View full screen - View 1 of Lot 170. The Knatchbull Family Portrait.
170

John Singleton Copley, R.A.

The Knatchbull Family Portrait

Estimate:

60,000

to
- 80,000 GBP

John Singleton Copley, R.A.

John Singleton Copley, R.A.

The Knatchbull Family Portrait

The Knatchbull Family Portrait

Estimate:

60,000

to
- 80,000 GBP

Lot sold:

88,200

GBP

John Singleton Copley, R.A.

Boston 1738 - 1815 London

The Knatchbull Family Portrait


oil on canvas

65 x 95.4 cm.

The canvas is lined, and the paint surface is rather dirty with a discoloured varnish. There are remains of glue in the lower left corner. The network of craquelure has become more distinct in some areas (notably the background and in the angels upper right) and there is some associated discoloured retouching. Inspection under ultraviolet light reveals the thick and milky varnish which impedes visibility and reveals nothing further than what is already visible to the naked eye.


"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."

Acquired from the artist's studio;
Probably John Cleland, 1888;
Probably G.T. Taylor, 1903;
Sale, United States, 1922;
Where purchased by Cecil Knatchbull-Hugessen, 4th Baron Brabourne (1863-1933), Mersham le Hatch, Kent;
Thence by descent.
Probably F. Bayley, The Life and Works of John Singleton Copley, Boston 1915, pp. 271-72 ('"A Family Group" measuring twenty-four by thirty-six was exhibited at Birmingham, England, belonging to G.T. Taylor. There was shown a group of portraits in monochrome measuring twenty-four by thirty-six and one-half inches at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1888, belonging to Mr. John Cleland.’);
Catalogue of Portraits, 1920, no. 84;
H.B. Wehle, An Exhibition of Paintings by John Singleton Copley, exh. cat., New York 1936, cat. no. 46;
J.T. Flexner, John Singleton Copley, Boston 1948, pp. 103-06, and 129, reproduced pl. 32;
J.D. Prown, John Singleton Copley 1738-1815, exh. cat., Washington, D.C. 1965, pp. 125 and 142, cat. no. 100, reproduced p. 130, fig. 100;
J.D. Prown, John Singleton Copley in England 1744-1815, Washington, D.C. 1966, p. 363 and 424, reproduced fig. 639.
Probably London, Grosvenor Gallery, 1888, no. 260;
Probably Birmingham, 1903, no. 5;
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, An Exhibition of Paintings by John Singleton Copley, 22 December 1936 - 14 February 1937, no. 46;
John Singleton Copley 1738-1815, Washington, National Gallery of Art, 18 September - 31 October 1965; New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 20 November 1965 - 2 January 1966; Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, 22 January - 6 March 1966, no. 100.

This important work is the preliminary oil sketch for the large family group portrait that John Singleton Copley, R.A. painted in 1800-03. The project was one of his most ambitious and controversial, executed towards the very last years of his career. Copley was commissioned by the widower Sir Edward Knatchbull to paint a portrait of him with his ten children. The artist was already at work on the large canvas when Sir Edward married his third wife, Mary Hawkins, and insisted that the composition be altered to include his new young bride, and, before long, more room had to be made on the canvas for an anticipated baby. Copley’s composition was further complicated when Sir Edward decided that he’d like his first two wives also to be included in some way. Copley chose to incorporate the women as angels floating in the upper right corner of the canvas. This feature attracted reports of derision, and as a result Sir Edward decided it would not to be exhibited or engraved. The large canvas was eventually divided into a series of separate portraits as offered here (see lot 171). The separate portraits of Mary Knatchbull (d. 1843) playing a tambourine (see Fig. 1) and Sir Edward (seen here are on the far right) are in a private collection.


This sketch is the only surviving record of the original composition of the larger canvas.