Bartholomew Stoker (1763 – 1788) Portrait of The Duchess of Rutland



Oval portrait, pastels on paper in the original giltwood frame. With three labels verso:

Extract from book, ‘Lady Louisa Connolly’, by Brian Fitzgerald, published about 1949: ‘The Viceroyalty of the Duke and duchess of Rutland, 1784 – 87. Duchess was formally Lady Mary Somerset, daughter of the Duke of Beaufort, one of the most beautiful women of the age. The Duke planned a scheme to establish a School of Painting in Ireland, together with an Academy to encourage artistic production. He died at the age of 33 in 1787.’

This pastel portrait is of the Duchess of Rutland, and was left at Cork Abbey after the Duke and Duchess had rented the place one year during the Duke’s time as Viceroy in Dublin in the 1780s. (c.p. Lady Blaney had her portrait painted by Robert Home in 1785, who was an English artist painting in Dublin).

Mary Isabella, Duchess of Rutland. Born 1756; died 1831. Wife of the 4th Duke who died as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1787 at the age of 33. The Duchess is supposed to have left this pastel portrait of herself after staying at Cork Abbey, Bray, Co. Wicklow.

Bartholomew Stoker was born in Queen’s County in 1763 and died in Dublin in 1788. He was the son of an upholsterer, William Stoker of Ballyroan. He initially worked in that business while studying (in the mid-1770s) in the Dublin School with F. R. West. It is unclear if he then worked with H. D. Hamilton, but his work is close in style. Sir Martin Archer Shee mentioned, in a letter of 1786, that ‘Stoker has done some pieces for Latouche’s family, two of which are extremely well’; these may well have been confused with Hamilton’s work. He was successful both in miniatures and pastels, and the records of particular portraits do not make clear which medium is used. A number were engraved. Apparently he died of a ‘decline brought on by intense study’.

Neil Jeffares in his dictionary of pastellists before 1800 references this work as: ‘Duchess of Rutland, née Lady Mary Isabella Somerset (1756 – 1831), crayons (Mrs. Jefferies, Blarney Castle, 1836). Lit: James Dowling Herbert, Irish varieties, for the last 50 years, London, 1836, p. 172 n.r.

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