Although lacking the visual appeal of many miniature portraits, this miniature is nevertheless interesting and enables the viewer to contemplate historical events, extreme wealth, and upper class (im)morality, through their connections with the 4th Earl of Egremont, a member of the immensely wealthy Wyndham family.
The overall family and its connections were so wealthy that the 4th Earl's grandfather owned the whole state of Maryland in the United States prior to the American Revolution, as well as having a Turkish style harem in London!
There is even an amazing link from the sitter to the present, as the 4th Earl was the unwitting originator of perhaps the boldest, and most fascinating, series of art frauds of the the late 20C and early 21C, which took place 150 years after his death!
Unfortunately, the miniature is unsigned, but the sitter is identified on the reverse as the 4th Earl of Egremont. Unusually for the mid 19C, the portrait is painted in oils on board. It is 100mm x 88mm in size.
As such, it is very much a miniature portrait, in that it is presumably either copied from a full sized oil portrait of about 1843, or was the preliminary model for a large oil portrait, the whereabouts of which is unknown.
The unknown artist was obviously talented and the sitter was an important man, hence it cannot be dismissed as the amateur work of a family member. The image is rare as the National Portrait Gallery in London has no images of any kind of the 4th Earl.
The reverse of the frame has been inscribed three times.
The oldest, which appears to be the original inscription is underneath a modern felt pen inscription, and reads; "The Late Earl of Egremont 1843".
This is repeated at the bottom, in writing that appears to be post World War II, although the date has been misread; "The late Earl of Egremont 1845". The modern felt pen inscription just reads; "Lord Egremont".
There is also a frame-maker's trade label which is a little hard to read.
It appears to state; "J Leverton - Carver, Gilder, Picture Frame Maker - Figures Bronzed - 13 Jubilee St, Pymouth - Drawings and Prints Varnished - Oil Paintings Cleaned - Window Corners (?) & ...... for Rooms - Ladies Work (?) Neatly Fitted Up - Glasses Polished and Restored - Paper Hanger."
With the help of a Leverton family historian, it has been possible to determine this must be for the John Leverton (1803-1875) appearing in the Plymouth, Devon, town and census records between 1836 and 1851 census as a carver and gilder. The carved and gilded frame therefore fits with the presumed date for the miniature of 1843.
It is likely the portrait was a personal possession of the 4th Earl's widow, perhaps to be carried with when she travelled by coach or rail between her various homes. For example her home at Orchard Wyndham was about 40 miles north of Silverton Park. It would have been impractical to have carried a large oil between her homes.
The American Connection
Although it might seem a very unlikely story today, the 4th Earl, via his mother Frances Mary Harford and her family, had a claim to own the whole of the state of Maryland in the United States, as her father, showing here, was Frederick Calvert, 6th Baron Baltimore (February 6, 1731 – September 4, 1771) an English nobleman and last in the line of Barons Baltimore.
Baltimore, Maryland is named for the sitter's grandfather, who was himself named for his father's friend, Frederick, Prince of Wales, seen on the right in a miniature from this collection, see also Unknown - portrait of Frederick Prince of Wales As the 6th Baron Baltimore, Calvert inherited from his father the Proprietary Governorship of the Province of Maryland when his father died in 1751.
Calvert had owned Maryland at a time of rising discontent in the colony at his family's feudal rule and amidst growing demands by the legislative assembly for an end to his family's authoritarian rule.
Frederick, however, remained aloof from the colony and never once set foot in it in his lifetime. Instead, he spent time in England and on the European continent particularly in Italy.
He also lived for a time in Constantinople where he saw and admired the customs and harems of the Turks and so on his return to England, in 1766, he caused a part of his house to be taken down, and rebuilt in the form of a Turkish harem. He kept a number of women, who had rules given them by which to regulate their conduct, and he had agents, to procure him fresh faces, from different parts of the town.
Calvert was also tried for the rape of a Sarah Woodcock a young milliner in 1768, when she was held against her will for several days in his house at Southampton Row, Bloomsbury, London before the assault. Sarah is shown here, as is a woodcut of the day titled; "Sarah Woodcock forcibly introduced to Lord Baltimore".
However at the trial Calvert was acquitted, supposedly as Sarah did not protest enough, but more likely due to his rank. That she did protest at great length is evident from the full account at The Newgate Calendar - FREDERIC LORD BALTIMORE, ELIZABETH ... and judging by the detailed report of the trial, there seems little doubt that today he would have been convicted of kidnap and rape.
The present Maryland flag is based upon the yellow and black Calvert coat of arms, quartered with the red and white of Crossland, the arms of wife of an early Calvert. The colony was ruled through governors appointed by Calvert, such as Horatio Sharpe and Robert Eden.
Frederick, Baron Baltimore's frequent travels made him difficult to contact and meant that Maryland was largely ruled without his input. Calvert lived a life of leisure, writing verse and regarding the Province of Maryland as little more than a source of revenue.
He married Lady Diana Egerton, daughter of Scroop Egerton, 1st Duke of Bridgewater, but did not get along with her and they spent most of their married life apart. She died in 1758 without having had any children. Frederick moved to the continent where he remained until he died in Naples in 1771.
Calvert had numerous illegitimate children by various women and attempted to support them. He willed Maryland to his illegitimate son, Henry Harford. The colony recognized Harford as Calvert's heir but this was challenged by the family of Lord Baltimore's sister, Louisa Calvert Browning, who contested the will unsuccessfully.
By the time Henry reached adulthood, Maryland was engulfed by the American Revolution and was at war with Britain. He ultimately lost his possessions in Maryland but remained wealthy due to his father's extensive holdings in Great Britain.
Henry Harford’s claim to Maryland was exploited for years after his death in 1834. The latest major case was the United States Supreme Court case Morris v. US, in 1899, in which one of Harford’s descendants attempted to claim a part of the Potomac River from the District of Columbia. See Henry Harford
The 4th Earl and his Family
To give him his full name, the sitter is George Francis Wyndham, 4th Earl of Egremont, 7th Baron Cockermouth of Cumberland, and 7th Baronet of Orchard Wyndham in Somerset (1785–1845).
George Francis Wyndham, 4th Earl of Egremont was born on 30 August 1785. He was the elder son of Hon. William Frederick Wyndham (6 Apr 1763 - 11Feb 1828) a diplomat who was himself the fourth son of the 2nd Earl and envoy extraordinary to the Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1794 to 1814.
The appointment of the 4th Earl's father was a considerable surprise, Lady Holland recording in her journal: "I went to supper at Lord. Elgin's. Nobody would credit that W. Wyndham was appointed Minister to Florence; "Comment done, ce petit polisson (rascal), ce petit Jacobin." He passed last winter here, and belonged to the Jacobin Club at Paris, and was very much slighted here. Lord Elgin frankly told me he doubted my story, it was impossible that such a man could be employed."
And also; "W. Wyndham's appointment is not much relished, as the Court want a steady, reasonable man, disposed to soothe matters, and, God knows, poor Wyndham is not capable of filling that post." See Full text of "The journal of Elizabeth lady Holland : (1791-1811)"
William married Frances Mary Harford on 21 July 1784, and they had a son, later the 4th Earl, and three daughters. Frances Mary Harford was the natural daughter of Frederick Calvert, 6th and last Baron Baltimore of Ireland, who is discussed above in more depth, under the heading of The American Connection.
