Lowell Libson & Jonny Yarker Ltd

  • Pastel
  • 30 × 25 inches · 762 × 635 mm
  • Inscribed with the sitters’ names on the dog’s collar
    Drawn c. 1771
    In the original carved frame

Collections

  • Presumably commissioned by Cecil de Cardonnel, 2nd Baroness Dynevor and her husband George Rice, c.1771;
  • George Talbot Rice, 3rd Baron Dynevor (1765-1852);
  • George Rice-Trevor, 4th Baron Dynevor (1795-1869), son of the above;
  • Francis Rice, 5th Baron Dynevor, cousin of the above, d.1878;
  • Arthur Rice, 6th Baron Dynevor, son of the above, d.1911;
  • Walter FiztUryan Rice, 7th Baron Dynevor, son of the above, d.1956;
  • Charles Rhys, 8th Baron Dynevor, son of the above, d. 1962;
  • Richard Rhys, 9th Baron Dynevor, son of the above, to 1976;
  • Dynevor sale, Sotheby’s, 18 November 1976, lot 149 (as by Russell);
  • Anonymous sale, Christie’s 16 November 1982, lot 73 (as by Read);
  • Private collection, UK, to 2016

Literature

  • Francis Steegman, Portraits in Welsh Houses, Cardiff, 1962, vol.II, p.60;
  • Neil Jeffares, Dictionary of Pastellists before 1800¸ online edition, J.612.236. 

This unusually ambitious double portrait by Katherine Read was drawn in 1771 and depicts the two eldest sons of George Rice and his wife, Cecil de Cardonnel, 2nd Baroness Dynevor. Read was one of the most celebrated pastellists of the mid-eighteenth century. Following training in Paris and a period of time spent working in Rome, she established a fashionable and productive studio in London. Read was one of the few professional female painters who made a commercial success in London in the period, becoming an active member of the Society of Artists and a regular participant at London’s new annual exhibitions. Although her association with the medium of pastel and her largely female clientele prevented her from breaking into the exclusive world of the Royal Academy. Read’s use of medium has meant that she has been largely ignored by recent scholars, only receiving scant critical attention.

Read was born to a staunchly Jacobite family, travelling to Paris after the failure of the 1745 uprising. In Paris Read seems to have studied with Maurice-Quentin de La Tour. She remained in Paris until 1751, when she moved to Rome with the financial support of her brother, Captain Alexander Read. In Rome she was supported by the resident Scottish dealer and antiquary, Abbé Peter Grant, whose correspondence offers important information for her time in Italy.[1] Significantly she seems to have practiced in both oils and pastel, completing a significant conversation piece of British Grand Tourists arranged in front of the Colosseum, now at the Yale Center for British Art. In 1752 Read wrote to her brother: ‘I have staid one year in Rome for Improvement, I must certainly stay in it another for Name, and then you’ll see I’ll top it with the best of them.’[2]

This sentiment is particularly notable because it demonstrates Read’s determination to compete with her male contemporaries, such as Joshua Reynolds, who was in Rome at the same moment. Read returned to London in 1753 and established a studio. Grant wrote that ‘all the fine ladies have made it as much the fashion to sit to Miss Read, as to take air in the park.’ In 1761 Read executed a portrait of Queen Charlotte and a sequence of Royal commissions followed. William Hayley writing in An Essay on Painting: in two epistles to Mr Romney specifically praised: ‘Let candid justice our attention lead/ To the soft crayon of the graceful Read.’

In 1763 Read was consulted by the Society of Arts about methods for fixing pastel, having been approached by Sébastien Jurine seeking approval for his method. Read also had an international reputation, being invited by the duc de Nivernais to visit Paris in 1764 to make portraits of the comte d’Artois and Mme Élisabeth commissioned by the Dauphin. The following year the Gazeteer and new daily advertiser noted that: ‘their Royal Highnesses the Princess Louise and Princess Caroline are sitting to the celebrated Miss Read for the portraits in Crayons.’ Inevitably Read was compared to her male counterparts, as one critic stated: 'After Cotes, our best painter in crayons, (and perhaps the only good one) is Miss Read. She likewise paints very well in oil. Her pencilling is free and easy, and her colouring has a great deal of truth.’[3]

This pastel is remarkable for its scale and iconography, the two children are shown with a large dog, which is shown wearing a collar prominently engraved ‘G.W. Rice’. This refers to the sitters’ father, George Rice, a prominent Welsh landowner who sat as Whig MP for Carmarthenshire. Rice was an active member of parliament and supported successive ministries. Rice had himself sat to William Hoare of Bath for a pastel portrait and commissioned a series of portraits from both Read and John Russell. A portrait of Henrietta Rice, later Mrs Magens Dorrien Magens by Read, shown holding a hare was recently acquired by the National Trust for Dinefwr is presumably en suite with the present portrait and a portrait of the Hon and Reverende Edward Rice, later Dean of Gloucester shown in 1789, aged ten holding a cricket bat also now at Dinefwr. All three pastels survive in remarkable carved and gilded frames, suggesting that they formed part of a decorative scheme at Dinefwr. Read’s portrait of George and William Rice is the grandest, and largest, of the three. Read employed a number of framers including Thomas Fentham, 52 Strand, London; Robert Tull, of St James’s and Broad Street, and Thomas Vialls, of Great Newport Street and Leicester Square. Whilst it is unclear precisely who is responsible for the frames, their design owes something to the furniture of John Linnell.

George Talbot Rice obtained the county seat in Carmarthenshire in 1790 in an unopposed election. Rice eschewed, however, the Blue colours of the Cwmgwili Whigs and sported those of the ‘Gray Coats Independent’: moreover, he accepted the assistance of the Red deputy recorder of Carmarthen, Herbert Lloyd: these acts were symptomatic of the transference of the house of Dynevor from the Whigs to the Tories. Having succeeded to his mother’s barony in 1793, he became the leader of the Reds in the county, marrying the daughter of the influential politician, Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney. His son, George Rice-Trevor, was responsible for remodelling Newton House on the Dinefwr estate.

References

  1. Margaret Morgan, 'British Connoisseurs in Rome’, The British Art Journal, Spring/Summer 2006, VII, no. 1, p.41.
  2. Margaret Morgan, 'British Connoisseurs in Rome’, The British Art Journal, Spring/Summer 2006, VII, no. 1, p.41.
  3. Observations on the Pictures now in Exhibition at the Royal Academy, Spring Gardens, and Mr Christie's, 1771, p.6.