• Portrait of a Gentleman -
    Price on request

    Signed lower right: Jno Downman 1777 and numbered on backing 24

    Pencil on laid paper

    Sheet 24.2 by 19.1 cm., 9 ¾ by 7 ¾ in.

  • Portrait of Captain James Monro  -
    Price on request

    Three-quarter length,   in profile, the sea beyond

    Signed lower left and dated 1789

    Watercolour and coloured chalks heightened with touches of bodycolour, oval

    19.8 by 16.1 cm., 7 ¾ by 6 ¼ in.

     

    Provenance:

    By descent in the Monro family 

     

    Captain James Monro (1756-1806) was the daughter of John Monro and his wife Elizabeth and the brother of Dr Thomas Monro (???), the amateur artist and early patron of Turner and Girtin. He was a captain in the East India Company and regularly skippered ships between Britain and India.  

     

    Downman drew other members of the Monro family in the same manner, his sisters Charlotte (Courtauld Institute of Art, London, no. D.1967.WS.40) and Elizabeth (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, no. 2314.14).

  • Portrait of Miss Mills -
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    Three-quarter length, seated, a landscape beyond

     

    watercolour and coloured chalks heightened with touches of bodycolour, oval

    34.7 by 25.5cm., 13 1/2  by 10 inches

     

    Another version of this portrait without the landscape is recorded in the Hodgkins collection (see G.C. Williamson, John Downman ? His Life and Works, 1907, opposite p. xvi, ill.)

     

    Provenance:

    Private Collection, Belgium

  • Portrait of Emily Adolphus aged eleven -
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    Head and shoulders

    watercolour and coloured chalks heightened with white, circular

    22.8cm., 9 in. diameter

     

    Emily Adolphus was the daughter of John Adolphus (1768-1845), the barrister and writer. Her book `Recollections of the Public Career and Private Life of the late John Adolphus, the eminent Barrister and Historian, with extracts from his diaries, by his daughter, Emily Henderson? was published in 1871

     

    Provenance:

    With Morton Morris and Co., London;

    The Estate of Mrs T. Conway

  • The Determined Widow Mrs Croad and her only Daughter -
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    Full-length, the coast near Plymouth and the sea beyond

    Signed lower right: Jo Downman/1806

    Watercolour over pencil, coloured chalks and stump heightened with bodycolour

    88.2 by 65.9 cm., 34 ¾ by 26 in.

     

    This fine and imposing neo-classical portrait is an important rediscovery and addition to knowledge of Downman’s portrait work; the survival of the period carved Maratta frame in excellent condition makes it even more remarkable.  The portrait, which dates from 1806, shows Mrs Ann Croad, née Chappell (1777-1837) and her daughter in a draped arbour with a landscape beyond them to the left.  In 1798 Ann Chappell married John Croad, a prosperous Plymouth builder but was widowed fourteen months later. She was known as the `Determined Widow’ due to her resolution to continue her husband’s business after his death.  Behind the sitters and to the right is a funerary urn draped in flowers with a Greek inscription reading “ouket ’ esti” (“he is no more”), an obvious reference to her deceased husband and giving additional meaning to the sumptuous mourning dress and prominently displayed wedding ring.  The words give an air of classical refinement to the picture and are taken from Euripides' tragedy Orestes (line 1081); certainly no direct reference to the content of the play with its theme of the consequences of matricide is intended. The funerary urn is placed on an athiénienne, a small decorative stand in the form of an antique tripod which was popularised in France in the late eighteenth century. The coastline behind the sitters represents Plymouth, possibly with Staddon Heights or Wembury Point across the Sound on the left.

     

    As Jane Munro wrote in her exhibition catalogue (John Downman 1750-1824, Landscape, figure studies and portraits of ‘Distinguished persons’, Fitzwilliam Museum, 1996), “By the end of the 1780s, although Downman continued to receive regular commissions for his portraits, his critical popularity was flagging. … one critic of 1789 put it ‘Downman’s heads have their usual delicacy and their usual sameness.  He has but two passable faces, one face for ladies and another for gentlemen, & one or other of these prototypes all his likenesses are brought to resemble’ … Presumably in response to these signs of critical disfavour, Downman changed his style from around the middle of the 1790s, to produce portrait drawings which were larger in scale, bolder in execution, and more penetrating in their description of personality.” (p. 16).  This is an excellent example of this new style and approach at the end of Downman‘s long and prolific career.  “After c. 1800, Downman’s career was itinerant.  Although he maintained an address in London, and continued to send works to the annual exhibitions at the Royal Academy and British Institution, he travelled extensively throughout England, no doubt accompanied by the reputation which he had gained in the capital.  He appears to have spent much of the period from 1804 to 1806 in West Malling, Kent … and subsequently moved to Exeter, for the brief year of his marriage” (op. cit., p. 17). Plymouth, as a naval base and thriving provincial centre, was an understandable port of call for an itinerant portrait painter from London in search of business.

