Thursday

Unknown - portrait of Mrs Robert Owen and family

Some basic research has revealed that this impressively framed miniature portrait had bounced around between various auction houses before ending up in this collection.

The most recent vendor described it on eBay as;
A CIRCA 1830 WATER COLOUR ON IVORY 7" X 5" ACTUAL PAINTING SIZE MOUNTED IN A BEAUTIFUL STYLISED GILT FRAME THIS IN TURN IS PROTECTED IN A GLAZED FRAME THE IVORY HAS WARPED SLIGHTLY AND MOVED A BIT IN THE FRAME A LOVELY ITEM

While the artist was very competent, it is admitted he/she was not of the top echelon, with its appeal for the Artists and Ancestors collection being as a representative of its extremely large size.

It is probably the largest miniature portrait on ivory in the collection, with a sight size of 180mm x 130mm. The warping referred to is inconsequential, given the size, but it may have put off other bidders for the portrait. It is very rare for miniatures to be as large as this, and even rarer for them to survive without stress fractures for so long.

There is no sign of a signature on the front, but has not been taken out of the frame. Normally, removal from the frame and cleaning of the glass is one of the first things done, and that very occasionally reveals a signature. However, the frame is nailed together and it does not warrant the risk of taking it apart.

Although the miniature is clearly inscribed at the base "Mrs Robert Owen (Anna Maria, Dau. of John Gaulter), Her Daughter, Sophia and Son, John Gaulter Owen" it has not been possible to find out a great deal about the family. The portrait clearly illustrates the 19C practice of young boys being clothed in dresses. The convention for portraiture being to depict girls with a doll or flowers, and a boy with a hoop or a whip.

The auction description described it as being 1830, but that is a little early. Based upon the apparent age of the boy and his birth in 1843, the miniature was more likely painted around 1838. It is therefore helpful to be able to date the costumes and fashions so precisely.

From the IGI, Ann seems likely to be the Ann Goulter christened on 8 July 1821 at Morden, Surrey, England, with her father being the Rev John Gaulter (1765-1839) who was born in Chester. He entered the "itinerancy" preaching circuit in 1785 and exercised an active circuit ministry until he was forced into superannuation by a stroke in 1835. He was probably the one referred to in;

It may be that Ann's father joined the Methodist persuasion, and so the family is largely absent from parish records for the Church of England, which makes it more difficult to trace them. However, there is a record of John Gaulter Owen in the Sonning parish magazine for St Andrews, on 5 May 1869 where he was married to Ann Baylis, of Woodley. The death of John Gaulter Owen is recorded at St George Hanover Square, London in January, 1871, with his birth year given as 1843.

An apparent reference to the family is in Manchester.
Market Street at that time possessed four druggist's shops, their owners being Stocks and Dentith, Daniel Lynch, Robert Halstead Hargreaves, and Jewsbury and Whitlow. The most popular street with druggists was Piccadilly, which then contained six, two of the number being sons of Wesleyan ministers. The first shop which was so long occupied by Mr. Standring, and which has only just been pulled down to widen the entrance to Tib Street, was then occupied by Mr. John Williams Gaulter. His father was the Rev. John Gaulter, who in the early part of his career was a contemporary of Wesley, at which time his name used to be spelt Gaultier. In my early days he resided for a time in Manchester, and I remember his tall and handsome figure and venerable appearance, dressed in the costume of the day with knee breeches, black stockings, and silver knee-buckles. His son was a very gentlemanly man, and began business about the year 18 12. When I first knew him his assistant was Mr. L. Simpson, who afterwards began business in Princess Street, his shop being the first opened in that street. It was thought at the time to be rather a rash undertaking, but it succeeded. He retired many years ago, when he disposed of his business to Messrs. Ransome and Co.

Previous to this, Gaulter had two apprentices named Jewsbury and Whitlow, who ultimately went into partnership, beginning business about the year 1825, in the shop over the door of which the name of one of the partners is still retained It was one of three or four which had just been rebuilt, and were then called " Egyptian Buildings.'' Mr. Jewsbury's father was a yam agent, and also agent for the West of England Insurance Company, and was the father of the two authoresses. Miss Jewsbury (afterwards Mrs. Fletcher), who died in India, and Miss Geraldine Jewsbury, the novelist.


