Historical Portraits Picture Archive

The Grant Family 1740c.

Francis Hayman (1708-76)

The Grant Family, Francis Hayman
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Oil on canvas
18th Century
40 1/2 x 42 inches 102.8 x 106.7 cm
 
Provenance:
The sitter; His son the Rev Richard Grant; By descent to his granddaughter Marian Grant (d.1872) who married Dr Frederick Dixon of Worthing; By descent to her niece by marriage Mrs Caroline Webster Wedderburn (daughter of Captain William Dixon); Her sale Christie''s London February 29th 1896 lot 84 as by Hogarth (Bt Colnaghi 49 gns); With Colnaghi; Christie''s London July 14th 1911 lot 40 as by Highmore (bt F Harper 36 gns); With F Harper; With Basil Tooth and sons, London (label verso); Mr and Mrs Basil Ionides; By descent to Lady Panufnik to 2004.
Literature:
C Gould Country Life Annual 1949 p49 illustrated Brian Allen Francis Hayman New Haven and London 1987 p.172 no 21
Exhibited:
London, Iveagh Bequest Kenwood Francis Hayman 1960 no.12 lent by The Hon Mrs Ionides; London Arts Council British Life May 10th Ė July 11th 1953 no.39 London, The Victoria and Albert Museum Rococo, Art and Design in Hogarthís England May 1
This masterpiece of rococo portraiture shows that, free of the political and dynastic imperative of the aristocracy, the middle classes commissioned works that celebrated their easy and enjoyable life. Portraits such as these celebrated a town-dwellerís conception of harmless nature, human in scale and benign, that recalled the idyllic and artificial rus in urbe that Jonathan Tyers created for Londoners in the pleasure gardens at Vauxhall. It is no accident that Hayman was a friend of Tyers and was commissioned to paint large decorative paintings for the private supper boxes at Vauxhall as well as portraits of Tyers and his family. The Grant Family is directly comparable to Haymanís Jonathan Tyers, his daughter Elizabeth and her husband John Wood (Yale Centre for British Art), traditionally dated to c.1750, but very probably painted earlier1, in placing the sitters before a wooded grove, with a landscape extending in an open view to the left. In each case, the figures are grouped about a stone plinth, which in the Tyers portrait supports a putto riding a dolphin and holding a dove. In The Grant Family this is replaced by Mrs Grantís basket and shawl, a workaday substitution, but redolent of happy domesticity.

Like The Tyers Family, in which the reclining figure of Tyers may be a near quotation from Watteau, The Grant Family contains allusions to high art, and here they are almost slyly subversive. The figure of Grantís elder son Richard is based in reverse on the pose of Lord Bernard Stuart in Van Dyckís Portrait of Lord John and Lord Bernard Stuart (London, National Gallery). The colours of his costume, particularly the blue silk of his breeches, also mimic Lord Bernardís costume, and the embroidered stripe to the seam make the reference explicit. His younger brother is stretching out his hand after a bright blue butterfly that can be seen against the flowering bush in the left foreground. This humorous and touching observation of childhood behaviour can also support a graver meaning. The butterfly that emerges from the chrysalis can be read as an allusion to the adulthood that the child has yet to enjoy, and in its fleeting life may be taken as a memento mori. The beauty and fragility of the butterfly only add to the intensity of the image, since in art and literature it has long been used as an emblem for the human soul.


1. Brian Allen Francis Hayman New Haven and London 1987 p.101
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.