William secondly married Julia de Smorzewska, Countess de Spyterki and by her had a son, Arthur Wyndham (1813-1874) but it is not entirely clear why he did not inherit the Earldom after the death of the 4th Earl. Most likely, because they were not married until at the time of Arthur's the birth.
Thus by his marriage to Frances, William Fredrick Wyndham left issue besides the 4th Earl;
1 - Frances who on 11 July 1809 married William Miller Esq of Ozleworth Park
2 - Laura who in 1812 married the Rev Charles Boultbee who was born 31 Mar 1783 and died Sept 1833 (Showing here in a miniature from this collection, is the nephew of Charles and Laura, Edward Francis Boultbee (1812-1897), see Unknown - portrait of Edward Francis Boultbee )
3 - Julia who died unmarried 23 Jan 1811
4 - William born July 1794 who died an infant The peerage of the British empire as at present existing. To which is added the baronetage By Lodge Edmund
Although the 4th Earl looks very formal and correct in the miniature, he was described in 1823 by Henry Edward Fox during a dinner at Petworth House as; "Besides these illegitimates, we had Captain Wyndham, who will, at the death of his uncles
and father, become Lord Egremont. He seems a coarse, vulgar, uneducated, stupid man, married to a good-looking woman who has no children." Full text of "The journal of Henry Edward Fox (afterwards fourth ...
At the time of writing this entry, Helen Storey Antiques has this oil portrait for sale. It is by John Opie, British (1761-1807) and is a portrait of the mother of the 4th Earl, which was formerly in the collection of Z. Marshall Crane (1815-1887) (founder of the Berkshire Museum and third-generation owner of Crane & Co., MA).
The sitter being Frances Mary Harford, born 1769, daughter of Frederick Lord Baltimore, wife of William Frederick Wyndham. Another portrait of Miss Harford by George Romney is in the Frick Collection. 47” H. x 35” w. the canvas, 55” h. x 43” w. framed.
According to some Internet references, the 4th Earl had a half-brother Arthur Wynham born 19 April 1813 and who died 29 March 1874 at the age of 63. Arthur Wyndham attained the rank of Colonel in the Madras Army. There is an account of Arthur's career and pictures of his medals at Col. Wyndham
George Francis Wyndham, a staunch Conservative, married Jane Roberts on 14 November 1820.
The Roberts, a Touch of Eton, and a 19C Fraud
Jane Roberts was the third daughter of Reverend William Roberts (29 May 1762-1833), Vice Provost of Eton College and Rector of St Mary's church, Worplesdon, Surrey from 1801-1833, Surrey and sister to Capt John Walter Roberts RN on .
As noted above with her father-in-law's appointment as Envoy to Tuscany, there was controversy over the appointment of Jane's father William Roberts to the position of Fellow of Eton at the age of only 25,which position he held from 12 June 1786 until 1833, also being Vice-Provost of Eton from 1818-1833.
William Roberts being the son of William Hayward Roberts (12 Aug 1734-91) of Gloucester; B.A. 1757, M.A. 1760, D.D. 1773, Assistant at Eton (1759-1771), Scholar and Fellow of Eton and King's (19 Feb. 1771-Dec 1781), Provost of Eton (1781-1791) and then Chaplin to King George III 1772-1791. William Hayward Roberts married twice, firstly Jane : she was buried 4 Aug. 1776 and secondly Charlotte, sister of Thomas Chamberlayne. Charlotte died 5 Dec. 1791.
Neither William Hayward Roberts, nor his son were well regarded, it being recorded; "There is little that need be said with regard to the three provosts who held sway during this period. Neither Stephen Sleech, 1746-65, nor William Hayward Roberts, 1781-91, was a man of any particular brilliance", and "Similarly the election of William Roberts [as Fellow], son of another Provost, to so comfortable a sinecure, at the age of twenty-five, although of Eton and King's, comes as something of a shock, especially when we find that in order to qualify he had to procure his M.A. degree from Lambeth." See Full text of "The Eton College register, 1753-1790 ...
William Hayward Roberts was both a minor author and a minor capitalist. In the latter part of the eighteenth century, the practice of assistant masters at Eton taking boarders was gradually creeping in. Probably these were taken at first as private pupils, and at a much higher fee than boys were in the habit of paying to their dames. Evidence of this is to be found in the account-book of William Hayward Roberts who, while he was assistant, from 1759 to 1771, had always some half-dozen boarders living with him and paying about 100 per annum, at a time when the usual charge of a dame was but 25.
William Hayward Roberts was Rector of Farnham Royal in Buckinghamshire. In 1771 he published in three parts A Poetical Essay on the Attributes and Providence of the Deity. Two years afterwards; A Poetical Epistle to Christopher Anstey on the English Poets, chiefly those who had written in blank verse and in 1774 his poem of Judah Restored a work of no common merit Specimens of the British Poets With Biographical and Critical Notices, and an Essay on English Poetry By Thomas Campbell
In an uncanny parallel with the late 20C Great Art Fraud mentioned below, which was based on possessions of the 4th Earl, the poetical works of William Hayward Roberts were the basis for fraudulent forgeries made 100 years after his death by Alexander Howland Smith - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. The full story by David Fergus is at Textualities: Antique Smith the Affable Forger but in brief, Towards the end of 1886 a second-hand bookseller, Andrew Brown, had a visitor who called at his shop at 15 Bristo Place, in Edinburgh, offering him an album that contained a number of letters and autographs, including some by Sir Walter Scott, Admiral Cochrane and Thackeray.
This seems to have been the first appearance of the mysterious manuscripts that flooded Edinburgh over the next five years. Letters, poems, single autographs and every type of historic document appeared in bookshops, auction salerooms and pawnshops. One of the keenest book-collectors in Edinburgh was Mr James Mackenzie of 2 Rillbank Crescent who decided to sell some of his famous Rillbank Collection by auction in Edinburgh in May 1891. Before the start of the sale, the auctioneer made a curious disclaimer. Some people, he said, had claimed that these items were forgeries. In view of this warning, the prices realised were low.
Three months later, the Cumnock Express printed an unpublished letter of Burns' which was part of Mr Mackenzie's Rillbank Collection. The letter was addressed to a Mr John Hill, weaver, of Cumnock who was apparently an old friend of Burns. A reader of the Express, a keen Burnsian, went to the trouble of researching the history of John Hill and discovered that there had never been anyone of that name in Cumnock, weaver or otherwise. He suggested that there was something suspicious about the Rillbank Collection and asked for its history.
An expert in historic documents, a Mr Colvill-Scott of Surrey, then entered the controversy and declared that there were dozens of Scott and Burns forgeries circulating in Scotland. Mr Mackenzie's answer to this was to publish in the Express two unpublished Burns poems from his collection. One was called 'The Poor Man's Prayer' and the other 'Some verses written after hearing a sermon in Tarbolton Kirk.'
Poor Mr Mackenzie! Unfortunately for him one of the readers of the Cumnock Express happened to be exceptionally well-read in the minor poetry of the eighteenth century, and he recognised that 'The Poor Man's Prayer' had been published in 1766 when Burns was only seven. It was the work of William Hayward Roberts, a Provost of Eton, who had also written the 'Tarbolton' poem. When challenged, Mackenzie tried to bluster that he had discovered his forgeries in a secret drawer in an old cabinet.
