Oil painting on canvas, Miss Frances Lyde Browne holding Music and a Wreath by Pompeo Girolamo Batoni (Lucca 1708 – Rome 1787), signed in black, bottom left: P. BATONI. P. ROMA. 177 [7?] and inscribed in gold, top left: Frances Browne / 1778. A half-length portrait of a young woman, seated to the left, head and eyes turned to the right, dressed in a light blue bodice with an orange mantle and wearing a turban. She holds sheets of music [decipherable?] on a pink cushion with a gold tassel with her left hand and holds up a laurel wreath over it with her right. She accompanied her father, the 18th century antiquities collector, Lyde Browne, on his second visit to Rome between 1776 and 1778 where she sat to Batoni, the leading Roman portrait painter of the period.
The financier, antiquarian, and collector, Lyde Browne (d. 1787), FSA, visited Italy with his wife in 1753 and with his family in 1776 – 77. On the second visit, he is recorded as arriving in Venice on 16th May 1776; by 18 December he was in Rome, where Thomas Jones waited on him and his family. There is no further record of him there, according to Brinsley Ford’s A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy 1701 – 1800, ed. John Ingamells, New Haven & London, 1997, pp.141 – 42, so it seems likely that the picture was painted in 1777, despite the inscription identifying the sitter, with the date 1778 (although it is also always possible that the picture was not completed until that year). Portraits of female English sitters by Batoni are something of a rarity. The young woman presumably had aspirations to be recognised for the quality of her singing, in which she seems to have been indulged by her father, given that she alone appears to have been painted by Batoni, and in this guise. Mrs. James Alexander, by contrast, who was painted in 1777 in the same sort of turban holds a sprig of myrtle, a symbol of marital love or fidelity (see Clark & Bowron, no.401).
By descent in the family of the sitter’s brother (via Lyde Browne’s son), also Lyde Browne (?1759 – 1803), whose second son, by his wife Margaret Barwell, Colonel Lyde Browne, commander of the 21st Fusiliers (who was killed putting down Emmett’s Rebellion, 1803), married Dorothy Riou; their only daughter and heiress, Charlotte Riou Browne (d.1875), who in 1826 married Moses George Benson, J.P., D.L., of Lutwyche Hall, Shropshire (1797 – 1871); to the successive heads of the Benson family of Lutwyche Hall; to Ralph Benson (b. 1919), London, eldest son of Major George Reginald Benson (1888 - ?); his sale Christie’s, London, 17th November 1967, lot 108; bought by Thos. Agnew & Sons, London, from whom acquired by Langton Iliffe, 2nd Lord Iliffe (1908-1996) and his wife Renée, Lady Iliffe (1917-207); accepted in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Basildon Park, 2010.
Marks and inscriptions
Verso: on stretcher: old Agnew’s label, No. 33993, and more recent store label, with stock no.: WA 2915; small label with printed blue no.: 12528; small label, with ink no.: WO / 16068; Christie’s stencil: XL 697; in white chalk: XL 697 OMP and 3H
Verso: on frame: small printed label: 3862; in white chalk: XL697
Makers and roles
Pompeo Girolamo Batoni (Lucca 1708 – Rome 1787), artist
Clark and Bowron 1985 Anthony M. Clark & Edgar Peters Bowron, Pompeo Batoni, Oxford 1985, no.408, p.346 & pl.366