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JOSEPH WRIGHT OF DERBY, A.R.A. (DERBY 1734-1797)
JOSEPH WRIGHT OF DERBY, A.R.A. (DERBY 1734-1797)
JOSEPH WRIGHT OF DERBY, A.R.A. (DERBY 1734-1797)
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PROPERTY FROM THE JANDA COLLECTION
JOSEPH WRIGHT OF DERBY, A.R.A. (DERBY 1734-1797)

Portrait of Miss Ann Carver before a landscape, three-quarter-length

Details
JOSEPH WRIGHT OF DERBY, A.R.A. (DERBY 1734-1797)
Portrait of Miss Ann Carver before a landscape, three-quarter-length
oil on canvas
49 ¾ x 39 ¾ in. (126.4 x 100.9 cm.)
Provenance
Painted for Rev. John Griffiths, D.D., Rector of Eckington (d. 1765), and by descent to
M.C.M. Althorpe [sic], Esq., Dinnington Hall, near Sheffield, Yorkshire; Christie's, London, 27 April 1934, lot 92 (90 gns. to Leggatt).
Mrs. Marietta Peabody Tree (1917-1991) and Mr. Ronald Tree (1897-1976), Ditchley Park, near Charlbury, Oxfordshire and New York, by 1934; their sale, Sotheby's, New York, 8-9 October 1976, lot 199, where acquired by the present owner.
Literature
B. Nicolson, Joseph Wright of Derby: Painter of Light, I, London and New York, 1968, pp. 2, 17, 28, 96-98, 103, 185, no. 29; II, p. 14, plate 26.
R. Isepp, 'The Portraits by Wright of Derby', The Burlington Magazine, CXXI, May 1979, p. 311.
Exhibited
Derby, Corporation Art Gallery, Wright of Derby: Catalogue of the bi-centenary Exhibition of Paintings by Joseph Wright, A.R.A., 3 September-18 November 1934, no. 122.
New York, Durlacher Bros., Joseph Wright of Derby 1734-1797, 1-26 March 1960, no. 4.

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Lot Essay

The present portrait is a rare surviving work from early in Wright’s career, executed in the years following his training in the London studio of Thomas Hudson between 1751 and 1753 and again from 1756 to 1757. Following his return to Derby, in early 1760 Wright embarked upon an extended tour through neighboring Midland towns, where he painted portraits of middle class families and local landed gentry. Wright’s Account Book indicates that Rev. John Griffiths, D.D., Rector of Eckington, commissioned the artist to paint four members of the Carver family at Eckington in Derbyshire near the Yorkshire border from 1 February 1760 for a fee of £50.8, or £12.12 per portrait. The sitters included Griffiths’ daughter, Mrs. Ann Carver, widow of Marmaduke Carver of Morthen, Yorkshire, who died in 1746 aged 34, and her three children: Ann, Elizabeth and John of Morthen (d. 1807).

In 1968, Benedict Nicolson wrote enthusiastically of the products of this commission, claiming that none ‘he [Wright] ever received for portraits came from a more elegant family than the Carvers…none at any period of his life earn the label of Rococo more deservedly than these Lely beauties transported into the idiom of a hundred years later, with their artificial gestures and semi-translucent veils caught by the sun and drifting in mid-air against all the laws of nature’ (op. cit., pp. 96-97). In their sheer theatricality, particularly the attention Wright lavished on the diaphanous shawls, the Carver portraits outstrip anything else the artist produced in the period, no doubt to the delight of his patrons.

Though the family did not have particularly grand origins, they were among the nouveau riche, their coffers enriched by a series of successful marriages. Shortly after sitting for this portrait, in 1763 John married Sarah Allen, daughter of Thomas Allen of Chapeltown and Elizabeth Middleton, heiress to the fortune of the Middletons at Leam Hall. His sister, Elizabeth, likewise married the vicar of Youlgreave, who served as steward to the Duke of Rutland (Nicolson, op. cit., p. 97). The family would again turn to Wright for portraits in subsequent years, with John’s wife and daughter sitting for a portrait of circa 1767-70 (Derby Museum & Art Gallery) and a now-unidentified ‘Master Carver’ from the late 1770s or early 1780s valued at £8.8 in Wright’s Account Book.

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