Lot 299
  • 299

Angelica Kauffman R.A.

50,000 - 70,000 USD
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  • Angelica Kauffman R.A.
  • Portrait of John Apthorp (1730-1772) of Boston and his daughters
  • oil on canvas, unframed


Painted for the sitter by the artist, 1764;
Thence by descent to John V. Apthorp;
Thence by descent to the present owner.


Boston, MA, Copley Hall, Copley Society: Loan Exhibition of Pictures of Fair Children, 1901, cat. no. 70 (lent by John V. Apthorp, Milton, MA).  


E. S. Bulfinch, The Life and Letters of Charles Bulfinch, Boston 1896, p. 70;
V. Manners and G.C. Williamson, Angelica Kauffmann, R.A., New York 1924, p. 217;
J. Ingamells, Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy, 1701-1800, New Haven and London 1997, p. 22;
A.S. Marks, "Angelica Kauffmann and some Americans on the Grand Tour," in American Art Journal, vol. 12, no. 2 (Spring 1980), pp. 20-22, reproduced p. 21, fig. 10;
A. Goodden, "Kauffman's interrupted conversations: The Earl, the Viceroy and the family pictures" in British Art Journal, 2009.


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 is in lovely condition but the lining of the canvas which is adhered with wax should be reexamined. The surface is quite distorted across the middle and there are other raised dents which will be easily resolved if the lining were to be changed. The paint layer is un-abraded. All of the details in the figures and the glazes are fully intact. There are only a few small discolored retouches in the center background above the chair and a spot or two in the cuff of the left arm of the father, in his right bicep and in the lower left.
"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

The draw of Rome and the fascination it held for artists, connoisseurs and tourists alike in the 18th century is well-known and well-studied. Visitors came from all over Europe, and most famously from Britain, to visit the ancient city, and their sojourns there were to become one of the most important cultural events of the era. Less well known, however, are the American visitors who, in emulation of their British brethren, also made the long and arduous trip to Italy, moving in and out of the society of their fellow English, Irish and Scottish travelers. Painted by the young Angelica Kauffman in Rome in 1764, this Portrait of John Apthorp and his Daughters has been owned by the same family since it was painted.1It represents a rare and important document and artifact of the American Grand Tour in the golden age.

John Apthorp was the son of the prosperous Boston merchant, Charles Apthorp (1698-1758) and his wife Grizzel Eastwick (1709-1796). As was the habit of many prominent colonial families he was sent by his father to London to work and train for a few years.  He joined the London firm of Thomlinson, Trecothick & Co, a large and important mercantile concern, and was later made a partner.  In 1758, he married Alicia Mann, niece of the famous Sir Horace Mann (1706-1786), the resident British minister at Florence. In 1763 he and his growing family, which now included two daughters, Grizzell and Catharine, set sail for Italy.2 The trip, which had been prompted by his wife's frail health, took a tragic turn, and Alicia died when the family reached Gibraltar. The newly widowed father and orphaned daughters arrived in Italy soon after, and were recorded in Florence by January, the obvious destination for the family as they could commiserate with Alicia's uncle, the British Resident who held court there. There, amongst what would have been a constantly changing troupe of visitors and tourists, Apthorp met Thomas Patch who had made his home in Florence, painting views of the city for visiting grand tourists. Apthorp ordered four landscapes from the artist, asking that they be completed quickly; Patch seems to have been intrigued enough by the American to make a caricature of him, and even included him in one of his humorous depictions of visiting foreigners (now Petworth House).3

By now clearly an art lover (as indeed Patch had mocked him), Apthorp made his way to Rome, the next stop and primary objective on the grand tour, arriving there by May of 1764.4 There, he fell in with a group of fellow Americans who were also visiting the city: two Philadelphians, the wealthy Quaker Samuel Powel (1738-1793), and Dr. John Morgan; and his fellow Bostonian, Thomas Palmer. The men together engaged the services of James Byres, the most celebrated cicerone, or guide, of his day; a Scots Catholic, Byres had settled in Rome to work as an 'antiquary', as well as a dealer in paintings.5 It was almost certainly Byres who introduced the men to the pretty young artist, Angelica Kauffman, who herself had only moved to Rome a few years before.6 

Kauffman had been first trained by her father, a feeble painter, in her native Switzerland, but like so many artists before her had been drawn to Rome in order to hone and perfect her art. She lived in the city for a period of about fifteen months, from spring of 1764 until July of 1765, a period of astonishing artistic development and frenetic activity for the painter. Quickly recognized as a talented colleague, Kauffman was befriended by much of the artistic community, forging acquaintances with Benjamin West, Pompeo Batoni, Gavin Hamilton and most particularly Nathaniel Dance, who was smitten with her. She had already begun to receive commissions that enhanced her burgeoning reputation particularly from the British elite; in Naples the famous actor David Garrick had sat to her, as had John Byng, as well as Lord Exeter. In Rome, she continued this trend, painting such luminaries as J. J. Winckelmann, as well as putting her hand to history paintings, producing two grand canvases with subjects derived from Homer and Roman History: Penelope at her Loom (Hove Museum); and for Byng a pendant pair of Chryseis Reunited with her Father and a Coriolanus hearing the Pleas of his Mother and Wife (Wrotham Park).

