A Good Mid 19thC British School Oil on Canvas Portrait of a Gentleman

Origin: English
Period: Mid-Victorian
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1845-75
Canvas: 30 inches x 25 inches

The half-length portrait painting of a burly middle-aged gentleman in oils on canvas, in a black coat with white collared undergarment, the stretcher stamped J Jones Liner, and the work unframed and apparently unsigned, survives from mid-Victorian England.

The picture is a little dirty and if cleaned would become something slightly different, but it is in this condition that we simply love. There are some signs of varnish an perhaps some overpainting(?) to the top half of the canvas around the figure and some areas of paint loss to the lower left hand corner of the work.

The level of skill seen in the painting is certainly very well accomplished, the balding, bristling and portly gentleman, probably in his forties or fifties, is depicted relatively seriously with a fixed expression, and yet a hint of a smile. The sitter certainly has an authoritative air about him, one gets the impression he was a man of devotion and loyalty, kindly but stern but not necessarily someone you’d want to cross. The atmospheric background is a moody swash of swirling black pigments.

The stretcher stamped J Jones Liner is referring to John Jones (1842/3-c.1900 or later) and an exert from the National Portrait Gallery reads:

“It is worth noting that J.A. Lievens’s Dirck Decker and another Dutch school work in the Founders’ bequest bear the stamp, J JONES/ LINER, of the London liner, John Jones (1842/3-c.1900 or later), as recorded by Philip Pouncey, 1931-3, suggesting that Merritt or Sciarretta may have used him for lining work….. John Jones (1842/3-c.1900 or later) was born at Trowbridge, Wiltshire, in 1842 or 1843, according to census records, and he was possibly the son of Samuel and Maria Jones and so the brother of the rather younger William George Jones (see below). John Jones worked as a picture liner, according to census records, where can be found in 1861 at 16 Black Horse Yard, Cavendish Square, with his mother Maria as head of household, himself age 18 and his brother James, age 15, also a picture liner, both born at Trowbridge, Wiltshire. In 1871 at 9 Whitfield St, by now 28 with his wife Caroline, age 21, and daughter. In 1881 at 31 Howland St with his wife Caroline and two daughters. He appears to have set up in business independently by 1880, if not before; whether previously he was an employee in another establishment remains to be ascertained. Works with the impressed stretcher stamp, J JONES/ LINER (as we see on this picture), include J.A. Lievens’s Dirck Decker, stamped on stretcher, the Dutch school St Peter healing St Agatha, stamped on reinforcing strips behind panel (both Fitzwilliam Museum, information recorded by Philip Pouncey, 1931-3) and the attributed to James Seymour, Pointer Bitch, impressed on stretcher (Tate, T02264, information from Joyce Townsend).”

This somehow electrified, well-executed picture just has something that we can’t put our finger on. Thoroughly absorbing.