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THE PROPERTY OF A LADY

Sir William Beechey, R.A.
 PORTRAIT OF ARCHDEACON STRACHEY AND HIS FAMILY
JUMP TO LOT
43

THE PROPERTY OF A LADY

Sir William Beechey, R.A.
 PORTRAIT OF ARCHDEACON STRACHEY AND HIS FAMILY
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Old Master & British Paintings Evening Sale

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London

Sir William Beechey, R.A.
BURFORD 1753 - 1839 LONDON
 PORTRAIT OF ARCHDEACON STRACHEY AND HIS FAMILY

Provenance

Commissioned by Archdeacon John Strachey (1738-1818), LLD, FSA;

By descent to his nephew, Sir Henry Strachey, 2nd Bt. (1772-1858);

By descent to his son, Sir Edward Strachey, 3rd Bt. (1812-1901);

By descent to his son, Sir Edward Strachey, 4th Bt. and 1st Baron Strachie (1858-1936);

By descent to his son, Lord Edward Strachey, 5th Bt. and 2nd Baron Strachie (1882-1973);

Thence by descent, until sold ('The Property of a Nobleman'), London, Sotheby's, 24 November 1999, lot 60, to Green, for £200,000;

With Richard Green Fine Paintnigs Ltd, London, from whom purchased by the present owner.

Literature

The Artist's Accounts Book, 1789;

W. Roberts, Sir William Beechey, R.A., London 1907, pp. 9 & 221;

C.R. Sanders, The Strachey Family, 1588-1932, Durham 1953, p. 83, reproduced p. 84;

B. Strachey, The Strachey line: an English family in America, India and at home from 1570 to 1902, London 1985, p. 65.

Catalogue Note

Beechey’s magnificent conversation piece, his most important early commission, dates from 1789. The subject is Archdeacon John Strachey (1738-1818), with his wife Anne and eight of their ten children, John (1773-1808), George (1775-1849), Christopher (b. 1778), Anne, Harriet (1774-1874), Eliza, Emma and Caroline. Strachey himself is depicted standing in profile reading a letter to his wife while the two elder children, John and Anne, discuss the contents of an album, and George, the second son reclines on the floor turning the pages of a large album of picturesque watercolours. The family are shown at dusk in an open air loggia surrounded by woodland.

John Strachey was the younger brother of Sir Henry Strachey (1736-1810), Lord Clive’s Private Secretary in India. Born in Edinburgh in 1738, he studied at Westminster with his brother Henry from 1750, and became a Pensioner of Trinity College, Cambridge in 1756, then a Scholar and Fellow at Trinity College in the following two years, and finally was elected a Doctor of Laws by Cambridge in 1770. After University, he entered the Church, becoming first a chaplain in Vienna, then chaplain to Philip Yonge, Bishop of Norwich. In 1769 he was appointed Rector of Erpingham, Norwich, moving on to the parish of Thwaite in the same country in 1773. In 1770 he married Anne Wombwell (d.1824), daughter of George Wombwell, a merchant from Crutched Friars in London who had also been Consul at Alicante.

In April 1774, Strachey was appointed Chaplain in Ordinary to King George III, and in 1781, Archdeacon of Suffolk. He was later Preacher of the Rolls Chapel in 1783, and Prebendary of Llandaff Cathedral, and like his brother Henry, was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Antiquaries. Strachey was to spend much of his old age at Bowman, near Rodborough in Gloucestershire, a house he had bought from one of the employees of his father-in-law.

Strachey and his wife had ten children, four boys and six girls. The oldest son John followed his father through Westminster to Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1791, he was appointed a Writer in the East India Civil Service and was in India from that year until his death in 1808. George, the second son, was a school friend of the poet Robert Southey and is mentioned several times in Southey’s correspondence. George also travelled to India where he appears to have lived from 1798 to 1820, achieving the position of Chief Secretary to the East India Company in Madras. William, the third son, died young and Christopher, the youngest, forsook a career in India to join the Navy. At the age of sixteen he served aboard the Queen Charlotte at ‘The Glorious 1st of June' in 1794, and later commanded the Jalouse and the Dauntless. He was captured by the French in 1807 when bravely trying to run the Dauntless up the River Vistula in Poland, an effort which was rewarded with praise from Napoleon himself. Later he was honoured by the Russian government with the title ‘Knight of the Imperial Order of St. Vladimir’.

The Archdeacon probably met Beechey in London after the artist returned from Norwich in 1787. Beechey had worked successfully in Norwich for five years, and although Strachey himself had links with Norwich through his early years in the church, the two men do not appear to have lived in Norfolk at the same time. According to The Monthly Mirror in 1798, the Archdeacon happened ‘by accident to see one of his productions’ and was so pleased ‘that he immediately employed the artist to paint himself and his family’.

By 1789, when Beechey’s account book records payment of £105.00 for this painting (a sum considerably in excess of any other payments for Beechey’s work at that time), the artist’s business was thriving and his biographer William Roberts described his exhibits that summer as ‘Becchey’s first really great and successful Academy’ (see Literature: Roberts op. cit. p. 32). The account books also show that Strachey was certainly his most important early patron, and he would sit to Beechey on at least two more occasions, one a three quarter length portrait (Private Collection) and the other a whole length portrait which was sold at Christie’s on 7th May 1898. One of these may have been the portrait of the Archdeacon which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1794 (no.234).

Old Master & British Paintings Evening Sale

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