I have always been a fan of Nathaniel Hone. The Elder that is. Why? Not altogether sure really – for not being The Younger; for being Irish; for being extremely rude to that big-head from Plymouth, Joshua Reynolds; for having the guts to hold (a successful) one man show when the Royal Academy fell out with him – and for painting some rather fine portraits. What other reasons do you need?
When I was choosing images to use for my book “In bed with the Georgians – Sex, Scandal and Satire” I was delighted to be able to use the Nathaniel Hone portrait of the courtesan Kitty Fisher – complete with its double rebus of the cat (ie Kitty) having designs on the goldfish in the bowl (hence, Fisher). It has the added message that Kitty Fisher herself lived her life inside a goldfish bowl, constantly on public view, and reflected just below the rim of the bowl you can see the figures of people staring in from the window at the scene being painted by the artist.The original is in the National Portrait Gallery, so thanks to them for the use of the image:
I blogged about Hone here – and by chance after an interval of a couple of years I have had a response from someone who saw the blog and needs help identifying the subject of two portraits they were fortunate enough to have acquired at auction – and which are now found to have the signature of ‘N Hone’ and the date of 1742. But who are the subjects of these paintings?
Nat left Ireland in his early twenties, got married and eventually came to London in around 1742 but I do not have an exact date. Does anyone know when he actually left Ireland? And is it too fanciful to think that he may have painted the portraits of his Mum and Dad, before he left home, as mementos? Other than that his father was a Dutch merchant who had settled in Dublin, I know nothing of his family background. Has anyone any ideas? Here we have- the unknown lady:
And at the top of this blog post is the portrait of an unknown gentleman, painted in the same year – here, the signature and date:
And if that is not enough of a conundrum, the same auction yielded one other surprise – a portrait of another unknown gentleman, this one painted by the Swedish-born artist called Michael Dahl. He was active in Britain between 1682 and his death in 1743 and he painted a number of members of the royal family, as well as various aristocrats. When Dahl first came to Britain he came into the orbit of Godfrey Kneller, and through him made a number of contacts and subsequent clients. Does anyone recognize the subject in this one?
I will pass any suggestions on to the new owners of the three pictures – and I am sure they will be most interested to hear your ideas. Thanks!