Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait believed to be Margaret Jenner, Lady Darnell 1689

Charles Beale II 

Portrait believed to be Margaret Jenner, Lady Darnell, Charles Beale II
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Oil on canvas
17th Century
30 x 25 inches 76.2 x 63.5cm
 
Provenance:
Colonel Sir G. B. Pechell Bt.
Captured from his earliest years in the paintings of his mother, the portraitist Mary Beale, Charles Beale assisted in her studio as a painter of draperies and of the distinctive illusionistic architectural ovals that decorate so many of her portraits. From 1677 Charles Beale learned painting in miniature with Thomas Flatman, and, like his mother, had access to the collection of Sir Peter Lely, a family friend and mentor.

This medium was not without a price, however, and fears of failing eyesight caused him to reject it in favour of oil painting in 1688. His earliest surviving portraits are -like this example- dated to 1689, and the form of signature employed here is characteristic of his work, as is the plain illusionistic oval, which differs markedly from the more Baroque products of his mother''s studio. Though in this early work much of the technique can clearly be seen to depend on his mother's practice, this at least might be seen a younger man's comment on the taste of a previous generation. Also characteristic of Charles rather than his mother are the delicate strokes that make up the hair and eyebrows of the sitter, and which in subtle concentrations build up the modelling of the features. Beale enjoyed a reasonable practice, but few of his portraits are known certainly, and he is most famous to art history for an extensive series of sanguine drawings, after the life and after the works of other painters, which reflect just this delicate and painstaking technique.

Margaret Jenner was the daughter of Sir Thomas Jenner MP (c.1638-1707) who was appointed Recorder of London by Royal Commission on 16th October 1683. Jenner was a conscientious and industrious jurist, and his humility, at least when expressed to his diary, suggests a character quite in common with middle class members of the Beale circle: ''Always doubtful of my own sufficiency to acquit myself in great matters and that they would be too high for me, yet of Duty and too much Obedience I did submit to [public place].'' When turned out of office for too close a loyalty to James II he showed great pragmatism, and merely resumed his practice as a Barrister.

His daughter Margaret grew up among lawyers, and married John Darnell of Inner Temple, Serjeant at Law -perhaps an event which this portrait was painted to celebrate- who was knighted at Kensington Palace in 1699 by William III.
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