Lot 105
  • 105

Tilly Kettle

80,000 - 120,000 USD
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  • Tilly Kettle
  • Portrait of two children in eastern costumes
  • oil on canvas


With M. Harris and Sons, London;
William Goadby Loew, New York;
His deceased (anonymous) sale, New York, Parke-Bernet Galleries, 27 April 1956, lot 318 (as by Johann Zoffany);
There purchased by P. Bader;
Acquired circa 1960 by Joseph A. Patrick.


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com , an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This painting has not been restored for many years and will respond very well to cleaning. The canvas has an old lining which is still effective. The figures are painted with a fairly broad hand yet nonetheless the quality and condition is still very good. There is very slight abrasion to the tree tops on the left side and there is a restoration in the sky between the heads of the children. However, despite the fact that some retouches may be required in these and a few others area, the condition is very good.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

Tilly Kettle was born in London in 1735 and established a career as a portrait painter working in a style influenced by Reynolds.  From 1762-64, he worked mainly in Oxford and the Midlands due to the intense competition from other artists in London, but returned there in 1764.  In 1768, he set off for India, perhaps encouraged to establish a career as a portrait painter there by Vice-Admiral Sir Samuel Cornish, whose portrait he had painted in that same year.  He disembarked at Madras in June 1769 at the age of thirty-four and was to stay in India until 1776.  There he found the great success that had eluded him in England and he made a considerable fortune painting portraits, not only of his countrymen living in India, but also of Indian royalty.  Other British artists such as Johann Zoffany and Ozias Humphrey were to follow Kettle to India, no doubt encouraged by the successful patronage he enjoyed there.  Kettle returned to London in 1776, though he was never to achieve the same degree of popularity in London, where the scene was still dominated by Reynolds and Gainsborough.  It was mainly through his old Indian contacts that he secured work after his return.1  After a decade back in England, he decided to return to India, but died en route in July 1786.

This charming portrait depicts two children attired in Eastern costume.  The older boy, in Chinese garb, wears a silk robe worn by Qing civil officials that was traditionally lined with azurite satin (which can be seen around the neckline) and embroidered in gold thread with a phoenix, dragon or cranes depending on the rank of the official.  His hat is the "traveling summer hat" (recognizable by the red tassels of fine silk) that was worn by the Qing emperors and officials.  The younger child wears an Indian jama, or court coat, which was formal male attire. With the addition of the bejeweled turban, the sitter is shown dressed as a young Indian prince.

This portrait (along with two portraits by Francis Cotes, see lots 110 and 112 in this sale) once belonged to William Goadby Loew (1876-1955), a prominent New York stockbroker and society figure.  He and his wife, Mrs. Florence Baker Loew, built one of the last (1932) and most elegant mansions in the Carnegie Hill neighborhood of New York at 56 East Ninety-Third Street (now part of The Spence School). Upon Mr. Loew's death in 1955 all three portraits, which hung in his New York residence, were sold at auction (see Provenance).


1.  See M. Archer, India and British Portraiture 1770-1825, London 1979, pp. 92-93.