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The Estate of Carol Browning and Edmund Wattis Dumke

Portrait of Mrs Susannah Whatman (1756-1828), née Bosanquet, half-length, in a painted oval

Portrait of Mrs Susannah Whatman (1756-1828), née Bosanquet, half-length, in a painted oval
oil on canvas
30 x 25 1/8 in. (76.2 x 63.8 cm.)
The sitter, and by descent to,
G.D. Whatman, by 1908.
with Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, by 1912.
with Reinhardt Galleries, by 1913.
Dr. Henry Norton Torrey (1880-1945) and Mrs Nell Ford Torrey (1875-1958), Detroit, by 1917, and by descent.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, New York, 17 January 1985, lot 141.
with Hirschl & Adler, New York, and with Newhouse Galleries, New York, where acquired by the present owner.
G. Paston, George Romney, London, 1903, p. 199.
H. Ward & W. Roberts, Romney: A Biographical and Critical Essay with a Catalogue Raisonné of his Works, London, II, 1904, p. 170.
A. Chamberlain, George Romney, New York, 1910, p. 306.
T. Balston, James Whatman, Father and Son, London, 1957, p. 48, pl. 5.
G.L. Lee, The Story of the Bosanquets, Canterbury, 1966, p. 101.
International Studio, June, 1928, XC, cover.
A. Kidson, George Romney: A complete catalogue of his paintings, New Haven and London, II, 2015, p. 628, no. 1402, illustrated.
London, Grafton Galleries, Exhibition of a Special Selection from the Works by George Romney, Summer, 1900, no. 38.
London, Agnew's, The [Twelfth] Annual Exhibition on Behalf of the Artists' General Benevolent Fund, 1906, no. 5.
London, Royal Academy, Exhibition of Works by the Old Masters and Deceased Masters of the British School, Winter, 1908, no. 142.
New York, Reinhardt Galleries, Loan exhibition of paintings from Memling, Holbein and Titian to Renoir and Picasso at the Reinhardt Galleries: in aid of the Greenwich House Health Center, 27 February-17 March 1928, no. 16.

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Jonquil O’Reilly Vice President, Specialist, Head of Sale

Lot Essay

Admired for her poise and beauty, twenty-three year old Susannah Bosanquet married James Whatman (1741-1798) in 1776. The Huguenot Bosanquets had come to England in 1686 from Lunel in Languedoc and Susannah’s father, Jacob Bosanquet, had prospered as a Director of the East India Company before his death in 1767. James Whatman's father, James Whatman the Elder (1702-1759), began a paper mill in Kent that revolutionized the papermaking process in England. Whatman the Elder has been credited with developing wove paper, whose textured surface proved far superior for artists and printmakers than the existing laid paper. Whatman's wove paper was used to print John Baskerville's seminal edition of Virgil in 1757, which took three years to finish and pioneered Baskerville's invented typeface. This printing drew the attention and interest of Benjamin Franklin, who brought Whatman's novel invention to the American colonies and used it to print colonial currency in Philadelphia. James Whatman furthered his father's innovations of producing fine paper and the business's technology and methods for processing paper pulp are still used in mass production.

Susannah Whatman was James Whatman’s second wife, after his first wife Sarah (née Stanley) had died leaving him with two young daughters. By all accounts, his marriage to Susannah was a happy one, and in 1778 Whatman commissioned a portrait of his wife from George Romney. According to Romney's account books, Mrs. Whatman sat for the artist seventeen times between 1778 and 1782. In his catalogue raisonné on the artist, Alex Kidson comments that the last two sittings in 1782 were likely as a result of the fact that Mrs. Whatman’s looks had changed in the four years since the commission had begun (Kidson, loc cit.).

Susannah Whatman ran the household at Turkey Court, near Maidstone, and later at Vintners at Boxley in Kent; during the course of her life she wrote meticulous notes on how best to manage a household and preserve furniture, china, and the house in general. She turned the formidable instructions into a manuscript, which was passed down in her family until it was published in 1952 as Susanna Whatman, her housekeeping book, and later declared a National Trust Classic in 1987.

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