Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Elizabeth Taylor (née Haughton) (1758–1821) 1775

John Smart (1741-1811)

Portrait of Elizabeth Taylor (née Haughton) (1758–1821), John Smart
Watercolour on ivory
18th Century
Oval, 1 5/8 in., 42mm high
By family descent until 2014.
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In a converted bracelet clasp frame and original red leather travelling case.

This portrait miniature by John Smart depicts Elizabeth Haughton, daughter of a wealthy Jamaica plantation owner, at the age of seventeen.

Elizabeth was born on 12th November 1758 in Jamaica, the only surviving child of Philip Haughton the Younger and Mary Brisset. Philip died in 1758, and by 1765 Elizabeth’s mother Mary had married again, to Neil Malcolm, a Jamaican plantation owner of Scottish descent.

On the death of her father, Elizabeth inherited the family estates at the west end of Jamaica which were administered by her step-father and family relations until she came of age. In 1774 Elizabeth wished to marry John Taylor, the second son of a Jamaican landowner, although Taylor’s supposedly wild lifestyle was disliked by Elizabeth’s step-father and mother and the pair did not marry until 17th December 1778. Elizabeth and John had six children together; two sons and four daughters, the youngest, Martha, was born six weeks before her father’s death.

Taylor did much to protect his wife’s interests in Jamaica. His brother Simon acted as attorney for many absentee Jamaican landowners but his estates were situated in the east of Jamaica, too far away from Elizabeth’s for Simon to be of much help. Elizabeth’s relationship with Simon, who is shown with the couple and four of their children in Daniel Gardner’s celebrated pastel [Christies, 13 June 2001, lot.4], was tense, and, although after Taylor’s death in 1786 she received significant financial assistance, it was not given with any kindness.

The present work, painted in 1775 when Elizabeth would have been seventeen, displays an unmistakable level of alert confidence characteristic of a young lady on the cusp of both marriage and inheritance. Her teenage looks, captured so brilliantly by Smart in her plump rosy cheeks, have been perfectly preserved over the generations by the original red leather travelling case. Elizabeth was also painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds [Petworth, Sussex]. Although stated as painted c.1775, this oil was almost certainly painted later in 1781, when a payment is recorded from her husband to Reynolds.
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