Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait drawing of Maria Theresa Bland (née Romanzini) (1769-1838) 

Ozias Humphry RA (1742-1810)

Portrait drawing of Maria Theresa Bland (née Romanzini) (1769-1838), Ozias Humphry RA
Pencil on Paper
Rectangular, 11.4 cm x 7.3 cm (4 ½ x 3 1/8 ins.)
Private Collection, UK.
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This engaging work, which depicts the celebrated English ballad singer Maria Bland, has recently emerged from an English private collection and previously belonged to the portrait miniature scholar George Williamson, who also illustrated it in his monograph ‘The Life and Work of Ozias Humphry’ (1917).

Maria enjoyed a brisk start to her career and by 1782 she was engaged in a number of small roles at Drury Lane before making her first appearance in an operatic role in 1786. In 1790 Maria married George Bland (d.1807), an actor of reasonable acclaim and brother of Dorothea Jordan (1761-1816), although the relationship soon fell apart when Maria began an affair with actor Thomas Caulfield, with whom she went on to have several illegitimate children. Maria remained at Drury Lane for forty years before a mental breakdown caused in part by the death of one of her children, forced an end to her career in 1822. Maria remained in London until her death in 1838.

Born in Devon, Ozias Humphry travelled to London at the age of fifteen and enrolled at St. Martin’s Lane School on the advice of Sir Joshua Reynolds. In 1760 Humphry was apprenticed to the miniature painter Samuel Collins, although Collin’s expensive lifestyle soon saw him flee to Dublin to avoid creditors which is why, presumably, Humphry then relocated to Bath. It was once again on the advice of Reynolds that Humphry returned to London where he began exhibiting at the Society of Artists and became acquainted with the other leading artists of the era. In 1772 a fall from a horse left Humphry’s career in the balance and he decided to take a sojourn to Italy with painter George Romney, exhibiting at the Royal Academy a few years after his return.

After a brief period spent in India in the mid-1780s, Humphry returned to London, where, faced with increasingly failing eyesight, he gave up portrait miniature painting and instead focused on working in other mediums, and was appointed portrait painter in crayons to the king. Sadly, following the 1797 Royal Academy show, Humphry’s eyesight failed completely, and in 1810 he died in lodgings set up by the widow of his former pupil Henry Spicer.
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