Prices of miniatures are infrequently quoted here, but are relevant here as part of the provenance. It was offered by Mellors and Kirk, at a Fine Art Sale on Thursday 1st / Friday 2nd July 2010 as;
Lot 884. ENGLISH SCHOOL, MID 19TH CENTURY - A LADY SAID TO BE ANNA MARIA MRS ROBERT OWEN NEE GAULTER, HER DAUGHTER SOPHIA AND SON JOHN GAULTER OWEN - landscape beyond, ivory, arched top, 18.5 x 13cm, ormolu frame, in velevet lined and glazed box-frame. The support very slightly warped as to be expected given the large size but not split or restored. The frame in the original gilding with some slight surface dirt, the box frame in good condition with small corner chip. Estimate was £400-600, but it remained unsold.

It was then sold at Bamfords 13 October 2010 for £360 plus buyer's commission, as below;
Lot 1943 English School, 19th century, portrait of Mrs Robert Owen (Anna Maria, Dau. of John Gaulter), Her Daughter Sophia and Son John Gaulter Owen, watercolour on ivory, 18cm x 13cm, ormolu slip, rosewood outer frame, 30.5cm x 26cm.

Next it was was originally offered on eBay for £850 closing on 5 Jun 2011, with a bid of £600 refused. Then re-offered as a Buy It Now for £500 and purchased for this collection.

Thus it has had a chequered sale history until acquired for this collection! Research is continuing and any further information about the family would be welcomed as a comment or as an email. 1423

Later, a kind visitor has sent me the following additional information;
Anna Maria Gaulter
Born - 1811 Manchester, Lancashire, England

Marriage - Robert Owen - December 21, 1839, Kensington, London, England

Her father was John Gaulter (1766-1839), but her mother is unknown. In 1861 she was listed as living at St. George Hanover Square, Middlesex, England.

There are a lot of Robert Owens, but if we have the correct one for her husband, he was Robert Owen born April 1, 1794 at Fachddeiliog, Llangower, Merionethshire and died May 9, 1853 - 95 New Bond Street, London, Middlesex. His parents were Owen Owen (1754-1834) and Ann Edwards (1763-1838), with their residence in 1841 at New Bond Street, London. Presumably the same residence in 1851, at the time of his death - 95 New Bond Street. His bequest to his wife was under 100 Pounds.

The daughter of Robert and Anna Maria Owen was Sophia Elizabeth Owen born December 1840 - St. George Hanover Square, London, and died December 31, 1869 at 9 Islip Street, Kentish Town, St. Pancras, London, England. Sophia appears not to have married. Her brother was John Gaulter Owen, born July 10, 1842 at 95 New Bond Street, London, Middlesex and died March 3, 1871 at St George Hanover Square. As noted above he married Ann Baylis (1843- ), but there is no indication of any children. It therefore appears that this branch of the Owen family has died out.

Later, a kind researcher has supplied the following extra information;
Anna Maria died 26th July 1865 and was buried on 31st July 1865 at Kensal Green, Kensington and Chelsea (I suppose with her husband who is also buried at that cemetery). Her probate date was 19th November 1866 and mentions her son John Gaulter Owen of 47 Burlington Road, Westbourne Park, Middlesex “Gentleman”. (He was a wine merchant’s clerk). She was described as a widow of 24 Clarendon Road, Notting Hill, Middlesex.

I have a copy of Robert Owen’s Will but it is very brief and doesn’t give very much information about the family. On the web I’ve seen (National Archives) mention of his insurance for 95 New Bond Street in 1831 (or for his East India Warehouse?).


Thus it seems that Robert Owen was a merchant.

Later again - A kind visitor has advised the following;
I am indebted to you for this post. Robert Owen was a nineteenth-century ‘curiosity dealer’ whose East India Warehouse at 95 New Bond Street sold shawls, fabrics, porcelain and furnishings to clients like William Lowther, 2nd Earl of Lonsdale and George IV (to whom he sold porcelain and furniture - see the Royal Collection online for examples). He purchased at many of the 19th-century celebrity sales including those for Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill and that at Stowe. The prices he charged were ambitious and not all he sold was quite what it purported to be - plus ca change. 
I’m researching early 19th-century dealers so it was hugely exciting for me to see this little miniature. Owen was probably involved in porcelain redecorating so a miniature like this could easily have been commissioned by him.

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