View full screen - View 1 of Lot 42. Mr. and Mrs. William Chase, three-quarter length, in an interior by a window, the latter holding a bird.
42

Joseph Wright of Derby, A.R.A.

Mr. and Mrs. William Chase, three-quarter length, in an interior by a window, the latter holding a bird

Property of a New York Collector

Joseph Wright of Derby, A.R.A.

Joseph Wright of Derby, A.R.A.

Mr. and Mrs. William Chase, three-quarter length, in an interior by a window, the latter holding a bird

Mr. and Mrs. William Chase, three-quarter length, in an interior by a window, the latter holding a bird

Property of a New York Collector

Joseph Wright of Derby, A.R.A.

Derby 1734-1797

Mr. and Mrs. William Chase, three-quarter length, in an interior by a window, the latter holding a bird


inscribed lower left: Mr & Mrs Willm Chase/md 1760

oil on canvas

56 by 76 in.; 138.4 by 190.5 cm.

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 large work does not appear to have been recently restored. The canvas has an old lining which stills provides an attractive surface.


The artist made slight alterations to the composition in three areas, which has given rise to some cracking to the paint layer. These cracks associated with pentimenti have been retouched in the curtain in the upper left, around and within the head of the figure on the left, and around the head of the figure on the right—particularly to its right. There are otherwise hardly any other restorations.


The retouches have slightly discolored and the varnish has slightly yellowed. While cleaning and retouching the work would make a visible difference, it can be hung in its current state.


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. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE.

Please note the additional literature: A. Barnes and S. Leach, "Mr. and Mrs. William Chase: An Allegory of Air by Joseph Wright", in The British Art Journal, Spring 2016, vol. 17, pp. 74-77.
Presumably the sitters (recorded in Wright's account book as "For a conversation picture of Mr W & Mrs Chase-£24,40");
S. Brewin, by 1883;
Rev. Harington O. Shore;
By whom sold, London, Christie's, 16 December 1911, lot 98;
There acquired by Sulley;
With Wertheimer;
With Agnew's, London, 1912;
Miss Faith Moor, 1917;
Viscount Lee of Fareham, by 1934;
Samuel Courtauld, by 1946;
By descent to Lord Butler, Gatcome Park, by 1968;
With Agnew's, London, by 1977;
There acquired by the present collector. 

W. Bemrose, The Life of Joseph Wright, London and Derby 1885, pp. 118-119;

The Connoisseur, vol. XCIV, 1934, p. 322;

D. Cooper, The Courtauld Collection, London 1954, cat. no. 244, pp. 186-7;

B. Nicolson, Joseph Wright of Derby: Painter of Light, London 1968, vol. I, cat. no. 37, p. 2, 17, 23, 30-1, 39, 70, 156 under note 8, 189, reproduced vol. II, p. 28, pl. 50.;

J. Edgerton, Wright of Derby, exhibition catalogue, London 1990, cat. no. 13, p. 49, reproduced p. 48. 

A. Barnes and S. Leach, "Mr. and Mrs. William Chase: An Allegory of Air by Joseph Wright", in The British Art Journal, Spring 2016, vol. 17, pp. 74-77.


Derby, Corporation Art Gallery, Catalogue of the Paintings by Joseph Wright, A.R.A., 1883, no. 97;
Derby, Corporation Art Gallery, Catalogue of the Paintings by Joseph Wright, A.R.A., 1934, no. 110;
London, Tate Gallery; Paris, Grand Palais; New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Wright of Derby, 6 September - 2 December 1990, no. 13.

Wright's sensational portrait of Mr. and Mrs. William Chase marks a turning point in the artist's approach to portraiture, and indeed a turning point in the development of the British conversation piece. Though little is known of Wright's sitter's, Mr. and Mrs. William Chase, the commission was clearly an important one for the artist. It is the largest picture painted by Wright to this point in his career when executed in circa 1762-1763. It anticipates a number of Wright’s most famous portrait masterpieces of the following decades, specifically in its highly refined and technically brilliant background design and ornamentation. Wright has here taken the effort to elaborate and expand the background design of the painting, a specific decision no doubt influenced by the likely importance of the commission at this early mature career moment. Rather than include a more standard and simple drapery framing device, Wright has here included a grand country house with Doric pillar, a richly folded curtain, red lacquer desk, and Rococo scrollwork on the wall.Judy Edgerton argued that the room portrayed here, possibly fictive, may have inspired Wright in his design of his later masterpiece An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, painted approximately four or five years’ following the present portrait. Specifically, variants of the sash window, draped curtains, and parrot in its domed wire cage all feature in some capacity in Wright’s later groundbreaking genre scene.


William Chase was likely a banker who inherited his father's business. Portrait's by Wright of the elder Chase with his wife are in the Yale University Art Gallery. Interestingly they are dated to roughly within a year of the present and grander group portrait.


1. See Literature, Edgerton 1990, p. 48.