Another well-known Edinburgh bookseller was involved in this shady business. He was Mr James Stillie of 19a George Street, described as a "highclass amateur MS collector." He had a hatred of "experts," as well he might, as experts declared that a bundle of Burns and Scott letters that he had sold to an English collector were palpable forgeries.
Stillie claimed to know better than the experts as he had known Sir Walter Scott personally for over fifty years. If true, this would have made Mr Stillie at least 107 years old. (In fact he was 88 at the time). Meanwhile an American collector to whom Stillie had sold 202 Burns manuscripts became worried about the reports of fakes, and sent these manuscripts to the British Museum where handwriting experts guaranteed that 201 of the 202 manuscripts were fakes.
These British Museum experts fared better than their successors at the British Museum managed with the 4th Earl's possessions over 100 years later!
Jane's brother, Captain John Walter Roberts (1792-1845) appears here wearing full dress uniform of the 1812–25 pattern and could either be a commander, to which he was promoted in 1814, or a captain in 1823. The portrait is owned by National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
John Roberts entered the Navy in 1804 as a volunteer in the ‘Medusa’ commanded by his uncle Sir John Gore, under whom he escorted Lord Cornwallis as Governor-General to India, covering the return journey of 13,831 miles in a remarkable 82 days. In 1806 as a midshipman in the ‘Revenge’ he served off Brest and L’Orient and for nine months at the blockade of Rochefort where he witnessed on 25 September the capture of four French frigates by a squadron under Sir Samuel Hood.
In March 1822 Rear admiral Sir Charles Rowley despatched Captain John Edward Walcott in his majesty's frigate Tyne and having under his orders the sloop Thracian Commander John Walter Roberts, to endeavour to extirpate the piratical vessels which infested the West India station and which generally made the different ports of the island of Cuba their rendezvous. This arduous task involved searching 400 miles of coast in order to examine the different creeks and inlets where small vessels could be sheltered and concealed
Captain John Walter Roberts married Frances Sargent on 15 November 1825 at Woolavington, Sussex, Frances being a daughter of John Sargent, who had been Secretary to the Treasury. Two of Frances Sargent's sisters, married brothers who were younger sons of the famous philanthropist, William Wilberforce (1759-1833). See A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Commoners of Great ... - Google Books Result
The 4th Earl in the Royal Navy, Silverton House, and Blackborough House
The 4th Earl was also a Captain in the Royal Navy, he was a FSA (Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries), and a patron of the arts.
George had entered the Royal Navy in 1799, became a Lieutenant in 1806, Commander in 1810, and Captain in 1812. He was midshipman in his Majesty's ship Canopus in Sir John Duckworth's action off St Domingo February 1809, commanded his Majesty's sloop Hawk from 1810 to 1812, and commanded the Bristol troop ship from 1812 to the end of 1814 in the Mediterranean and at the siege of Tarragona. See The Gentleman's Magazine - Google Books Result
HMS Canopus, showing here on a transfer printed plate, had an extraordinarily long life for a wooden ship, launched in 1797 and scrapped in 1887. It was originally a French ship named Franklin and was captured at the Battle of the Nile in 1798.
Despite the family wealth, while he was a midshipman in 1802 he was short of money and there are various letters from 1802 to 1806 between George and the 3rd Earl about his debts at The National Archives | Access to Archives
George inherited the title on the death of his uncle, George O'Brien Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont (18 Dec 1751 - 11 Nov 1837), but he only inherited the old entailed estates of the family in the west of England, including the home at Orchard Wyndham showing here.
The 3rd Earl had omitted to marry the mother of his nine children, so while the Somerset and Devon estates went to the 4th Earl, the grand family home at Petworth in Sussex which was left to the 3rd Earl's illegitimate son and adopted heir, Colonel George Wyndham.
Even so, the 4th Earl had not been left destitute as he inherited large estates in the West of England, he was very disappointed not to acquire Petworth House!
The 4th Earl therefore decided to create a large home at Silverton House (aka Silverton Park), one mile west of the village of Silverton and seven miles north of Exeter.
He employed James Thomas Knowles senior (d 1874) of Reigate as architect. Knowles's plan was for a house about 600 feet long.
The final scheme was slightly smaller but even so resulted in a mansion, covering an acre of land, of 187 rooms, 130 marble mantelpieces and 150 cellars. It was built from 1839–1845, but the inside was never to be finished entirely as the 4th Earl died in 1845.
The main house at Silverton Park was demolished in 1902, but these two views of the stables suggest the house must have been a monumental edifice. It was described as "a large and elegant mansion, in the florid and ornamental Grecian order of architecture."
On the death of the 4th Earl on 2 April 1845 at age 59 at Silverton House, his titles, being the Barony of Cockermouth and Earldom of Egremont became extinct. His remains were interred in the family vault at Orchard Wyndham.
There are over 275 boxes of documents relating to the Wyndham family and Silverton House in the National Archives, see particularly box 98 at The National Archives | Access to Archives
His widow continued to live at Siverton Park and Orchard Wyndham after his death as the Right Hon. Jane, Countess of Egremont. She died on 18 Dec 1876 at Orchard Wyndham, her seat near Taunton, when she was in her 78th year.
The Countess was lady of the manor of Silverton, in the county of Devon, and patron of six livings. The 1845 will of Lord Egremont, provided that part of the Silverton and Orchard Wyndham estates be preserved as "pleasure grounds".
There was a major sale of the contents of Silverton House in 1892 some years after the death of the Countess. After the sale of the contents, Silverton House was demolished with dynamite in 1902.
One wonders if the miniature was included in the 1892 auction catalogue, which can be seen in the above photo. The sale raised £1818 13s 0d and was described as "Dec.6th-8th 1892 Silverton Park: antique furniture; library of about 1000 books; collection of Etruscan and Egyptian pottery; about 60 bed, dressing, and reception rooms."
The sale proceeds seem to be very low for so many rooms, so presumably the Wyndham family had held back all the valuable items.
Silverton House was not the only house built by the 4th Earl at this time.
In 1838 he commenced the sixty room Blackborough House at Blackborough in Devon. It was built in the Italianate style for the 4th Earl during 1838-40, but was never entirely finished.
The choice of the Italianate or Tuscan architectural style was probably a reflection of his childhood living in Tuscany where his father was the ambassador.
In 2003 the Grade II Listed Blackborough House was on the market for £1,000,000.
It is about ten miles from Silverton. It has lasted (marginally) better than Silverton House, as it still exists, although it is now famous as a car wrecker's yard as seen here!
The probable background to Blackborough House, is that the 4th Earl was building it as his Devon country home while his uncle was still alive and he had hopes of inheriting Petworth.
However, when he found in 1837 that he had not inherited Petworth, he decided Blackborough House was not grand enough for him and so decided to build Silverton House instead.
Much later, Blackborough House was a short-lived and obscure YHA youth hostel. It was called 'Spiceland Hostel' though it was some distance south of the hamlet of that name. It opened in 1943 and closed in winter 1946-47.
It had been in a neglected state for some time by that period and had been used by the Quakers as a safe haven for refugees from the Nazi regime until they could find ordinary work.
