Lot 47
  • 47


300,000 - 500,000 USD
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  • John Singer Sargent
  • Lancelot Allen
  • signed John S. Sargent (upper left) and dated 1894 (upper right)
  • oil on canvas
  • 36 by 24 inches
  • (91.4 by 61 cm)


Mary Catherine Romilly (Kate) Allen, Cilrhiw, United Kingdom, 1894 (the sitter's aunt, commissioned from the artist)
Rachel Mary Allen, 1933 (her sister) 
Bertram Wedgwood Allen, Pembroke, United Kingdom, 1949 (their second cousin)
Mrs. Bertram Allen, 1955 (his wife)
Lieutenant Colonel J.R.C. Allen (their son, by descent)
A. Alfred Taubman, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, 1984 (acquired from the above)
Estate of the above (sold: Sotheby's, New York, November 18, 2015, lot 17)
Acquired by the present owner at the above sale


London, Royal Academy of Arts, Royal Academy Winter Exhibition, 1926 of Works by the Late John S. Sargent, R.A., 1926, no. 35, p. 12 (as Lancelot, son of the late Judge Wilfred Allen)


William Howe Downes, John S. Sargent: His Life and Work, London, 1926, p. 342
My Magazine, 1926, p. 299, illustrated
The Hon. Evan Charteris, K.C., John Sargent, London, 1927, p. 265 
Charles Merrill Mount, John Singer Sargent: A Biography, New York, 1955, no. 941, p. 434
David McKibbin, Sargent's Boston with An Essay & A Biographical Summary & A Complete Check List of Sargent's Portraits, Boston, Massachusetts, 1956, p. 81
Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray, John Singer Sargent: Portraits of the 1890s, vol. II, New Haven, Connecticut, 2002, no. 309, pp. 92-93, 183, illustrated p. 93


The canvas is unlined and there is frame abrasion along the extreme edges. Under UV: there are scattered specks of inpainting to address frame abrasion along the extreme edges and the work retains a slightly discolored varnish. 
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

We are grateful to Elaine Kilmurray for preparing the following essay:

The American writer and critic Mariana G. Van Rensselaer wrote: "It is one of Mr. Sargent’s greatest distinctions that he never fails of entire success when he has a child before him" ("John S. Sargent," Century Illustrated Magazine, vol. 43, no. 5, March 1892, p 798). The child before him in the present portrait is (Richard) Lancelot Baugh Allen (1887-1918), the only son of Wilfred Baugh Allen (1849-1922) and his wife, Anne Sophia, (1856-1946), daughter of the Rev. Robert Wedgwood. The Allens of Cilrhiw were a junior branch of a landed family from Pembrokeshire, South Wales.

Lancelot was educated at Eton and trained as a lawyer. He went on to practice as a barrister in Canada and he served in World War 1 as Lieutenant in the 67th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery from 1915-18. He married Marion Irvine in 1917, but the marriage was short-lived and childless. Lancelot died in Egypt, aged thirty-one, on December 27th, 1918, shortly after the end of the war, and was buried in Cairo War Memorial Cemetery. His name is one of those inscribed on a war memorial in the church of St Michael and All Angels, Bramcote, Nottinghamshire.

Sargent’s portrait represents Lancelot aged seven (not eight, as indicated by the inscription on the original backing panel).  It was painted in the artist’s studio, 33 Tite Street in Chelsea. The painted grey chair with a split-cane back and seat on which Lancelot is seated is in Louis-Seize style. It belonged to a set, one of which is visible in later photographs of Sargent’s studio at 31 Tite Street (Sargent enlarged his London studio in 1900. He leased the house next door [number 31] in Tite Street, knocked through the dividing wall, and used number 31 as his entrance). Sargent also used the chair in his portrait of the art collector and philanthropist, Henry Gurdon Marquand (1897, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). When the portrait was exhibited in the Sargent Memorial Exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1926, a note in the catalogue read ‘Painted, in three sittings, in 1894’. According to David McKibbin’s index card for the picture (John Singer Sargent catalogue raisonné archive), Lancelot’s mother read Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book to him during sittings, a touching reminder of the boy’s youth.

In his portraits of children, Sargent avoids the sentimentality associated with Victorian imagery of childhood. He respects the integrity of his young sitters and Lancelot, wearing a sober dark blue velvet jacket with silver buttons and darker trousers, does not ingratiate himself with the spectator, but looks directly out at him meeting his fictive gaze. The simple, narrow format emphasizes the quiet reserve of the composition, the restrained tones relieved only by spare red highlights at the collar and cuff of the jacket, a color echoed in the red inscription and date. The boy’s self-contained demeanor is disarming, and knowledge of his tragically brief life introduces a retrospective poignancy to Sargent’s portrayal.

It is not known how Sargent and the Allens were introduced. There are two important connections, but neither appears to predate 1894 when the portrait of Lancelot was painted. The Allens were related to the family of Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795), the celebrated potter, by more than one inter-marriage, and Sargent and his sister Emily were close to Lancelot’s aunt, Eliza Wedgwood, but this life-long friendship did not really begin until 1896, when Sargent painted Mrs. Robert Wedgwood (Eliza’s mother and Lancelot’s grandmother). Another of Lancelot’s aunts, Elisabeth Jessie Allen (1845-1918) was a friend and confidante of Henry James, with whom she conducted a long, wide-ranging and sparkling correspondence. Daniel and Ariana Curtis introduced James to Miss Allen at their Venetian home, the Palazzo Barbaro, in 1899, but again this was several years after the portrait of Lancelot was painted.