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Samuel Laurence (1812-1884)
Samuel Laurence (1812-1884)

Portraits said to be of John Morphett and Elizabeth Morphett (née Fisher), head and shoulders

Details
Samuel Laurence (1812-1884)
Portraits said to be of John Morphett and Elizabeth Morphett (née Fisher), head and shoulders
both signed and dated 'S. Laurence 1840' (lower right)
pencil, charcoal and coloured chalks
20½ x 15in. (52.2 x 38.1cm.); 20 x 14¾in. (50.8 x 37.5cm.)
with a framed lithographic portrait of John Morphett and a facsimile of a chart of the settlement at Adelaide (4)
Provenance
Sir John Morphett (1809-1892) and thence by descent to Derek Morphett, by whom given to the present owner.

Lot Essay

A portrait of John Morphett by Samuel Laurence is recorded in the possession of H.C. Morphett, Adelaide (ADB). A photograph of a portrait drawing of the same sitter, c.1834, attributed to Sir Thomas Lawrence, P.R.A. is in the State Library of South Australia. It is not known if the portrait painter and associate of the Victorian literati Samuel Laurence visited South Australia in 1840, but he did not exhibit at the Royal Academy in 1839-40. Laurence did however exhibit a work titled 'Thoughts on a first voyage' at the Royal Society of British Artists that year, and his portrait of Colonel Gawler 'Painted for the South Australian Club, South Australia' (in 1839-40 members of the Club had collected funds to procure portraits in oils of the late Colonel William Light and in the year 1841 or 1842 one of Colonel Gawler) was exhibited at the R.A. in 1843, both perhaps suggesting he may have made the voyage.

John Morphett (1809-1892), the son of a London solicitor, met Colonel William Light in Alexandria in 1830 and returned to London in 1834, and from then on, with his younger brother George (who would emigrate to South Australia in 1840), took a leading interest in the scheme to colonise South Australia. An early investor in the South Australian Company, and an agent for prospective purchasers of land grants, he sailed for South Australia as a land agent for the Company in the Cygnet on 20 March 1836, along with the Deputy-Surveyor George Kingston. He arrived at Kangaroo Island on 11 September, and two months later, with Lieutenant Field and George Kingston, discovered the River Torrens. The site of Adelaide was elected by the Surveyor-General William Light as early as 22 November 1836, and won over competing sites favoured by Governor Hindmarsh and members of the South Australian Company (the Murray River mouth and the harbour, Port Adelaide). 'Morphett considered Kangaroo Island unsuitable for permanent settlers but reported favourably on the mainland after two visits, his letter being published in London in pamphlet form. At the crucial meeting on 10 February 1837 Morphett's votes were decisive in confirming the site of Adelaide.' (ADB) He enjoyed a successful career in politics and commerce in South Australia, rising to become president of the Legislative Council in 1865, after spells as chief secretary in the Reynolds ministries in 1861. He married Elizabeth Fisher, whom he had met in London at meetings of the South Australian Literary Association, in Adelaide in 1838, with whom he set up home at Cummins House on the Sturt river (for which see the following lot). He died at Cummins House, Morphetville, on 7 November 1892 and was survived by six daughters and four sons. As the Australian Dictionary of Biography records, 'as a prominent founder, his names figures large in South Australia's toponymy'.
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