If the house appeals to you now as a potential buyer, you may be interested to know that as recently as 19 September 2008, the Times newspaper featured Blackborough House as still being available for purchase as its; "Wreck of the Week". Describing it thus:
What? - The Grade II-listed remains of a manor house with potential for up to 12 bedrooms and six reception rooms, subject to planning, plus 12acres of land. In all, 20,000 sq ft.
Where? - Blackborough, Cullompton, Devon.
How much? - £1.5 million.
How wrecked? - It's been a scrapyard for 15 years. “The scrap might be worth more than the house,” the agent says.
How much will I have to spend? - At least £2 million to do it up and achieve a value of about £5 million.
With any luck, the present 2008 financial crisis may mean a bid at the reported 2003 price of £1,000,000 may be successful! See Wreck of the week - Times Online
Not content with this in 1838 the 4th Earl also paid £1900 towards the rebuilding of the All Saints church at Blackborough in the Early English style. The ancient parish of Blackborough is now united with Kentisbeare for all purposes.
The Earls of Egremont
Earl of Egremont was a title in the Peerage of Great Britain. It was created in 1749, along with the subsidiary title of Baron Cockermouth, for Algernon Seymour, 7th Duke of Somerset, with remainder to his nephews Sir Charles Wyndham, 4th Baronet, of Orchard Wyndham, and Percy Wyndham-O’Brien. The Duke had previously inherited the Percy estates, including the lands of Egremont in Cumberland, from his mother Lady Elizabeth Percy, daughter and heiress of Joceline Percy, 11th Earl of Northumberland.
The succession was:
- Algernon Seymour, 7th Duke of Somerset, 1st Earl of Egremont (1684–1750)
- Charles Wyndham, 2nd Earl of Egremont (1710–1763) showing in an oil portrait
- George O'Brien Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont (1751–1837)
- George Francis Wyndham, 4th Earl of Egremont (1785–1845)
The 3rd Earl showing here in an oil painting by Thomas Phillips was known as a patron of the arts. He also sponsored the Petworth Emigration Scheme, which sent thousands of working-class people from the south of England to Upper Canada between 1832 and 1837. He was also a contributor to the formation of the Board of Agriculture.
Lord Egremont collected mistresses as enthusiastically as he did paintings, and begat "43 children who all live in the house with him and their respective mothers", according to Countess Spencer. Even his wife had been his mistress for 17 years before they married, with the result that their first seven children were illegitimate.
It was perhaps inevitable, given the later stigma attached to bastardy in Victorian days, that the 3rd Earl's sons and grandsons would turn against him and all that he stood for. Although his heirs acquired the new earldom of Leconfield in 1859, they did not allow the Egremont name to be mentioned in the family, and devoted themselves to huntin', shootin' and fishin'.
As with many social changes, the major reason for Victorian stigma to suddenly attach to bastardy flowed from the actions of the British Royal Family.
The sons of George III had been casual with their relationships during his 60 year reign 1760-1820, when succession faded from memory and which culminated in the Regency period 1811-1820. His sons had many illegitimate children, and society followed suit.
However, the unfortunate death of the Princess Charlotte of Wales in childbirth in 1817, and the realisation there was no clear line of succession, suddenly caused a rush by her uncles to produce a legitimate heir to the throne, in the event they themselves might succeed to the throne.
After the short reigns of George IV 1820-1830 and William IV 1830-1837, the "race" was won by Queen Victoria in 1837.
The realisation of the importance of legitimacy for the transfer of titles, then flowed to society and nobles like the 3rd Earl quickly married their mistresses in the hope of producing a legitimate heir, although in his case, he had failed to do so before his death in 1837.
His nephew, the 4th Earl thus inherited but died in 1845, also without producing an heir, so the Egremont title became extinct.
The large Wyndham estates, including Petworth House in Sussex passed to Colonel George Wyndham who was the natural son and adopted heir of the third Earl. In 1859 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Leconfield.
However, there was a second creation of the title as Baron Egremont in 1963 for the great-great-grandson of Baron Leconfield, with the succession since then being:
- John Edward Reginald Wyndham, 6th Baron Leconfield, 1st Baron Egremont (1920-1972) (Who served as Private Secretary to Prime Minister Harold Macmillan from 1957 to 1963)
- John Max Henry Scawen Wyndham, 7th Baron Leconfield, 2nd Baron Egremont (b. 1948).
He is shown here and is more commonly known as Max Egremont. He has written a number of historical biographies, and is also a novelist.
His published works have been well received and include;
Perhaps there is scope for Max Egremont to write a fuller account of the 4th Earl and the art fraud than can be been written here.
The Fictional 5th Earl
It is hardly surprising that the death of the 4th Earl and the extinction of the title seems to have provided the inspiration for a fictional novel about a son of the 4th Earl, who would have been the 5th Earl.
The novel is by Edith Layton and is entitled "The Return of the Earl". The author describes it thus: "Passion Comes Home
After fifteen years in cruel exile, Christian has finally returned to England to claim his rightful title. The new Earl of Egremont was a mere child when he was banished. Lovely and charming Julianne Lowell, who knew him then, must now determine if this suave and handsome mystery man is who he claims to be.
But why would she not remember those eyes that sparkle like flawless gems? Christian is like no man she has ever met - elegant and well-bred, but secretive and quite possibly dangerous, and seething with a sensual fire that steals her breath away. To trust this dashing stranger could place Julianne in grave peril if he is, in fact, playing a game of deception. But with her heart leaping madly at his slightest touch, how can she deny Christian the love and passion they both fervently desire?"
I have not read it, but it sounds like a good old "bodice ripper"!! I notice a copy for sale on eBay for $1, so it is obviously destined to become a literary classic.
The Wyndham Family, Orchard Wyndham, and Petworth
Orchard Wyndham is a historic house parts of which date from medieval times near Williton, Somerset, England. There is evidence of occupation of the site from Roman and Saxon times.
The estate was originally called "Orchard", possibly a corruption of the Saxon family name "De Horcherd". In 1448 it then passed into the hands of the Sydenham family of Coombe Sydenham, and was known as Orchard Sydenham. Elizabeth Sydenham inherited the house and in 1528 married John Wyndham (c.1500-1574) of Felbrigg, Norfolk.
John Wyndham, scion of a Norfolk family from Wymondham, ten miles south-west of Norwich, married fortunately when he chose Elizabeth Sydenham and bought out her sister.
The house hitherto occupied by the Sydenham sisters, Orchard Sydenham, changed its name when Sir William Wyndham, the Member of Parliament for Somerset 1656-1658 and for Taunton 1660-1679, was made a Baronet in 1661, of Orchard, Somerset. The house has remained in the same family ever since.
It was an opportune moment to acquire such an estate: agriculture had been profitable for 100 years and it made sense to invest in improvements. Revealingly, techniques were so backward it was wise practice to read classical authors like Virgil (especially his Georgics), not so much for literary pleasure, but for practical instruction and advice for better husbandry. John Wyndham built an extension of the house to the north (later demolished between 1780 and 1830) for their own use, appropriating the original for staff quarters.
His son John (1559-1645) looked after his succession by siring nine sons and six daughters; keeping out of the Civil War, he managed to preserve his estates intact. For his Royalist loyalty, Charles II gave him the clock still to be seen at the house.
