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After I had written yesterday’s post on the new discoveries regarding the “portrait ” of below, I discovered a dissenting voice about these new findings. I thought you might like to read these thoughts, written by Dr. Bendor Grosvenor of Philip Mould and Company. This is a renowned art company which specialises in British art and Old Masters. They have become famous for discovering sleepers, that is, previously unattributed or misattributed portraits. Dr.Grosvenor is the author of the erudite and entertaining Art History News website.
In an article on his site he discusses The Rice Portrait. You can read the article in full here. He doubts that the new-found inscriptions will alter the position regarding the painting’s questioned authenticity:
I applaud the owner’s attempts to prove their painting is Jane. But I’m afraid these apparent inscriptions in old photos of the painting, which I have been shown, are (to me at least) not compelling. Nor is this the first time apparently conclusive ‘writing’ on the painting, seen in questionably interpreted and magnified old photographs, has been claimed. For the best critique of the painting’s identity, read former NPG chief curator Jacob Simon’s brief note here. In particular, he deals with the question of the apparent inscriptions written on the painting:
“The [Rice Portrait] website claims that the portrait is signed several times in monogram, inscribed JANE and dated 1788 but, from my lengthy experience of examining British portraits, these apppear to be purely incidental and meaningless markings. They were not noted by Thomas Harding Newman, owner of the portrait in 1880, who attributed it to Zoffany. They do not appear in photographs taken by Emery Walker in about 1910, despite claims to the contrary on the website. They were not apparent to the professional painting conservator who examined the portrait with others at Henry Rice’s request before cleaning it in 1985. They were not apparent to Christie’s experienced cataloguing staff in 2007 when the portrait was put up for sale in New York, despite an earlier report of initials on the portrait”.
All this will, I fear, run and run….No doubt, I’ll be reporting back to you;)