     

    Downman exhibited publicly for the last time in 1819 before retiring.  During this retirement in Chester and North Wales, Downman systematically organised into albums and series over eight hundred portrait drawings and studies which he had accumulated over half a century of professional activity.  They were arranged in four series, roughly chronological in sequence, each series containing between four and eight volumes, with 25 to 30 drawings in each.  The subsequent history of these albums is described by Jane Munro in Appendix II of her exhibition catalogue (op.cit., p. 77), and many of the studies are now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.  An article in the Western Morning News, on 7th December 1931, records the sale of one of the Downman albums at Sotheby’s and records:  “Downman was at Plymouth in 1806.  Mementoes of that visit are the drawings of Mrs Hall, wife of Colonel Hall, of Plymouth Dock; one of her mother, Mrs Chappel; and three of her sister, the determined widow Mrs Croad". Five sketches of members of the family were in the Butleigh Court sketchbooks - this was the name given to three of the four Downman series - (see G.C. Williamson, John Downman R.A., 1907, p.LX, fourth series, volume five, nos. 29-33), which were broken up in the twentieth century. The study of Mrs Croad from this volume is now in the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford (see Evelyn Joll, Cecil Higgins Art Gallery – Watercolours and Drawings, 2002, p.94). Another version, and a portrait of Mrs Croad’s sister, Mrs Hall, are in the Huntington Art Gallery, San Marino, California.

     

    The Cecil Higgins study is accompanied by a note in Downman’s hand reading “The determined Widow Mrs Croad 1806 / a Whole-length Group with her only Daughter”, which was the only previous reference to the existence of a full-length picture.  The portrait was clearly a private commission and was not exhibited in London; there are no references to it by Joseph Farington, who is usually garrulous in his gossip about his fellow artist and near-contemporary in his famous diary.  Mrs Croad lived at Kingham House just outside Plymouth on the west bank of the Tamar, but this was demolished during the later 19th century expansion of Devonport Dockyard. The picture’s subsequent history until its recent reappearance in a UK provincial saleroom is not known.

  • Portrait of a Gentleman -
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    Leaning on a gate, by a horse and holding a whip

    Signed on the gate: J Downman/p.t 1786

    Watercolour over pencil heightened with touches of white

    32.2 by 51.3 cm., 20 1/4 by 12 3/4 in.

  • Portrait of the Hon. Mary Harcourt -
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    Three-quarter length leaning against a column with a landscape beyond, holding a pen in one hand and a drawing of a tree in the other

    Signed lower left: JDownman/Pinxt/1781 and extensively inscribed with details of sitter on canvas backing

    Watercolour and black chalk heightened with touches of white on wove paper laid on canvas, with original wash mount

    34 by 26.2 cm., 13 1/2 by 10 1/2 in.

     

    Provenance:

    Mrs Reynolds-Peyton, 1917;

    Anonymous sale, 7th December 1999, lot 1

     

    Literature:

    Reproduced in The Connoisseur, March 1917;

    Kim Sloan, `A Noble Art’ – Amateur Artists and Drawing Masters c.1600-1800, 2000, p.155

     

    The sitter (1749-1833) was born Mary Danby, the daughter of William Danby of Swinton Park, Masham, Yorkshire. Her first husband was Thomas Lockhart and in 1778 she married secondly, William, son of the first Earl Harcourt. She was a pupil of Alexander Cozens as a letter written to William Beckford in September 1781, the year of the present portrait, indicates (Sloan, op.cit.). Several of her works are in public collections (Yale Center, Leeds City Art Gallery and the Tate Gallery) where they were once thought to be the work of Cozens.

     

    Her husband William Harcourt (1743-1830) was also a talented amateur artist (see Sloan, op. cit., no.77, pp.117-8). He was Deputy Ranger of Windsor Great Park from 1782 and the first Governor of the Royal Military College at Marlow from 1796. He succeeded to the title on the death of his brother in 1809 as the third Earl. In 1782 he purchased Gloucester Lodge in St. Leonard’s Hill, Windsor.

     

    Another portrait of the sitter by Downman, dated 1779, shows her pointing at a globe.

     

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