Sir William Wyndham (1687-1740) was considered by Disraeli the most important member of the family so far. Partly through marriage to a Seymour but largely through his own enterprise and efforts, he became leader of the Hanoverian Tories and Chancellor of Exchequer in his late 20s.
Charles Wyndham, 2nd Earl of Egremont PC (1710 – 21 August 1763), a son of Sir William Wyndham and a direct descendant of Sir John Wyndham, succeeded his uncle, Algernon Seymour, 7th Duke of Somerset, as 2nd Earl of Egremont in 1750. Charles, who had succeeded to his father's baronetcy in 1740, inherited Somerset's estates in Cumberland and Sussex.
Wyndham was a member of Parliament from 1734 to 1750: for Bridgwater 1734-1741, Appleby 1741-1747, and Taunton 1747-1750. In October 1761 he was appointed Secretary of State for the Southern Department in succession to William Pitt. His term of office, during which he acted in concert with his brother-in-law, George Grenville, was mainly occupied with the declaration of war on Spain and with the negotiations for peace with France and Spain, the terms of which the earl seems to have disliked. He was also involved with the proceedings against John Wilkes. He died on 21 August 1763. Horace Walpole perhaps rates Egremont's talents too low when he says he had neither knowledge of business, nor the smallest share of parliamentary abilities.
He was Lord Lieutenant of Cumberland 1751-1763 and Lord Lieutenant of Sussex 1762-1763.
As Earls of Egmont the senior branch lived at Petworth, showing here and making that the major estate.
Unfortunately, the 3rd earl had omitted to marry the mothers of his children, so the Somerset and Devon estates went to his nephew, as featured in the miniature and the remaining estates went to other family members. Thus dividing family and estate.
One of the 3rd Earl's natural children is believed to have been Viscountess Palmerston - Emily Mary (Amelia) Temple (née Lamb) 1787-1869 who was a noted political hostess. She was born on 21 April 1787, the fifth surviving child of Elizabeth Lamb, née Milbank, Viscountess Melbourne (1751-1818).
It was rumored that Lord Coleraine sold Elizabeth Lamb to Lord Egremont for £13,000 and that both Elizabeth and her husband were parties to this contract and got shares of the money. She not only got money from this contract, but two children as well.
Elizabeth Milbank was the daughter of a baronet and grew into a beautiful, intelligent, clever girl. At 18 she was married to Peniston Lamb and immediately set herself in organizing his rather disorganized affairs. That included overseeing the building of Melbourne House. After she had successfully fulfilled her duties of getting her husband's affairs in order and giving him an heir Elizabeth retired, if you will, to a hedonistic lifestyle of debauchery and scandal. She was a close friend of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.
Thus her daughter Emily Mary (Amelia) was ostensibly and legally the child of Peniston Lamb, first Viscount Melbourne (1745–1828), but her natural father was more probably the 3rd Earl of Egremont. She received her formal education (such as it was) from governesses, but learned the skills for her future life as a political hostess from her adored mother and her mother's close friend, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. She also acquired their loose interpretation of sexual morality, a firm sense of family, and the ‘Devonshire House drawl’, a distinctive mode of pronunciation common to the whig aristocracy.
This was all before the onset of Victorian prudery. But the more of families such as this must have been an influence on Queen Victoria and the changed attitudes of the mid to late 19C. However, at the time, the Wyndham family were patrons of the arts who also aspired to aristocratic grandeur — as exemplified in the Devon estate centred on Silverton Park.
Over 100 years more recently, inhabitants of the Orchard Wyndham home have included William Wyndham (died 1950), who was involved in historical research and philanthropy, and his succeeding nephew, who died young. These deaths were early and unfortunate for the Wyndham family.
The main family home, Petworth House at Petworth, West Sussex, England, is a late 17th-century mansion, rebuilt in 1688 by Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset, and altered in the 1870s by Anthony Salvin. The site was previously occupied by a fortified manor house founded by Henry de Percy, the 13th-century chapel and undercroft of which still survive.
For the past 250 years, the Petworth house and estate have been in the hands of the Wyndham family — currently John Max Henry Scawen Wyndham, 2nd Baron Egremont & 7th Baron Leconfield, a direct descendant of Sir John Wyndham. He and his family live in the south wing, allowing much of the remainder to be open to the public.
Petworth stands in a 700 acre landscaped park, known as Petworth Park, which was designed by 'Capability' Brown. The park is one of the more famous in England, largely on account of a number of pictures of it which were painted by Turner. It is inhabited by the largest herd of fallow deer in England. There is also a 30 acre woodland garden, known as the Pleasure Ground.
Even by the standards of late Georgian England, Petworth was regarded as an eccentric household. he 3rd Earl, George O'Brien Wyndham was passionately interested in agriculture, racehorses, art and fishing. He only married his mistress after they already had five children, which caused untold complications with his estate. He collected books, paintings, sculptures, and ancient servants: one visitor complained that after 8pm it was impossible to get a drink because all the servants were either drunk or had tottered off to bed. In addition, Petworth had artists like other houses had mice.
Agriculture was a prime interest of the 3rd Earl, who was hailed as "one of the fathers of modern English agriculture". His pigs were accommodated in grand style near the house and roamed freely on the lawns (perhaps the inspiration for PG Wodehouse's Lord Emsworth and his prize sow, the Empress of Blandings, as seen here). Lord Egremont's daughter-in-law was once astounded to see a sow and her litter "get in through a window and gallop down through the rooms".
For some time the painter JMW Turner (1775-1851), showing here in a self portrait, lived at Petworth House, and in addition to Turner, the painter Leslie, the sculptor Flaxman and other talented artists received commissions from Egremont, who filled Petworth with valuable works of art. However, after the 3rd Earl's death all the artists were immediately banished by the family.
Today's Petworth building houses an important collection of paintings and sculptures, including 19 oil paintings by Turner (some owned by the family, some by Tate Britain), paintings by Van Dyck, carvings by Grinling Gibbons, classical and neo-classical sculptures (including ones by John Flaxman and John Edward Carew), and wall and ceiling paintings by Louis Laguerre. There is also a terrestrial globe by Emery Molyneux, believed to the only one in the world in its original 1592 state.
However, Petworth has not always been highly regarded!
For example an account by Henry Edward Fox (1802-1859), who was afterwards 4th and last Lord Holland. He was the son of Henry Richard Fox, the 3rd Lord Holland who is seen here in a 1795 portrait by Francois-Xavier Fabre (1766-1837).
