Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of a young Lady of the Stamford Family 1730s

William Hogarth 

Portrait of a young Lady of the Stamford Family, William Hogarth
Oil on unlined canvas
18th Century
Mr Southgate, 22 Fleet Street, London, 5 May 1825, Lot.58, £6/16, bt. Fares Collection of George Watson Taylor Esq. (71770-1841), Erlestoke Park, nr Devizes, Wiltshire Erlestoke Park sale, Mr Robins, 9 July-1 August 1832, 19th Day, 24 July, Lot.46, £10/10 With W.Wheeler & Son Ltd., 23 Ryder St., London, c.1950 Private Collection, England until 1995
J.B.Nichols, Anecdotes of William Hogarth, 1833, p.365. Austin Dobson, William Hogarth, 1907, p.212.
This highly significant reinstatement to Hogarth's early body of works is probably a portrait of Lady Jane Grey (d. 1752), the youngest daughter of the 3rd Earl of Stamford. It can be dated to the early 1730s when Hogarth's work shows a strong awareness of contemporary French painting. The two versions of his Before and After, c. 1730-1 (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge and J.Paul Getty Museum, Malibu) are reminiscent of Jean-Francois de Troy’s 1725 Salon exhibits, Declaration d'amour and La Jarretiere (Wrightsman Collection). ^- In a similar way, this cabinet-size painting is inspired by Rococo fete galante decorative schemes much in vogue in England at the period. 2
The fusion of portrait and genre is, however, wholly Hogarthian. The sitter is caught in a frozen moment of action, in a symbolically charged tableau. The bird is escaping from its cage, watched by the sitter and her pet dog - the dramatic event takes place in a placid, blossoming landscape. These contrasting moods conspire to suggest a portrait that is also a narrative of temporal change, most particularly of adulthood, but also, as seen in contemporary French painting, of the seasons. This transience is further accentuated by her fingers clutching the candle-holder, part of the traditional symbol of the extinguishable nature of life. The image of a bird being released or escaping from a cage has also been interpreted in classical art as the soul being freed from the body. 3 Genealogical records suggest that none of the Stamford daughters died young, but given that this is probably a portrait of Lady Jane Grey there may exist a tentative allusion to the fate of her famous 16th-century namesake and ancestor, Lady Jane Grey (1537-54), who was imprisoned and executed when still only sixteen.

All available evidence indicates that the sitter is the youngest daughter of Henry, 3rd Earl of Stamford (1685-1739), who inherited the title and estates of his cousin in 1720. In 1704, the Earl married Dorothy, daughter of Sir Nathan Wright, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. Stamford was an idiosyncratic character who showed his eccentricities chiefly in whimsical buildings and the remodelling of the grounds at Enville Hall. These included a classical temple in a valley, a Gothic gateway and, significantly in relation to this composition, a cascade.

The Earl had five sons (of whom three died in infancy) and five daughters. Of the latter, Dorothy (1706-81) died unmarried and built Enville School; Catherine (d.1738) married firstly John-William Van Trip, Postmaster General of Amsterdam and secondly Vanden Bempden, Burgomaster of Amsterdam; Diana (d. 1780) married in September 1736, George Middleton Esq. of Seaton near Aberdeen; Anne (d.1784) married in October 1744, Sir Richard Acton Bt. of Aldenham, Shropshire; and Jane (d.1752) married in June 1738, George Drummond Esq. (1705-65), Secretary to the Order of the Thistle. 4
Of these, Lady Jane would probably be the most likely to fit both the age of the girl and the date of the picture. She also compares closely in physiognomy with a portrait of her by Jeremiah Davison (c. 1705-45), one of a pair with her husband which date from the 1740s. 5

The Stamford family were well-established aristocrats, amongst whose famous antecedents was the aforementioned Tudor royal claimant, Lady Jane Grey. They owned extensive estates at Bradgate in Leicestershire, although the house was abandoned in favour of Enville Hall, Staffordshire in around 1720. Through the marriage of the 4th Earl to the heiress, Mary Booth, only daughter of George, 2nd Earl of Warrington they also acquired the estates of Dunham Massey in Cheshire.

