Audio: John Smart's portrait of Mary Lewin, née Hale (1768-1837)
JOHN SMART (BRITISH, 1742/1743 - 1811)
1 More
Prospective purchasers are advised that several co… Read more
JOHN SMART (BRITISH, 1742/1743 - 1811)

Details
JOHN SMART (BRITISH, 1742/1743 - 1811)
Mary Lewin, née Hale (1768-1837), in cream dress with gold trim, white lace collar, white silk hat with black ribbon and trim and adorned with white ostrich plume on her upswept curling strawberry blonde hair
signed with initials and dated 'J.S. / 1784' (lower left)
on ivory
oval, 2.3/8 in. (61 mm.) high, gold frame with bright-cut border, gold initials ML under part-glazed reverse
Provenance
Probably Phillips, Sevenoaks, 25 March 1992, lot 507 (as 2 in. high).
With Edwin and Rosalind Bucher, in 1992.
Literature
D. Foskett, John Smart, The Man and his Miniatures, London, 1964, pp. 36 and 70, illustrated pl. XIII, no. 46.
Special notice

Prospective purchasers are advised that several countries prohibit the importation of property containing materials from endangered species, including but not limited to coral, ivory and tortoiseshell. Accordingly, prospective purchasers should familiarize themselves with relevant customs regulations prior to bidding if they intend to import this lot into another country.

