Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait Miniature of Lady Anne Barnard (1750-1825) 

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

Portrait Miniature of Lady Anne Barnard (1750-1825), Anne Mee (née Foldsone)
Watercolour on ivory
18th Century
Oval, 3 3/4 inches, 9.5cm high
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Gilt-metal frame with hair motif to reverse.

Anne Foldsone was the daughter of John Foldsone, a London-based portrait painter. Anne attended Madame Pomier's school in Westminster where she apparently showed an aptitude for art, music and poetry. She also apparently mixed her father's colours and could prepare his canvases for him. She began to paint herself at the age of twelve and was a pupil of the portrait painter George Romney. As it is not clear when she was born it is not certain what age she was when her father died in 1784. But it is clear that she became the sole support of her mother and eight brothers and sisters at a young age. Her role as a professional portrait painter exposed her inevitably to comment about her character.

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 Foldsone 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 Foldsone who would paint miniatures of the Queen and her daughters. Anne Foldsone married Joseph Mee in 1793 and thereafter was generally known simply as 'Mrs Mee'. Mrs Mee did not abandon professional miniature painting on her marriage. But 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. 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.

Anne Lindsay was the eldest child of James Lindsay, 5th Earl of Balcarres and Anne, daughter of Robert Dalrymple of Castleton. In the 1770s Anne met Henry Dundas, a lawyer and politician who would go on to play a central, if slightly complicated, role in her life. In the 1780s Anne, who was now in London living with her widowed sister, came into contact again with Dundas who, despite being married already, praised the precocious young intellectual, who in turn acted as his hostess pushing Dundas into the highest echelons of politics. Dundas, who had clearly become attached to Anne, proposed marriage, although Anne, who was as cunning in her personal life as she was in her profession, approached the rakish William Wyndham only to be given the cold shoulder by him, and then to have the original offer abnegated by a disgruntled Dundas.

Although this dramatic twist no doubted caused a great deal of anguish for Anne, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, and in 1793 she married Andrew Barnard, a son of the bishop of Limerick who, despite being of humble wealth and twelve years her senior, dramatically changed the course of her life. His wealth, although considerably lower than her previous suitors, mattered little, for Anne’s determined ability to campaign and lobby, meant that by 1797 Barnard had been offered, by none other than Dundas, the colonial secretaryship in the Cape of Good Hope which had been captured by Britain two years earlier. Anne soon became the leading hostess in the new colony, not just on behalf of her husband, but for Earl Macartney too, whose absent wife left a highly lucrative position unguarded. Whilst in the Cape, Anne was also asked to keep a journal which evaluated the importance of the new colony to Britain. These journals, which are invaluable when studying the social and political life of the colony, have in many ways written Anne into the annals of British colonial history, and reveal a woman who was clearly conscious of the effect British occupancy had on the natives, frequently reporting the names of people who encouraged to the slave trade.

Anne and her husband returned to England in 1801 when the Cape was restored to the Netherlands only to find her previous flame and patron Dundas in reduced circumstances, and thus of little use when trying to secure her husband’s, and perhaps therefore her own, security. Wyndham however, who was now a prominent statesman, was quickly reminded of the favours he owed to Anne and by 1807, when control of the Cape was returned to Britain, her husband was returned once again to the Cape, and died not long after his arrival. Anne, devastated by her husband’s unexpected demise, remained in England and soon began to retire from public life. An exciting twist in Anne’s later life came in 1823, just two years prior to her death, when she acknowledged the authorship of ‘Auld Robin Grey’, a scots ballad which had been published earlier in 1772.
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