Before the re-appearance of this work, the Stamford family’s only latterly known commission from Hogarth was the large-scale double portrait of The Grey Children (Washington University Gallery of Art). 6 This portrait depicted the children of Harry, 4th Earl of Stamford (1715-68): Lord George Grey, later 5th Earl of Stamford (1737-1819) and his sister Lady Mary Grey (1739-83) and is plausibly dated by Beckett to early in 1740. 7
Belonged in 1955 to Major J.W.S.H.Drummond-Moray, Abercairny House, Scotland. Exhibited in Pictures from Perthshire Houses, Perth Art Gallery, 1951, No.20.
Oil on canvas, 41 x 35 1/4 inches.
R.B.Beckett, Hogarth, 1949, p.43.
Other family portraits include one of her sister, Lady Dorothy Grey, at one time attributed to George Beare (fl. 1743-49), now at Dunham Massey, formerly at Aldenham Park (Christie’s, 26 April 1929, Lot. 103). In the same sale were portraits of her sister, Lady Anne Grey and her husband, Sir Richard Acton (Lots 107 & 108 by J.Blackburn, signed and dated 1774). Sold at Christie’s, 28 June 1946, Lot.24, the property of Major James Stirling Home Drummond Moray were a pair of portraits, given to Allan Ramsay of Henry, 3rd Earl of Stamford and his wife.

The earliest record of this portrait is amongst a group of pictures sold by the auctioneer J.C.Southgate of Fleet Street on 5 May 1825, described as: A very valuable and pleasing collection of cabinet and furniture pictures. 8 The vendor’s name is not recorded. Also included in the sale were works given to Rubens, Lely, Hilliard and Isaac Oliver. Although Southgate was primarily a book auctioneer, he also handled pictures, and shortly afterwards disposed of the print stock of the dealer Horace Rodd.
Our picture was catalogued as Lot 58:
HOGARTH Portrait of a young Lady of the Stamford family, with a cage and bird, a genuine and highly finished specimen of the master
It was bought by a Mr.Fares, who was probably a dealer, for £6/16.
It is not clear when the picture entered the collection of the wealthy West Indian speculator and Member of Parliament, George Watson Taylor (71770-1841) but presumably shortly after. A Governor and Director of the British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, Watson Taylor assembled with the help of an advisor, William Seguier (1771-1843), one of the finest collections of his day. Inheriting the estates of his brother-in-law, his fortune was estimated at between
Frits Lugt, Repertoire Des Catalogues De Ventes 1600-1825, 1938, No. 10888.
£60-95,000 p.a. with a further £700,000 to invest in property. 9
The assembly of such an exceptional collection of Hogarths is a testament to the connoisseurship of Watson Taylor and Seguier. Together with our portrait, the collection included The Graham Children (National Gallery, London); Theodore Jacobsen (Oberlin, Ohio); The Shrimp Girl (National Gallery, London); Lavinia Fenton (Tate Gallery), a version of The Beggar’s Opera and The Savoyard Girl. These were hung in the Hogarth Room located on the first floor of the neo-classical mansion. Watson Taylor also owned the Roubilliac terracotta model of Hogarth's pug-dog Trump, which had been purchased at Mrs Hogarth's sale in 1790 by Mr Bindley.
The sale of the contents of Erlestoke 10 was forced upon Watson Taylor, who had occurred debts of some £450,000 owing to the depreciation of his property in the West Indies. The catalogue was compiled by the artist W.H.Pyne, which perhaps accounts for the unusually descriptive cataloguing. William Beckford, whose famous Fonthill sale had taken place some nine years earlier, came from Bath to see the contents and declared that they exceeded Fonthill in magnificence. 1:L
The sale of the contents lasted some 20 days and unlike the Fonthill sale, everything in the house belonged to the vendor. The Hogarth room, containing some twelve pictures was sold on 24 July, the 19th day of the sale. Our picture (Lot.46) was described as:
9 Dictionary of the House of Commons, 1790-1820, p.497-8.
10 Lugt, No. 13046.
William T.Whitley, Art in England 1821-1837, 1930, p.240.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.