Henry was very critical when he described a visit to Petworth in October 1823. "On Saturday the 25th we went to Petworth. To this extraordinary place I have not been for several years, and it struck me as more remarkable this time than it ever did before. No order, no method, no improvement or alteration, has been established since it first belonged to Lord Egremont. The want of comforts, of regularity, and still more the total absence of cleanliness, made it, splendid and beautiful as it is, far from being agreeable. Society too seems as little attended to as anything else. People of all descriptions, without any connection or acquaintance with each other, are gathered together and huddled up at the dinner table, which is the only point of reunion during the whole day. The inmates when we were there chiefly consisted of the various branches, legitimates and illegitimates, of his family : his three daughters and their three husbands, Lady Burrell, Mrs G. FitzClarence, Mrs King ; two of his sons, G. Wyndham 1 and H. Wyndham, the former of whom has married a very pretty and pleasing woman, daughter of a neighbouring clergyman. The latter from compulsion has married a daughter of Lord Charles Somerset's, the greatest monster ever beheld more like Swift's description of a female Yahoo than anything human. Lady Burrell is a charming woman, with very pretty unassuming manners, and with some drollery about her when her shyness wears off ; she is by far the best of the three. Mrs Fitzclarence seems a poor, sickly, discontented, fault-finding woman, with the airs and graces of a beauty still remaining when the actual claims to such a character are gone by. Mrs King is only just married to a sickly, dullish man, a great deal older than herself, with whom she seems to be still in love. Besides these illegitimates, we had Captain Wyndham, who will, at the death of his uncles and father, become Lord Egremont. He seems a coarse, vulgar, uneducated, stupid man, married to a good-looking woman who has no children, daughter of Dr Roberts, of Eton. Petworth and most part of the estates are unsettled, and Lord E. may leave them to whoever he likes best. What heart-burnings and jealousies there must exist ! Nobody knows what is his intention, and he is such a restless, unsettled man that I should not be surprized if he changed his mind thirty times in the 24 hours."
(Henry Edward Fox was the great-nephew of Charles James Fox, the leader of the Whig Party in British politics who is shown here in a miniature portrait from this collection, see Unknown - portrait of Charles James Fox )
Henry continued: "The George Lambs, Westmacott and M. Vaudreuil, who is one of Polignac's attache's and is a clever, agreable, lively little man, were also in the house. G. Lamb from intemperance laid himself up with the gout. Westmacott came down to see where a bas-relief of his should be placed, which he has just completed. He is a pompous, conceited little man, and very much occupied with his own fame. He gave himself great airs and offended Lord E., who, from his great deference for whatever is Greek, called him Westmacotteles. His bas-relief is taken from an ode in Horace, and some of it is well executed ; but on the whole I think it stiff and affected. The sleeping child is too like an infant Hercules ; the figure of Venus is a portrait, but he is bound to secrecy as to the original's name. It is the mistress of some man about in society.
George FitzClarence is so extremely goodhumoured, and seems in such perpetual good spirits that it is impossible to dislike him. He spoke of Charles with such warmth of affection, that had he no other recommendation I should have liked him for that. He has a sort of quickness about him that perhaps does not amount to cleverness, but is not far from it. He is writing a book upon military history and reads a great deal for the purpose ; but it is such a vast field to enter upon and he writes in such a rambling manner, that there is great doubt if he will ever bring it to a conclusion. I rode with him and Vaudreuil to Cowdray. We met the Pointzs at their park gate and rode with them. The beauty was looking very well. They are a dull family, and their conversation consists only of a sort of praise of their Creator by extolling all his creatures far beyond their deserts, a sort of exaggerated optimism that alas ! produces a very different effect upon their hearers. The park at Cowdray is very fine and full of splendid trees, especially Spanish chestnuts.
Lord Egremont himself is very agreable, but it is almost impossible to catch him for a moment, for he passes his life in eternal locomotion from one room to another without sitting for an instant. There are few people who might have made a greater figure in the world than he might, but like many others he has preferred a life of enjoyment to one of celebrity, and has done very little in politicks. His understanding is very good, and his turn for sarcasm and satire is unrivalled. If he cares much for the ridiculous pride of family and aristocracy, the state his family is now in must annoy him a good deal ; but I should think he was above caring for those farcical distinctions, though one never can know. Like beauty, most people who possess rank and great family set a value upon it much higher than sometimes their understandings and opinions would lead one to suppose ; and those who have it not envy and decry it, for in the amiable breast of man divine distinction seldom fails of producing vanity in its possessors and envy in its beholders.
We went over for two nights to Lord R. Spencer's, which is in the greatest contrast to Petworth in every way. Small, comfortable, and quite luxurious, from the perpetual attentions of its owners to the comfort and convenience of their guests and of themselves." See Full text of "The journal of Henry Edward Fox (afterwards fourth ...
There were also more favourable impressions of Petworth.
The 'Golden Age' of Petworth came with Sir Charles Wyndham's eldest son, George, 3rd Earl of Egremont (1751-1837), patron of the arts, ideal landlord, agriculturalist, and generous host, famous both for his extreme shyness in London's social circle as for his immense hospitality to all at Petworth. He is said to have entertained upwards of 6000 of the local poor at one time in the house and grounds, and over a period of 60 years to have spent in excess of £1,200,000 on charitable purposes. Numerous artists visited and worked at Petworth, most notable of all being Turner, many of whose paintings hang in the house, while Blake, Hayley, B. R. Haydon, Phillips, Farington and Greville all recorded the immense generosity of their host. He introduced many agricultural reforms under the expert guidance of Arthur Young, and took great interest in road and waterway improvements. In 1774 he took also the surname of Obrien, which he inherited with the estate of his late uncle, the Earl of Thomond, a family connection which arose from the marriage of a daughter of the 6th Duke of Somerset. He was Lord Lieutenant of Sussex from 1819-1835. At least two attempts were made to marry him into society, but it was Elizabeth Ilive, the daughter of a master at Westminster School, who bore him his nine children, and whom he eventually married in 1801. On account of this oversight, on his death in 1837 the title passed to his nephew, George, on whose death in 1845 it became extinct. However, the estate passed to his eldest son, Col. George Wyndham who in 1859 took the title of Leconfield. In 1947 Petworth was conveyed with a large endowment to the National Trust, to be preserved for the nation. The National Archives | Access to Archives
There is even a connection with the infamous Russian Cold War spy and art historian Sir Anthony Blunt, who rearranged the paintings at Petworth after the acquisition by the National Trust, despite a tradition that the paintings should remain as the 3rf Earl left them.
The Wyndham Family and the Arts
Many important art works remain at Petworth, but others have passed through the hands of the Earls of Egremont.
For example this 1633 portrait of a young lady with a fan by Rembrandt now owned by the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
The provenance being; George O'Brien Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont, Petworth House, Sussex (by 1822–d. 1837); his nephew, George Francis Wyndham, 4th Earl of Egremont, Petworth House (1837–d. 1845); the 3rd Earl's natural son, Colonel George Wyndham, later 1st Baron Leconfield, Petworth House (1845–d. 1869); Henry Wyndham, 2nd Baron Leconfield, Petworth House (1869–d. 1901); Charles Henry Wyndham, 3rd Baron Leconfield, Petworth House (1901–28; cat., 1920, no. 105); [Knoedler, London and New York, 1928; sold to Scott & Fowles]; [Scott & Fowles, New York, 1928–30; sold to Neilson]; Helen Swift (Mrs. Francis) Neilson, Chicago (1930–43)
Another painting owned by the 4th Earl was this Pieta by Moretto da Brescia an Italian artist (1498 - 1554) now owned by The National Gallery if Art in Washington.
The provenance is; George Francis Wyndham, 4th Earl of Egremont [d. 1845], Orchard Wyndham, Somerset, England; life interest inherited by his widow, Jane Roberts Wyndham, Countess of Egremont [d. 1876], Orchard Wyndham; by inheritance to William Wyndham [d. 1914], Orchard Wyndham; (Wyndham [Egremont] sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 26 November 1892); Sir Francis Cook, 1st Bt. [1817-1901], Doughty House, Richmond, Surrey; by inheritance to his son, Sir Frederick Lucas Cook, 2nd Bt. [1844-1920], Doughty House; by inheritance to his son, Sir Herbert Frederick Cook, 3rd Bt. [1868-1939], Doughty House; by inheritance to his son, Sir Francis Ferdinand Maurice Cook, 4th Bt. [1907-1978], Doughty House, and Cothay Manor, Somerset; (Francis A. Drey, London); sold February 1947 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1952 to NGA.
