Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait miniature of John Taylor, later Sir John Taylor, 1st Baronet of Lysson Hall, Jamaica (1745-1786) 

Richard Crosse (1742-1810)

Portrait miniature of John Taylor, later Sir John Taylor, 1st Baronet of Lysson Hall, Jamaica (1745-1786), Richard Crosse
Watercolour on ivory
18th Century
Oval, 38mm (1 1/2 ins.) high
By family descent until 2014.
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John Taylor was the second son of Patrick Talizour and Martha Taylor, daughter of George Taylor of Caymanas, Jamaica. Patrick was a merchant who established a profitable business in Kingston, Jamaica, later assuming his wife’s name on marriage. After Patrick’s death the majority of the estate, which included one sugar plantation, passed to Taylor’s elder brother Simon, with whom Taylor and his family are depicted in Daniel Gardner’s ambitious pastel portrait [Christie's, 13 June 2001, lot.4].

Although Taylor’s early education is not known, we know through family papers that in March 1761 he matriculated at St John’s College, Oxford, and on 28th June 1764 he graduated with an M.A. In 1770, probably just after the present work was painted, Taylor embarked on a Grand Tour – a then social custom for all middle-class young men, where he encountered and bought numerous paintings via Gavin Hamilton, including a landscape by Richard Wilson in 1773. Interestingly, Taylor also posed as a model for Johan Zoffany’s masterpiece The Tribuna of the Uffizi, for which he must have modelled when in Florence c.1773 – he can be seen in the group on the left.

In 1774 Taylor wished to marry Elizabeth Haughton, daughter of Philip Haughton and Mary Brissett of Jamaica, and step-daughter of Caribbean merchant Neil Malcolm, although marriage plans dissolved on account of Taylor’s supposedly wild and extravagant lifestyle. On the 17th December 1778, four months after Taylor was created a baronet, the pair finally married and they had two sons and four daughters.

Taylor died in 1786 whilst in Jamaica tending to his wife’s plantations which suffered badly following a number of hurricanes, and, following his death, Elizabeth returned to England where she died in 1821.

Crosse was born deaf and initially took up miniature painting as an interested amateur. His talent soon became apparent and he won a premium at the Society of Arts in 1758, going on to study at Shipley’s Drawing School. His clientele included the royal family, as well as aristocratic sitters. He also painted many portraits of his own family, including his brother who cared for him. The Victoria and Albert Museum own the artist’s painter’s box, together with his ivory palette. A transcript of his sitter’s list from the original ledger was published by the Walpole Society , however it only records commissions post-1776, some years after the present work was painted.
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