Writer and traveller Maria Callcott continually wore a turban and her head is similarly covered in all her portraits. It has been suggested that she wore the headdress to conceal a childhood injury, caused when she fell backwards into a fire.
This painting was formerly in the collection of politician Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, third Marquess of Lansdowne and hung in the study of his London residence, Lansdowne House, in Berkley Square. It was here that art historian Gustav Friedrich Waagen viewed the painting. Waagen later wrote: ‘This lady’s noble, delicate, and intelligent features are rendered with great feeling.’~
The Marquess lent the painting to an exhibition at the South Kensington Museum in 1868 and a journalist for ‘The Era’, commenting on the exhibition, again expressed his approval: ‘Lady Callcott, by Sir A. W. Callcott, draws attention by her very expressive face.’~
An ‘oil on board’ version of the portrait, just 15 by 11cm in size, was formerly in the collection of painter John Callcott Horsley, great nephew of Augustus Wall Callcott, and is probably a study for this work.
Augustus Wall Callcott studied at the Royal Academy Schools and under John Hoppner. His first exhibited works were mostly portraits but he soon turned to landscapes. He travelled in Holland, the Rhine and Italy in 1827. He exhibited at the Royal Academy and the British Institution, and was elected an Academician in 1810. Ruskin was of the opinion that Callcott ‘painted everything tolerably, nothing excellently’, but his work was popular during his lifetime, although his reputation subsequently declined. He married writer and traveller Maria Graham in 1827 and was knighted ten years later. From 1843 he was Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures. Retrospectives of his work were held at the British Institution in 1845 and Tate Britain in 1981.
Maria Callcott, Lady Callcott, née Dundas (1785-1842) traveller and author
Oil on canvas
height: 107.00 cm, width: 78.00 cm, depth: 6.00cm
Purchased from W M Sabin, June 1952
Collection of the artist; by whom bequeathed to Louisa Emma Petty-FitzMaurice, Marchioness of Lansdowne (1785-1851) in 1844 (on display in the Study at Lansdowne House, Berkeley Square, London, in c.1854); with Agnew’s Gallery, London; by whom sold (on behalf of George Petty-Fitzmaurice, 8th Marquess of Lansdowne) through Christie’s, London, on 16 May 1952 (Lot 116), with 'Portrait of a Lady' by John Bowden; from which sale purchased by W. Sabin; from whom purchased by the Ministry of Works in June 1952
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