So how many Nathaniel Dances are there?

Hmm. So we have observed one in the National Portrait gallery. My guess is the original, as stated. NPG6049; rectangular image, dark surroundings, thickish paint. Inscription. Acquired 1989 from a Brown descendent.(detail – my image)

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There is also a copy or ‘after Dance’, acquired much earlier. NPG1490, acquired 1908 from one Warren Trevor Esq. It has an oval visible canvas, thinner paint; canvas character visible.(detail – my image)

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There is one at Burghley, which is shown in two web images. Jane Brown’s biography refers to the Burghley portrait sitter’s jacket as in ‘a sober green’.

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interior-with-a-portrait-of-capability-brown-by-nathaniel-dance-burghley-houseThere was also recent TV coverage of Belvoir, where a Dance hangs behind Alan Titchmarsh. Here is a screen grab; Karen Lynch of Yorkshire Gardens Trust identifies that it is the same frame and panelling as our Burghley above, but with television lighting:Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 21.41.26There is an image on National Trust’s main web site which is much more ‘polished’ (did they use lip gloss in the 18th century? or LED spotlights?) and does not appear to be any of the former. It appears to be at Wimpole, here.Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 21.06.58So that is four. Are there more Dance copies out there? Please make contact if you know of another location of a permanent work akin to these, as an inventory in 2016 would be a fine achievement if it does not exist already. Their lines of provenance may indeed give clues to the degree in which the portraits were originally valued or even hint at how and when they were created… as well as when and if they were restored.

Note: the use of photo editing and management by website staff may mean that generalisations are made here with images that are in easy public web access. Access to the originals is the only way of judging properly – seek out the works and study them. The Dance original will be travelling from NPG, London (not currently on view) to several locations during the 2016 Tercentenary. Get thee to Harrogate for 24th June!

Dance, Dance, Dance; all night long

There are two well known paintings portraying Capability Brown, created by different artists at different times. Or were they?

The Nathaniel Dance original has been at the National Portrait Gallery since 1989, acquired from a descendant of Brown. A painting derived from it has been there for a good deal longer, and it is interesting to compare the two; the copy (or rather, the “after Dance”) more finessed and considered, but less lively as a result.

The work by Richard Cosway is well known as it is the image of the Tercentenary campaign. It portrays a different Brown, with less coiffure, more natural; less formality.

These are my two core works for the posthumous head of Brown. After examining the Dances in the cellars of the NPG in December 2015, I started to consider the information I had before me for the reconstruction. I could discount the “after Dance” as it offered no more secondary evidence than the original. It is one step further removed from my sitter. But the Cosway was interesting. It appeared to yield no more formal information than the Dance, and indeed, on superimposing the two images, it was clear the sitter was at exactly the same angle to the painter. Perhaps his best side, but with 360 degrees to choose from, a curious find.

See what else emerges as photographic images of the two works are overlaid, after a slight tilting of one of the images, in this short film:

The limiting factor of this hypothesis is that we are creating overlays by superimposing images which are factored to each other; we have no absolute sizes to compare. The Cosway original is in the USA, but distances from pupil to pupil could easily now be taken from each painting to explore the anomalies further.

Could we being led a further merry Dance?

What was Cosway up to?  Indeed, is the Cosway really a Cosway?

Another interesting observation is that – admittedly from consideration of Cosway web imagery only – there are similarities in the qualities in – and handling of – the paint in the Cosway and the NPG’s “after Dance”.

An interesting debate to be had in this tercentenary year. In the meantime, my sitting with a Lancelot Brown look-alike takes place next week. My eyes will be considering the man then for his merits alone, but the result may additionally fill in gaps in our Brownian evidence – with those of a Northumbrian nature.

Brown family resemblances

Holland relative cropCheryl Gaynor’s father sent her a photo of her Grandfather (left).

His name was Alexander E. Holland. His parents were Charles E. Holland and Alexandrina Dickson; Charles’s parents were Frederic Holland and Bijsbertje Kuij; Frederic’s parents were Colonel Lancelot Holland and Charlotte Peters; Lancelot’s parents were Henry Holland and Bridget Brown. And Bridget Brown’s parents… well, you have it by now, I suppose?

What is clear is that from a genetic point of view there is a likely 50% dilution of the material directly from Lancelot Capability Brown at each successive generation. But that shouldn’t stop us studying this head for similarities as it IS a great find. The nose and brow seems similar; likewise the cheek lines running down into the chin.

What do YOU think?

Three Henry Hollands – one useful

IMG_4252_16-9Henry_Holland_(architect)Henry Holland ran a building firm and he built several of Capability Brown’s buildings. His son Henry Holland (1745-1806, images left and right) was an architect to the English nobility, who modernised Woburn Abbey. Born in Fulham, London, he entered a partnership with Brown in 1771.

Edridge-KLancelot Brown’s facial features show similarities to those of his daughter, Bridget who married Henry Holland (and who we saw in a previous post here). Their daughter, also Bridget, was Capability Brown’s grand-daughter and is captured (left) by Henry Edridge in a framed sketch at Abbot and Holder Ltd.

Their eldest son was Henry Holland Junior (1775-1855).It would be good to find an image of him; he had connections to Okehampton where he was MP 1802-1804. Can you help?

Three Henry Hollands. To the sculptor there are no useful visible genetic links for the two eldest generations. Our Okehampton MP has 1/4 of Brown’s genetic material, as has Bridget, above. But it is Brown’s direct progeny that are most useful being potentially ‘half of him’ and perhaps giving us best chance of conveying an alternative glimpse of some of Brown’s long Northumbrian features.

Co-incidentally, I recently heard from a living relative in Australia (née Holland) in Australia who reads this blog. Whilst the genetic character will have diluted over the generations, there is always the chance of imagery passed down through family archives emerging to help us.