After George Romney, A Portrait of Charlotte Bettesworth (1755-1841)



After George Romney
Charlotte Bettesworth (1755-1841)
Oil on canvas: 50 x 40 inches (127 x 101 cm)
Held in a period giltwood frame: 58 x 47 1/2 inches (147.5 x 121 cm)

Provenance: Reginald. G. Wilberforce, a descendant of the sitter; sold by his daughters at Christie’s, 14th July 1939, lot 25 and bought by their cousin, Mrs G. Franklyn; she then bequeathed it to her collateral relative, the diplomat Sir Harold Orme Sargent (1884-1962); then by descent to a private collection in Bristol.

Literature: Alex Kidson ‘George Romney; A Complete Catalogue of his Paintings’, 2015; ‘Earlier British paintings in the Walker Art Gallery and Sudley House’, 2012; ‘George Romney’ NPG Exhibition catalogue 2002

This is a phenomenally well painted version of the portrait by George Romney, executed in 1778 and now with Liverpool Museums at Sudley House. Alex Kidson, who has compiled the complete catalogue of Romney’s paintings, notes the extraordinary quality of this version and suggests that the previous owner, Reginald Wilberforce, had this completed by the time he sold Romney’s original to Agnews in 1888. The style and application of paint, as well as the canvas used, possibly indicate that this was created earlier.

Charlotte Bettesworth (1755-1841) was the daughter and heiress of Richard Bettesworth of Lavington Park, Sussex. She married John Sargent from Kent in 1778, the date that Romney completed his portrait. The proximity of the date of the portrait to the wedding suggests that the work was commissioned to celebrate the marriage of the couple. The poet William Hayley was a neighbour of the Bettesworths in Sussex and had introduced the couple to each other. Hayley’s letters and memoirs reveal that he amused himself by plotting the match. Hayley was also a close friend of George Romney who visited the poet in his house at Eartham at the time. Romney’s associations with the literary personalities as well as with the wealthy families around Oxford Circus in London played an important role in him securing commissions.

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