Unknown - portrait of Susan Mary Farington

Here is a miniature portrait which still requires some more detective work. It is of Susan Mary Farington, nee Hammond (1750-1800) and is in a black ebonised frame with a painted and gilded border around the miniature. At auction it was described as "A very good quality 18th century portrait miniature of Susan Mary Farington. Painted around 1792 by a professional artist of the day on the correct medium. This is the better version of this sitter, we have seen. Adorned in pearls with a sky back ground, exquisitely executed, and in lovely condition under a verre eglomise doomed glass in an acorn frame (no major damage to black frame.) Miniature 3" x 2.1/2". "  In this case it is interesting to compare known prices of three separate portraits of Susan; this one fortunately being purchased for only £155.

The reverse of the miniature is inscribed; "Portrait of Susan Mary Farington wife of Joseph Farington RA. For her portrait she sat in the year 1792." And at the bottom right rear is dated "1930". This suggests that the portrait was either cleaned or reframed in 1930. Susan died on 25 March 1800 and The Gentleman's Magazine recorded her obituary; "The wife of Joseph Farington, esq. RA of Upper Charlottte-street, Fitzroy square. She was the only daughter of the late Horace Hamond, DD, prebendary of Norwich, and rector of Great Bircham and Harpley (in that diocese) at which place he had resided 42 years. Throughout life she was uniformly constant in her religious duties; and in her general deportment were united a pleasing affability and sweetness of manners."

I do not think the miniature is a 20C copy, as the quality is too good and the colours and style are 18C. Hence, I am inclined to believe it is the original 1792 miniature, but so far it has not been possible to attribute an artist to the miniature. The NPG in London contains a portrait of Susan Mary Farington (née Hamond) by Henry Bone, after John Flaxman, pen and ink, 1805 (after 1800), NPG D17606, but it is not on view. However, the enamel portrait from this sketch was sold by Bonhams on 24 May 2006, described as; "Lot 181 - Henry Bone R.A., Mrs Susan Farington, profile to the left, wearing white dress with frilled fichu and knotted neckerchief, a white ribbon in her powdered hair worn in a hanging chignon. Sold for £2,160." The Bone portrait therefore seems to be a different pose to the one depicted here.

The Farington Diary backgrounds the making of the Henry Bone portrait. After accepting the commission in 1802, Bone set to work, using a wax model of Susan from which to create the painting. As hair and clothing fashions had changed, it seems the 1792 miniature here was by then too outdated. Bone had many consultations with members of Susan Farington’s family and friends, all of whom were asked to make suggestions as the work progressed in order for him to create the perfect likeness. Bone eventually delivered the finished picture to Joseph Farington three years later, in 1805. In Farington’s diary entry for January 21, 1805, which was the day Bone delivered the finished picture, Farington said that the image exceeded his best hopes, and he expressed to Bone his feelings for how much he had done for him in providing him with such a good likeness of his dear, beloved wife.

Given Susan's family connections and that her husband was painted by Thomas Lawrence, it is to be expected that in 1792 she would have been painted by one of the better artists of the day.

However, it is very interesting to compare the miniature with another miniature portrait of Susan Mary Farington offered for auction by the same vendor a week earlier. I had not noticed this one when it was on offer and so missed an opportunity to purchase it. It was described as "A fine portrait miniature of a pretty young girl indistinctly signed and dated 1800 on the back. Painted in water colour on the material of the day, in good condition mounted in a gold frame of the period with a backing of woven hair with an initial mounted within. The glasses look original and show slight signs of life. The miniature is 64mm high by 54mm wide. The gold frame is 72mm by 61mm plus the hanger. All in very good condition for its age" and it sold for £402.

The second one in the oval gold case being dated 1800 on the reverse suggests it is a copy of a 1792 original and the casework and hairwork support a date of 1800. Susan Farington died in 1800 and it seems her husband had a copy made of the earlier portrait to contain a lock of her hair.

The logical question then is, "Is the miniature in the black frame the 1792 original?" As already stated, my feeling is that, even though it has been reframed, it is the original portrait, as the quality is slightly better than the second one.

In 1776 Susan Mary Hamond married Joseph Farington RA a well known painter of the day and author of The Farington Diary. She was related to the Walpole family, as her grandmother who married Anthony Hamond, was Susan Walpole, one of the sisters of Robert Walpole, Earl of Orford, the Prime Minister. In addition, Susan Mary Hamond’s great-grandmother, Mary Walpole, was married to Sir Charles Turner, Bt, of Warham (1665 – 1738). A daughter of Sir Charles and Lady Mary Turner married the Rev Maurice Suckling, whose daughter Catherine married the Rev Edmund Nelson. This last couple are perhaps more famous as the parents of Horatio Nelson, the Hero of Trafalgar so that Susan Mary Hamond's mother was a first cousin once removed of the great Admiral.

Farington and Susan Mary Hamond married on 19 March 1776; the couple had no children, but Farington was always interested in the lives of his brothers' children throughout his life. When his wife died in 1800, Farington collapsed and could neither draw nor paint. His family and friends, such as the painter Robert Smirke and his family, helped Farington recover.

In the Parish church of Broxbourne there is a mural tablet that gives a full account of the Farington family, including the statement.
Sacred also to the Memory of Mrs Susan Mary Farington, Wife of
Joseph Farington R. A., Second son of the above William and Esther.
She was daughter of the Revd. Horace Hamond, Rector of Harpley and
Bircham, in Norfolk, and Prebend of Norwich. She died without issue
on the 23rd. of February, 1800, aged 50, and was here interred.

However, her husband, Joseph Farington who was painted by Thomas Lawrence and who died December 30th, 1821, aged 75, was buried some distance away, in the old church at Manchester. It has been commented that it is difficult to make an appraisal of his paintings as they are scattered in many private and public collections, and rarely appear in art sales, although many of his drawings are held by the Courtauld Institute. Farington, who came from a prosperous Lancashire family, entered the RA Schools in 1768 and studied under Richard Wilson, whom he probably assisted by painting replicas. Although he continued to paint oils he is better known for lively topographical pen and wash drawings, executed during sketching tours in England, Scotland, and France, examples of which may be found in the British Museum and V&A in London. From 1773 to 1776, assisted by his brother George, he copied old master paintings at Houghton for Robert Walpole, Earl of Orford, before their sale. He then lived in Keswick, until 1780, drawing picturesque views which were published, in 1789 and 1816, as Views of the English Lakes. He settled in London in 1781, became an RA in 1785 and immersed himself in Academy politics where, although he never held high office, his influence was all-pervasive.

Farington kept a daily diary from 13 July 1793 until his death, missing only a few days. This diary has proved invaluable to historians, particularly its references to the London art world. With its emphasis on biography and anecdote it is an invaluable source of information on artists of the period and of the internal workings of the Royal Academy. Farington knew the new industrialists in the Midlands, he understood the internal workings of the East India Company, his wife's family gave him access to information on government policy, he attended the major political trials of the day, such as Warren Hastings's impeachment, and he followed William Wilberforce's anti-slavery campaign. The diary eventually constituted 16 volumes and were kept as a family heirloom until they were auctioned off in 1921 to the Morning Post. They were first published serially and then edited by James Greig and published in book form between 1922 and 1928. Farington died on a visit to his brother Robert in Lancashire on 30 December 1821, after falling down a flight of stairs in a church.

The miniature of Susan Mary Farington has been of particular interest as she was related to Martha Symmons, also a Walpole relation and wife of Sir Anthony Carlisle, the subject of The Real Mr Frankenstein. Hence there are a number of references in the Farington Diary to social interactions between Farington and Carlisle which were helpful during research. 1391

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