Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait miniature of Miss Mary Bathurst, wearing white dress with frilled lace collar, blue waistband and blue bows on her shoulders, her auburn hair curled 

John Smart (1741-1811)

Portrait miniature of Miss Mary Bathurst, wearing white dress with frilled lace collar, blue waistband and blue bows on her shoulders, her auburn hair curled, John Smart
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Watercolour on ivory
18th Century
Oval, 63mm (2 7/16 in.) high
 
Provenance:
M. R. Harris Collection, Christie’s, London, 2 May 1961, lot 56 (bt. Leggatt 700 guineas); The collection of Mr and Mrs J. W. Starr of Kansas City; Karin Henninger-Tavcar, 1999; Private Collection, Germany.
Literature:
D.Foskett, A Dictionary of British Miniature Painters, London, 1972, vol.II, p.95, no.844. illus. Plate 337
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This portrait is a rare depiction of a European child dating from Smart’s final years in India. The Bathurst name has longstanding connections with India, a Sir Benjamin Bathurst (1638-1704) became a Governor of the East India Company in 1695. In 1797, the third Earl Bathurst turned down the Governorship of Madras with a telling note on the prospect if life in India for women; ‘It would make Lady Bathurst so perfectly wretched that I have not hesitated a moment to give a positive refusal’.

Although it has not been possible to identify to which branch of the Bathurst family this child belongs, the commission from Smart would have been an expensive one. She may be the same child listed in an (untraced) portrait of ‘Mrs Bathurst and child’, listed by the artist Robert Home (1752–1834). The child has been dressed in laced-edged muslin, suitable for the Indian climate, her hair curled into ringlets.
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