As mentioned JWM Turner was a guest at Petworth and was given the Old Library, with its huge east window, for his studio whenever he chose to stay. It can be seen here in a watercolour by Turner himself.
It is recorded that "Uncouth, eccentric and reclusive" (he spent his last years living under an assumed name), Turner would not have been a welcome guest at many noblemen's houses, but his friendship with Lord Egremont was clearly a close one. Much against his reclusive nature, Turner even appeared in public as one of the chief mourners at the 3rd Earl's funeral.
After Turner's death, all the works remaining in his possession – about 300 oils and 19,000 drawings and watercolours – were given to the National Gallery.
Another portrait was of Claest Duyst Van Voorhut by Frans Hals, Mechlin, born probably 1584, died 1666 and now in the Metropolitan Musuem.
This portrait of Claest Duyst, the proprietor of the Zwaan Brewery at Haarlem, Holland, came from the collections of the Earls of Egremont, of Colonel Egremont Wyndham, and of Lord Leconfield, Petworth, Sussex.
It was painted about 1636, in Hals’ most brilliant period, before the influence of Rembrandt and old age led him to concentrate on expression and renounce his vivacious coloring. This portrait represents the most individual and characteristic qualities of Frans Hals.
As referred to above, after the death of the 3rd Earl, his family reacted against his profligate life style and refused to allow the name Egremont to ever be mentioned.
This action may be the reason so many Egremont portraits, including the miniature of the 4th Earl, as well as the other family portraits appearing in this section, were all sold and scattered around the world.
For example, the California Palace of the Legion of Honor owns the above portrait of Alicia Maria Carpenter, Countess of Egremont.
These two miniatures are also outside the family. That of the man is engraved around the frame; "Wyndham, Earl of Egremont, by William Wood", and at the bottom of the frame, 1770. However, later scholarship suggests the miniature is by Henry Edridge, rather than William Wood. Also that the date is wrong, the portrait more likely being Charles Wyndham, the 2nd Earl who died in 1763. Then again, if it is by Edridge, he must have copied it at a later date than 1763, as Edridge himself was only born in 1768.
The miniature of the lady is also of Alicia Maria Carpenter, who married Charles Wyndham, 2rd Earl in 1750. It was painted by Penelope Carwardine in 1757 and is currently owned by the Cincinnati Art Museum. Thus it is nice to reunite the two portraits here.
The 4th Earl and the Great Art Fraud
As mentioned above, in 1892 there was a sale of the contents of Silverton House which had belonged to the 4th Earl and raised the modest sum of GBP1800. Among the items sold were eight Egyptian figures and two Egyptian sculptures. There the matter slumbered for 100 years.
However, there was great excitement in 2002 when one of these Egyptian figures reappeared. It was the "Amarna Princess," a 20-inch statue, made of a "stunning translucent alabaster". Dating from 1350 BC, the statue represented one of the daughters of the Pharaoh Akhenaten and Queen Nefertiti, mother of Prince Tutankhamun.
The history of the Amarna Princess was that it had been purchased at the Silverton auction of the 4th Earl's possessions by the grandfather of George Greenhalgh, an 83 year old, wheelchair bound, invalid.
In 2002 George approached the Bolton Museum advising that the Amarna was from his grandfather’s "forgotten collection", bought at the 1892 Silverton auction.
Appearing innocent, he inquired whether the artefact, which he claimed had been in his family for 100 years, was worth the £500 he had been advised and said he was thinking about using it as a garden ornament. He was able to provide letters showing how the artefact had been in the family ownership for 111 years.
Experts at the British Museum and Christie's who examined the statue could not believe their find.
Assuming Greenhalgh Snr was a "nice old man who had no idea of the significance of what he owned", the Bolton Museum told him he had a very valuable piece they wanted to buy for £440,000.
Bolton Museum was given first refusal on the 52cm high statue, before it would have been offered at public auction.
It purchased it for £440,000, with £360,767 from the Lottery heritage fund, and a £75,000 grant from the National Arts Collection Fund. If it had sold on the open market it was claimed that it could have reached £1m.
Only two other artefacts of its kind were known to have survived, one in the Louvre and the other at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. This rarity reflected the destruction by later generations of the Pharaoh to ensure that the notorious family did not live on after death.
Thus, in 2003, after consulting experts at the British Museum and Christie's, the Bolton Museum bought the Amarna Princess. The museum thought it had pulled off a coup, saving a rare artefact - apparently dating back to 1350 BC - from leaving the UK.
In its original report of December 2004, it was described as; "The 52cm high sculpture is carved in translucent alabaster (calcite) and represents a royal female of the Amarna Period (c.1350-1334 B.C.). The head, arms and lower legs have not survived but it is believed she is one of the daughters of the Pharaoh Akhenaten and his chief queen, Nefertiti. The statue is wearing a very pleated robe over the left shoulder and under the right. It has a side-lock indicating the subject is still a youth.
The position of the pillar at the back shows that the work was part of a double statue, probably including the mother. The style is very distinctive to the early part of this period and has a classic narrow upper torso and very large hips and tummy. The pleating is very finely carved and the piece is generally of high quality. Elements of the extreme style of the sculpture suggest a date early in Akhenaten's reign. This may be the eldest daughter, Meritaten, but the piece is not inscribed so the exact identity is uncertain. Akhenaten and Nefertiti's third daughter, Ankhsenpaaten (later Ankhsenamun) became the wife of Tutankhamun, who succeeded Akhenaten on the throne and was probably his son, but perhaps not by Nefertiti.
Various sculptures survive from Akhenaten's (Amenhotep IV) reign but pieces such as this are rare and of significance. A similar torso on a smaller scale and less extreme in style carved from red quartzite, probably of Nefertiti and later in the reign, is in the Louvre. A draped headless figure of a princess in limestone, again on a smaller scale and later in the reign, is in the University of Pennsylvania Museum. The bust of a princess in the Louvre with the side-lock of youth in limestone, who was also wearing a pleated robe, is shown here, but also see bust of a princess in the Louvre "
The Amarna statue was to have been displayed at the Hayward Gallery on the South Bank in London as part of the "Saved!" exhibition celebrating 100 years of the National Art Collections Fund.
It remained on display at the museum until February 2006, when it was confirmed it certainly was a coup, however not for the Bolton Museum, but instead for the Greehalgh family.
The Amarna Princess was a fake!
Investigations revealed it was the tip of "an iceberg of fake artefacts" made by the Greenhalgh family who lived in a modest end-terrace house in The Crescent, Bromley Cross, Bolton in northern England.
They were also known as "the garden shed gang" as that is where most of their fakes were made.
The main family members were Shaun Greenhalgh who forged the artworks and his parents George and Olive Greenhalgh. His parents, George and Olive, approached clients, while his older brother, George jnr, managed the money.
Other members of the family were invoked to help establish the legitimacy of the various items. These included Olive's father who owned an art gallery, a great-grandfather whom it seemed had had the foresight to buy well at auctions, and an ancestor who had apparently worked for the Mayor of Bolton as a cleaner and was gifted a Moran painting.
