GEORGE ROMNEY (DALTON-IN-FURNESS 1734-1802 KENDAL)
GEORGE ROMNEY (DALTON-IN-FURNESS 1734-1802 KENDAL)
GEORGE ROMNEY (DALTON-IN-FURNESS 1734-1802 KENDAL)
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Property of a Lady
GEORGE ROMNEY (DALTON-IN-FURNESS 1734-1802 KENDAL)

Double portrait of two siblings, three-quarter-length, in white dresses and a red and pink sash, in a landscape

Details
GEORGE ROMNEY (DALTON-IN-FURNESS 1734-1802 KENDAL)
Double portrait of two siblings, three-quarter-length, in white dresses and a red and pink sash, in a landscape
oil on canvas
25 1⁄4 x 20 1⁄8 in. (64.1 x 51 cm.)
Provenance
(Possibly) Sophia Woolf (1788-1840), later wife of Joseph Baker Grindon, Uphill Castle, Weston-Super-Mare, and by descent in the family to her great-grandaughter,
Mrs Mathews, Cumberland House, Kew; Christie's, London, 24 February 1939 (64 gns. to Agnew's).
with Agnew's, London, from where acquired in 1942 by the following,
Ernest G. Kleinwort (1901-1977).
with Edward Speelman, London.
with Agnew's, London, by March 1959.
Private collection, UK, and by descent to the present owner.
Literature
J. Watson, George Romney in Canada, exhibition catalogue, Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, Canada, 1985, p. 34.
A. Kidson, George Romney. A complete catalogue of his paintings, New Haven and London, 2015, II, p. 647, no. 1451, illustrated.

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Lot Essay

Strikingly tender, this sibling double portrait is one of George Romney’s most intimate depictions of childhood. The young sitters fill the foreground of the picture, almost collapsing the space between painting and viewer. The understated immediacy of the composition is one that Romney commonly reserved for sitters close to him, such as The Misses Cumberland (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts), in which the figures are similarly nestled, heads resting together. However, where the Cumberland girls are both lost in the contemplation of their father’s manuscript, here Romney juxtaposes the pensive profile of the elder sibling with the younger’s direct gaze. Despite modern predilections, the latter’s pink sash is no indication of gender, and this could equally be a girl or an unbreeched boy.
The handling of the present portrait, with the careful, tighter modelling of the children’s faces, dates it to circa 1772-73, which means that the long-held belief that this is a depiction of the ‘Misses Woolf of Uphill’ cannot be correct. Traditionally, the younger sitter has been named as Sophia Woolf, later wife of the Bristol solicitor Joseph Baker Grindon. Sophia was the eldest daughter of Robert Woolf, a writer in the East India Company's Madras Civil Service, and his wife Ann Marie, née Smart, daughter of the miniaturist John Smart. However, Robert and Ann Marie only met and married in Madras in 1786, remaining there until 1795, some thirty years after the execution of this portrait. Their first five children: Robert, Sophia, Elizabeth, Ann and Maria were all born in India, and their sixth child, John, was born on St Helena on their return home. It was not until circa 1800 that the Woolf family settled in Uphill. Yet though family history, notoriously unreliable, has confused the identities of the young sitters, the portrait’s quiet charm remains as compelling as ever.

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