Three of this group of Americans sat to Kauffmann in the summer of 1764. In addition to the present portrait, the artist also painted Samuel Powel (Private Collection) and Dr. John Morgan (National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC, inv. 78.221).7 Both of these other pictures are upright compositions, and clearly indebted to Batoni in their conception. In the present canvas, Kauffman chose a more unusual, horizontal format. This was clearly meant to accommodate the figures of his two young daughters, who stand embracing each other at the left. Their father glances down to them, seated in a chair and dressed in a red velvet suit, his arm resting on a table. Manners, in her monograph on the artist, had suggested that  the figures of the two girls had been added at a later date, a notion which Marks dismissed (see Literature). However, this hypothesis is not so easily dismissed as he suggests; the figures are somewhat disjointed in their visual relationship for all of their elegance and charm. It seems likely that the two young children could have remained in Florence with their uncle, rather than make an arduous trip to Rome during the often pestilential summer months. Stylistically, the handling of the sitters also seems quite different; Apthorp himself is painted in the tight, rather linear style of Kauffman before her move to London in 1766. The children, a subject at which the artist always excelled, are rendered in the looser and more expressionistic manner of some time later. This supposition, however, contradicts a statement made in an Apthorp family history which states that all three sat to the artist in the spring of 1764.8 Kauffman did not arrive in England until June of 1766, at which time the two girls were living with maternal relatives in the country, which complicates the matter further.

Apthorp remained in Italy until April 1765, unsure if he would travel to England or back to America.9 Whether he deposited his daughters in England or returned directly to Boston, he was back in America by December 1765, where he married his second wife, Hannah Greenleaf.9 In an eerie replay of his first marriage, he took his new and frail wife to Charleston, South Carolina, in autumn of 1772 so that she might pass the winter in a warmer climate; their ship was lost at sea with no survivors. Presumably the present painting had gone to Boston when Apthorp had returned from Europe, a memento of his time in Rome and of his two young daughters still in England.  It remained there for two centuries, a relic of one of the few American grand tourists. 

1. The painting was stolen from the house of Helen Thompson in Concord, Mass, in 1975, but was rediscovered in 2007 by the Art Loss Register, and eventually returned to the family in 2010.

2. The Apthorp family used a number of the same names, male and female, over generations, so that there has been some confusion as to the identity of certain family members. The name Grizzell was that of Apthorp's mother, and his elder daughter was sometimes identified as "Sarah", a name given to his brother's daughter, born the same year, who would go on to become a celebrated poet. In Apthorp's will of 8 October 1771, however, the daughters from his first marriage who were still in England were identified by name as Grizzell and Sarah (see Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, vol. 6, Boston 1904, March meeting 1900, p 396, subfootnote 1.).

3. See F.J.B. Watson, "Thomas Patch (1725-1782) Notes on his Life Together with a Catalogue of his Known Works," Walpole Society, vol. XXVIII, Oxford 1940, p. 41, cat. nos. 36-39.  For the portrait see Watson, op. cit., p. 36, cat. no. 8.

4. Apthorp had stopped in Rome in February 1764 on his way to Naples where he spent most of March and April.

5. For a comprehensive discussion of these Americans in Rome and their tour with Byres, please see J.D. Prown, "A Course of Antiquities at Rome, 1764" in Eighteenth-Century Studies, vol. 31, no. 1, Autumn 1997, pp. 90-100.

6. It is possible that Apthorp and Morgan may have met Kauffmann in Naples a few months earlier in the spring of 1764, where she had been working, returning to Rome only in April, a few weeks before the two Americans. Morgan and Powel would most likely have heard of the artist from their acquaintance with fellow Philadelphian, Benjamin West, who had been intimate with her during his time in Rome.  Marks (op. cit. p. 11) suggests that it was another Scot in Rome, the Abbé Peter Grant who most likely made the introduction, rather than Byres.

7. The group and Kauffmann appear to have been quite friendly, and the artist even sent Morgan a Self-Portrait (now Pennsylvania Academy of Arts) in gratitude for the doctor's medical advice for acute indigestion, an ailment clearly brought on, according to Moran's own recollection of years later, by an unrelenting work schedule, and a "close Application to Painting, to which she was so attentive, that sometimes... she would not eat the whole day." Palmer seems not to have had his portrait done, at least not that is known or not by Kauffman.

8. This would appear to be based on a log kept by Apthorp himself, which has now gone missing (see Marks op. cit., p. 22, footnote 74)

9. See J. Ingamells, Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy: 1701-1800, New Haven/London 1997, p. 22

10. See Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, op. cit. p. 396.