Thursday, February 22, 2007
ROMNEY : THE GOWER FAMILY
George Romney (1734-1802) was a noted English portrait painter and one of the leading artists in Britain during the last quarter of the 18th century. He was too a a prolific painter : at the height of his career he was more fashionable than Sir Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough as a society portraitist.
In the last fifteen years of his working life, under the spell of his favourite model and muse Emma Hart, later the celebrated Lady Hamilton, he produced a sequence of Shakespearean and other fancy subjects which count among the most imaginative and poetic canvases of their time.
In 1773 he visited Italy and in 1775 he moved to London and into studios in Cavendish Square, part of the newly fashionable West End area. In 1776 Romney received patronage of Lord Gower and he painted this picture of his wife and kids at the same date. He died in 1802 in Kendal, Cumbria. He is a kinsman of the US politician George Romney.
In 1972, the Gower family portrait sold for $ 482,000, a good for this excellent artist who had however fetched as much as £60,900 for the delicious portrait of Mrs Davies Davenport (right) which was painted between 1982 and 1984 and bought in 1926 by the famous Lord Duveen (1869-1939). Duveen was the art dealer who sold so many Rembranbdts that people thought he was specializing in the Dutch painter.
This huge price for the time however came to a shock to the shrewd sir Duveen (he was not yet Lord) who was in Vittel for his usual summer season at the time of the sale and had commissioned a colleague to bid on his behalf. At $300,000 in 1926, the Mrs Davies Davenport was the biggest price paid for a Romney so far. In comparison, the $482,ooo paid in 1972 for the Gower Family seemed inconsistent. The Davenport portrait is now at the National Gallery London.