An Unusual Repeated Pair of c.1840 English School Provincial Oil on Canvas Portraits of a Lady

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Origin: English
Period: William IV/Early Victorian
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1830-50
The Canvases: 21 x 26 inches & 22 x 27 inches
The Wholes: 27.75 x 32.75 inches and 28 x 32.5 inches

The amply sized gilt framed English school depictions of a lady, unusually repeated, the sitter shown half-length and painted in oils on canvas, survive from the second quarter of nineteenth century England.

Both pictures are in poor to fair condition, very original and un-tampered with, and thus prove very decorative. They suffer from losses with some sections of flaking and two small holes to one. They both show large and even amounts of craquelure to their surfaces and remain un-cleaned as do the original frames, which are of good quality but have areas of loss. The wholes could of course be extensively restored but we always prefer, and indeed, prize pictures higher, when they retain their originality.

Both works have markings verso in pencil with what is possibly the artists name but more likely a former owners; ‘claudes kendal’ followed by ‘veleture?’. One picture also has the trade label for ‘Braithwaites Repository of Arts, Princes Street, Ulverston”, who were artists colourmen primarily, situated in Cumbria, northern England. The ‘kendal’ part of the inscription could also be a referral to the nearby town of Kendal, the other side of Grizedale Forest Park. We can surmise that the pictures came from this part of the country.

The artworks, both depicted on dark grounds, show the same stern middle-aged lady, in the same pose, with brown centre parted hair, lace bonnet and undergarment, with black shawl. Thus, we can only assume that the sitter is the artists wife, lets say, and that he painted her twice, as a form of practice, perhaps he was not happy with the first picture and so restarted the work again or maybe he simply wanted to fine tune his own skills. Even so it is very unusual to find them together. The second picture is a slightly more accomplished work by the provincial artist as he refined his study of the female sitter. It is lighter in tone and easier on the eye, whilst the first, is darker, and slightly less deftly worked. Both show a good level of skill with the whites to the eyes and the texture of the skin both well rendered.

We have never seen a pair of pictures presented like this before and the effect it has on the viewer when they are hung together is a little unsettling, somewhat perplexing, but wonderful all the same.

As such, this wonderfully odd pair prove strangely haunting, bringing to life a lady so much admired she was painted, well, twice.

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