Although, not the start of their extraordinary art faking operation, when a copy of the 1892 auction catalogue came into their hands, the catalogue provided a means for the family to "up the ante".
Using the leeway the vague descriptions in the catalogue, Shaun Greenhalgh manufactured the "Amarna Princess," a 20-inch statue, apparently made of a "stunning translucent alabaster".
Done in the Egyptian art-style of 1350 BC, the statue represented one of the daughters of the Pharaoh Akhenaten and Queen Nefertiti. Shaun had done his homework and had meticulously researched other known sculptures from the Amarna Period in Egyptian history to ensure the realism of his creation.
He "knocked up" his copy in his shed in three weeks out of calcite, "using basic DIY tools and making it look old by coating it in a mixture of tea and clay". It later emerged that he had bought the ordinary mallet and chisel to produce this 'masterpiece' from B&Q, a nationwide DIY chain. Shaun also faked the letters providing the provenance.
Two years later, in 2005, George Greenhalgh approached the British Museum with what appeared to be three Assyrian reliefs of soldier and horses, from the Palace of Sennacherib, dating back to 600 to 800BC.
Again it was claimed the artefacts had been bought by his grandfather at the Silverton Park auction of 1892. Again an elaborate story of how the reliefs had been passed through the family was recounted, supported by faked letters.
The British Museum examined them in November 2005, concluded that they were genuine, and expressed an interest in buying one of them, which seemed to match a drawing by A. H. Layard in its collection.
However, when two of the reliefs were submitted to Bonhams auction house, its antiquities consultant Richard Falkiner spotted "an obvious fake". Bonhams consulted with the British Museum about various suspicious aspects, and the Museum then spotted several unlikely anomalies.
Thus museum officials tipped off the police. The Metropolitan Police's Art and Antiques Unit revealed that; "Some of the cuneiform script was wrong. These reliefs would have hung in palaces, so they would not have had spelling mistakes in the script."
When the police raided the Greenhalghs' home they found two more 'Amarna Princesses' in a bedroom wardrobe. They also found the tools Shaun used to craft his statues and the raw materials used in countless other forgeries.
As they embarked on a protracted and complex investigation the police discovered the scam had been going on for at least 17 years - and perhaps even longer.
Another significant scam by the family was claiming to own the Risley Park Lanx, a Roman artefact that had disappeared after it was first discovered in pieces in a ploughed field in Derbyshire in 1729.
The Risley Park Lanx was a large silver dish of Roman origins, first discovered in 1729 in Risley Park, Derbyshire. Subsequently lost, later it re-emerged in the 1990s, a supposed heirloom of the Greenhalgh family.
The Risley Park Lanx was sold through Sothebys in 1998 for £100,000, far less than the purported worth of the original – a million pounds – yet still a clear indication that it was considered to be a significant historical "rediscovery".
When two wealthy Americans gifted the lanx to the British Museum in honour of David Wilson, outgoing director of the Museum, it was placed on display at the British Museum as a replica for several years, but was removed when the nature of its authenticity became suspect.
It is now thought that Greenhalgh melted down genuine Roman silver coins when reconstructing the Lanx.
The family also faked works by Samuel Peploe, Otto Dix, and Barbara Hepworth.
Shaun Greenhalgh's skills as a painter were also put to use, fuelled by his resentment of the art establishment and his desire to deceive it. Thus, in the early to mid 1990s Shaun Greenhalgh was predominately involved with paintings.
He sold a Peploe, but in particular he was successful with his Thomas Morans. He sold one to Bolton Museum in 1994 and at New York auctions in 1995 he sold seven, and is reckoned to have produced as many as 40 copies of Thomas Moran's studies of Yellowstone Park.
The goose was fashioned by Shaun Greenhalgh after he had seen only one small image of the piece in a book about Hepworth, and sold as a missing Barbara Hepworth terra-cotta goose, to the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, for £3,000.
Shaun traced examples of the handwriting of the artists he copied in order to formulate fake letters of authenticity and fabricate family associations with them, such as this "LS Lowry" correspondence. However, the Lowry museum was not fooled and rejected the painting entitled 'The Meeting House', as a forgery.
Yet another forgery by Shaun Greenhalgh was a sculpture, "The Faun" (pictured)which h e successfully passed it off as a work by Paul Gauguin. There were no concerns about authenticity. As well as being well received by Sotheby's itself The Faun was authenticated by the Wildenstein Institute in Paris.
It sold at Sotheby's for £20,700 in 1994, complete with provenance, see the catalogue image below. Three years later in 1997 it was bought by the Art Institute of Chicago for an undisclosed sum, thought to be about $125,000. It was hailed by them as "one of its most important acquisitions in the last twenty years."
For a decade the sculpture remained on display, and was part of a major joint exhibition on Gauguin with the van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. However, following revelations about its existence at Greenhalgh's trial in 2007, The Faun was tracked down by "The Art Newspaper" to Chicago and exposed as a fake.
In October the Chicago Art Institute removed the statue from display, and announced that it was seeking compensation from Sotheby's, see The Faun
The family went on to successfully sell two busts, including one of U.S. President Thomas Jefferson, purportedly by the sculptor Horatio Greenough, through Sotheby's for £160,000.
Greenhalgh Snr also tried to con the Tate Modern, London, into buying a carved stone head which he claimed his grandmother had said: "was by a chap called Moore who became famous".
In total, the conspiracy secured them around £1,500,000, although experts estimated that they could have earned as much as £10 million had all their creations gone to sale.
Although police recovered 20 items, they believe there could be as many as 100 fakes worldwide in the hands of unsuspecting art lovers.
On his conviction, Shaun Greenhalgh was jailed for four year and eight months.
In 2008 with the art market at the peak of the biggest financial bubble in history, the Greenhalghs are likely to represent the tip of an enormous criminal iceberg that measures its annual turnover in billions of pounds. According to European police experts, as much as half the art in circulation on the international market could be forged and a large proportion of those forgeries goes under the hammer in London.
Although at first startled by this claim, I quickly realised it does also apply to miniature portraits! I have commented elsewhere about the large numbers of decorative miniatures (a polite term for fake!) for sale and 50% or more would be a good approximation of the proportion of miniature fakes, perhaps even higher than that.
The clever Greenhalgh fakes beg an obvious question; "Is the miniature portrait of the 4th Earl featured here, also a Greenhalgh fake?"
Although, I cannot state with 100% certainty, I very much doubt it. I think I can usually pick fakes and as it only cost $220 plus shipping at auction, it would not have been worth the effort. However, it would be interesting to know if the miniature of the 4th Earl is listed in the 1892 auction catalogue.
In any event, the story associated with the miniature portrait has enhanced its interest and fascination enormously. 1354
As the Bolton Museum has presumably now got its £440,000 back to spend on something else, I have been wondering if the Christie's, Sotheby's, and British Museum experts would be willing instead to authenticate for me, a statue I have inherited from an ancestor and which I would like to offer for sale to the Bolton Museum.
It is showing here and is very similar in style to a famous bust of Queen Nefertiti which is in Berlin, so I think it must date to a similar period and thus perhaps be of some value?
(With apologies to Lutz at www.forum.egyptiandreams.co.uk/