Brought to you by

Katharine Cooke
Katharine Cooke

Lot Essay

Mary Lewin, née Hale (1768-1837) and her twin sister were the eldest of 20 children of General John Hale of the Plantation, Guisborough, Yorkshire (1728-1806) and his wife Mary (d. 1803), second daughter of William Chaloner of the Priory, Guisborough, Yorkshire. In 1784 Mary married Thomas Lewin (1753-1843), son of Richard Lewin, a Commander of a China Ship in the East India Company, and Miss Brown. Thomas Lewin was the eldest of seven children and was sent first to the wine districts of Portugal and later to India, as a Writer to the Presidency of Madras. After ten years, he spent some time briefly on the Continent during 1781-2, moving in the highest circles of Parisian life through contacts he had made in India, once watching Queen Marie Antoinette dance a minuet, and after another brief spell in India, returned to England and married Mary Hale. The young couple returned to India for a short time, where Mary gave birth to a boy and a girl, before returning to Europe for health reasons. She was followed shortly by Thomas, who had resigned due to being superseded in the post of Secretary to the Government of Madras. The Lewins spent the remainder of their lives living at 'The Ridgeway', Kent and 'The Hollies', Bexley, and had five more children; Richard John (b. 1788), Anne (1789-1791), Harriet (1792-1878), Charlotte (b. 1796) and Frederick (b. 1798).
Their daughter Harriet later married the radical politician George Grote (1794-1871) and is remembered as a writer and a woman of letters. Her 'Reminiscences of Early Life' are published as part of The Lewin Letters, A Selection from the Correspondence & Diaries of an English Family, 1756-1884, collected and edited by family historian and grandson of the Lewins, Thomas Herbert Lewin, London, 1909. As well as her own memories, she relates earlier family tales, including memories of her mother and father's tempestuous marriage and this account of their somewhat uncertain courtship:
'On reaching England Mr. Thomas Lewin went to Yorkshire to visit some relatives, and there straightway fell in love with Miss Mary Hale and her sister Anne, the twin daughters of General John Hale of the Plantation, Guisborough, Yorkshire. The sisters were so much alike that each wore a ribbon on the arm of different colours for distinction. It is said that Mr. Lewin was so dis-tracted by admiration for these budding beauties that he knew not which to choose, and being pressed by General Hale to declare his sentiments, Mr. Lewin declared that he would indicate his choice that same evening by leading out to dance the one whom he preferred. The lot fell on Miss Mary Hale, although he owned in after years that he could assign no reason for his decision, save that he could not marry both of them. It was a speedy wooing, the bride was scarce sixteen and still dressed in girlish bib and tucker. She was told that she was to marry Mr. Lewin and meekly consented, her sisters telling her that it would be a grand thing to travel and see the world with so fine a gentle-man. Accordingly the knot was tied on February 2, 1784, and the same day the young couple set out, driving through roads deep in snow, and not long afterwards sailed for India.'
This miniature was one of a pair, painted on the occasion of this marriage in 1784. Amongst Mrs Eliot's papers was an image of the reverse of a large frame, on which was written the following inscription:
'These portraits of Thomas Lewin Esq and of his / wife Mary (Hale) were painted by Smart, who / was the finest miniature painter of his time, / and who prepared these for General & Mrs Hale / of the Plantation Guisborough, Yorkshire (father / and mother of Mrs Lewin) from whence the young / married couple departed in Feby<\sup> 1784 through / roads deep in snow and not long afterwards / sailed for India. These portraits were painted in / 1784 the year of Mrs L's marriage (at the / age of sixteen). A duplicate pair was also painted by the same artist of Mr T. Lewin, / father & mother (of the Hollies). The first men / tioned pair came from Genl. Hale to his daughter Miss Charlotte Hale & in 1834 / was left by her to her niece, Mrs Geo. Grote who / again in 1878 bequeathed them to her nephew / Colonel J. H. Lewin of the Garden Corner / House, Chelsea.'
The whereabouts of the corresponding miniature of Thomas Lewin by Smart, signed and dated 1784, is currently unknown. D. Foskett, op. cit., p. 70, refers to a miniature by John Smart of a 'Thomas Lewin, 99th Foot' signed and dated 1784 and a miniature of 'Thomas Lewin, Esq.' signed and dated 1786, is illustrated pl. XIII, no. 47 of the same publication. Either example may be the same as one sold Phillips, Sevenoaks, 17 June 1992, lot 434, which is most likely to be the corresponding miniature to the present portrait. An enamel of 'Thomas Lewin, Esq. (1753-1843)' by Johann Heinrich von Hurter (1734-1799) was sold Bonhams, 21 November 2007, lot 129. The other pair of miniatures of Mr and Mrs Lewin by Smart, whose present whereabouts are unknown, are pictured in T. H. Lewin, The Lewin letters. A Selection from the Correspondence & Diaries of an English Family, 1756-1884, London, 1909, II, the portrait of Mrs Lewin illustrated in colour and the portrait of Mr Lewin illustrated on the frontispiece.
The Lewin family seem to have been keen patrons of John Smart, as a miniature of Thomas Lewin's younger sister, Mary, was sold Christie's, London, 25 May 2004, lot 84. The sitter went on to marry Ralph Jackson of Normanby Hall, Yorkshire. Before their marriage however, he took her to London to sit for John Smart in order for a miniature to be sent to her brother Thomas, at that time in Fort St George, India. An extract from Ralph Jackson's diary for October 1776 records the event: 'Wednesday the Sixth; I Went to London / with Miss Lewin, (set her down at Mr Smart's, a / Limner in Berner's Street, Oxford Street, who / is taking her Picture in Miniature, to be sent / to her Bro. Thomas at Ft<\sup>. St<\sup>. George in the East India;)'. An entry for November reads, 'Monday the Eleventh; Capt. Jackson / & myself went to Mr<\sup>. Downe's in Mount Street / Grosvenor Square to look at some Chaise Horses / from thence I went in pursuit of Miss Lewin / to Mr. Smart's, Miss Huntridge's, & found her at / Mr. Pearson's in Tavistock Street;'.
It was through visiting his sister's husband's family, the Jacksons of Yorkshire, that Thomas Lewin first met his future wife, Mary Hale.
The present miniature is also a rare example of a portrait by John Smart of a lady wearing a hat. According to D. Foskett (op. cit., p. 36) 'Smart seldom painted miniatures of women with their hats on, two exceptions being those of Mrs Lewin, painted in 1784, and Mrs (later Lady) Oakley [...], which are both attractive and graceful'.

More from A Life's Devotion: The Collection of the Late Mrs T.S. Eliot

View All
View All