Exhibition | Fashionable Likeness: Pastel Portraits in Britain

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on November 6, 2016

Press release (21 October 2016) from The Getty:

Fashionable Likeness: Pastel Portraits in 18th-Century Britain
Getty Center, Los Angeles, 1 November 2016 — 7 May 2017

Curated by Julian Brooks and Ketty Gottardo with assistance from Alessandra Nardi

William Hoare, Portrait of Henry Hoare, 'The Magnificent', of Stourhead, ca. 1750–60, pastel on paper. Unframed: 61 × 45.7 cm (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2013.47.1).

William Hoare, Portrait of Henry Hoare, ‘The Magnificent’, of Stourhead, ca. 1750–60, pastel on paper. Unframed: 61 × 45.7 cm (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2013.47.1).

In eighteenth-century Britain, portraits were commissioned by an increasingly wide cross-section of society, including the newly rich, as a visible symbol of their wealth and cultural aspirations. Fashionable Likeness: Pastel Portraits in 18th–Century Britain explores the topic of portrait drawing through a number of works in the Getty Museum’s permanent collection and select loans.

“Eager to affirm their elevated social status, sitters in 18th-century Europe were frequently portrayed in the latest fashion, wearing opulent outfits topped with powdered wigs and elaborate hairstyles,” explains Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “With its unique texture and luminosity, pastel was the perfect medium to capture the sitters’ evanescent expressions and the symbols of their stature—the richness of their silk dresses and velvet coats. As well as its rich artistry, this exhibition also provides an insight into the carefully calibrated social structure of the day.”

“For artists and sitters, pastel painting offered practical advantages over oil, as it required fewer sittings and did not need to dry between sessions,” says Julian Brooks, co-curator of the installation. “In addition, ready-made pastel sticks were easily portable and cost less than oils.”

The first artist to become internationally renowned for pastel portraits was the Venetian artist Rosalba Carriera, whose work was much sought after by collectors across Europe. Praised for her talent at capturing a vivid likeness, Carriera employed a subtle technique of smoothing and blending hues that influenced a generation of British pastelists. Among those was John Russell, who trained with Francis Cotes and later authored Elements of Painting with Crayons (1772), one of the earliest English treatises on the pastel technique.

Daniel Gardner, Portrait of Mary Sturt of Crichel and Her Three Eldest Children, ca. 1777, pencil, pastel, and opaque watercolor on paper (Private collection).

Daniel Gardner, Portrait of Mary Sturt of Crichel and Her Three Eldest Children, ca. 1777, pencil, pastel, and opaque watercolor on paper (Private collection).

In a sumptuous and vibrant family portrait by Daniel Gardner, Portrait of Mary Sturt of Crichel and Her Three Eldest Children (about 1777), Gardner perfectly illustrates English high society’s taste for fashionable costumes. Mary Sturt’s son, Humphry, wears a ruffled necktie and double-breasted striped waistcoat with large pointed lapels. His matching pair of breeches fastened at the knee feature a stylish rosette instead of the usual buckle, details only made possible with the use of pastels. “This portrait is a magnificent example of Gardner’s very original technique,” says Ketty Gottardo, co-curator of the installation. “Unusual for a pastelist, he mixed pastel powder with alcohol and applied it with a brush to paint faster, only rendering the faces in dry pastel.”

Fashionable Likeness: Pastel Portraits in 18th–Century Britain is curated by Julian Brooks, senior curator of drawings at the J. Paul Getty Museum, and Ketty Gottardo, former associate curator of drawings at the J. Paul Getty Museum now at The Courtauld Gallery in London. They were assisted by former graduate intern Alessandra Nardi.





Acquisition Appeal | Admiral Russell’s Frame, 1690s

Posted in museums by Editor on November 6, 2016

An appeal from The Fitzwilliam in Cambridge:


Giltwood frame bearing the arms of Admiral Edward Russell, later 1st Earl of Orford, Admiral of the Fleet; England, ca. 1690s; carved and gilded lime wood with central mirror plate, 182 × 129.5 × 13.5 cm. Provenance: Admiral Russell; private collection, Paris.

