersmith in 1851.

The identity of the present sitter has been quite confused in the past, with Daphne Foskett, in her seminal 1987 work ‘Miniatures: A Dictionary and Guide’ identifying the officer as the Hon. Susan
Carew, almost certainly on account of the reverse, in which a ‘S.C’ motif in pearls can be deciphered.

The present work instead depicts Lt. Col. Thomas Grosvenor (1764-1851) and is a small scale copy of the three-quarter length portrait by John Hoppner (1758-1810), exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1795 (no.167, Portrait of an Officer). The Hoppner portrait, in which Grosvenor is seen holding a rifle against a moody background, was also ‘squared up’ onto paper in 1796 by the enamellist Henry Bone (1755-1834) , in preparation for transferal in enamel format. Another portrait of Grosvenor by Mee, albeit smaller and shown without the head attire, was with Sothebys in 1987.

Thomas Grosvenor was the third son of Thomas Grosvenor (1734-95) of Swell Court, Somerset and his wife Deborah, daughter and co-heir of Stephen Skynner of Walthamstow, Essex. As was typical of a second or third son Grosvenor entered the military and in 1779 was appointed ensign to the 1st Foot Guards, one of his earliest campaigns being to secure the Bank of England during the Gordon Riots of 1780. In 1784 Grosvenor was made lieutenant-captain and in 1793 became involved in the Flanders Campaign in response to the French Revolutionary War. On the death of his father in 1795 Grosvenor took over his seat as MP for Chester, which was then a highly prosperous city of great industrial wealth, which he maintained until 1825. In 1796 Grosvenor was promoted to brevet colonel and in 1802 to major-general. In 1807, whilst colonel of the 97th Foot, Grosvenor led a successful campaign in the Battle of Copenhagen and was thus promoted to lieutenant-general the following year. In 1819 Grosvenor was appointed general of 65th Foot and in 1846, together with Sir George Nugent and the Marquis of Anglesey, was created field-marshal.
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