To commemorate The Fitzwilliam Museum’s bicentenary, we invite you to support the acquisition of Admiral Russell’s Frame, currently on display at the Museum. The Friends of the Fitzwilliam Museum are able to purchase this magnificent frame at a negotiated price of £345,000. We have until 31st December 2016 to raise the funds. Through the Friends’ acquisition fund, a £50,000 V&A Purchase Grant, and other generous donations, we have raised 80% of the total required. Your support with a personal donation would be truly appreciated as we aim to raise the final £70,000. Please join us in saving this work of local, national and international importance and bring it home to Cambridgeshire for good.

With its local Cambridgeshire connection, highly sophisticated carving and intriguing iconography, this splendid frame will enhance the Museum’s collections for future generations to study and enjoy. The Museum’s Learning Team also sees the great potential of this object’s provenance, mythological figures and Stuart-era history to engage school and community groups alike.

This elaborate mirror frame is a unique survivor from the golden age of English wood carving. It was commissioned by Admiral Edward Russell (1653–1727), the celebrated naval hero best known for his triumphs at the battles of Barfleur and La Hogue in 1692. Russell was a generous patron of architecture and the arts. His Cambridgeshire estate, Chippenham Park, was luxuriously furnished and featured intricately carved woodwork throughout. Almost certainly made between 1693 and 1697 to honour Russell’s achievements and to celebrate his appointment as Admiral of the Fleet and First Lord of the Admiralty, the frame is decorated with symbols representing eternal glory. A personification of Fame with two trumpets flies beneath the mirror, which is flanked by two ancient gods: Mercury representing trade, commerce, and financial gain and Hercules symbolising military strength and triumph.

Sadly, the carvers are unknown. They were probably Dutch or French Huguenots based at Deptford’s naval dockyard, more used to carving elaborate ship prows and interiors than decorative pieces for a country estate.

This magnificent object was probably inherited in 1727 by Admiral Russell’s great-niece, Letitia, who had married the 1st Lord Sandys in 1724. Later the frame was part of M. Michel Dezarnaud’s collection in Neuilly-sur-Seine, Paris, from whom it was bought by a dealer in Belgium in ca. 2015

The frame bears the arms of Admiral Edward Russell, 1st Earl of Orford of the first creation (1653–1727). The marine equivalent of the 1st Duke of Marlborough, Russell is chiefly remembered today for his triumphs at the naval battles of Barfleur and La Hogue on 29 May and 4 June 1692 respectively. These confrontations irreparably damaged the French Atlantic fleet and made the proposed invasion of Britain by Louis XIV and the deposed English King, James II, impossible, thereby securing the position of William III. The scale of this double battle was enormous: 126 ships in total—over twice the size of the Battle of Trafalgar. It was this victory that led to Russell’s promotion to Admiral of the Fleet in November 1693, First Lord of the Admiralty in April 1694, and creation as 1st Earl of Orford in 1697. The imagery of the frame clearly celebrates Russell’s remarkable and unsurpassed naval career.

Edward Russell was a sophisticated and extravagant patron of the arts. This was especially the case at his country estate, Chippenham Park in Cambridgeshire, halfway between Bury St Edmunds and Ely, for which he paid £16,250 in 1689. The house was probably designed by his relative, the architect Thomas Archer (1668–1743) who later designed Russell’s (still surviving) town house in Covent Garden Piazza in 1716–17. Chippenham Park was demolished in 1790 and replaced with a succession of later houses. Drawings of the exterior or interior of the house do not survive, but a map of the estate shows how the trees in the park were planted to evoke the battle formations at La Hogue and Barfleur.

Russell had no direct offspring, and his property was divided between his nieces and nephews. Yet Russell did leave a political legacy; his political protégé Robert Walpole (1676–1745) would become Britain’s first and longest-serving Prime Minister.  It was in memory of Russell that Walpole decided to adopt the title of Earl of Orford of the second creation in 1742.




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