Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Mrs. Bryan Cooke (Frances Puleston, 1765–1818)

George Romney (British, Beckside, Lancashire 1734–1802 Kendal, Cumbria)
ca. 1787–91
Oil on canvas
50 x 39 1/2 in. (127 x 100.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Fletcher Fund, 1945
Accession Number:
Not on view
A Welsh heiress, Frances Puleston was married in 1786 to Bryan Cooke, of Owston (Yorkshire), Member of Parliament for Malton. Sittings for the present portrait are recorded in 1787 and 1789, and the picture was paid for in 1791. Mrs. Cooke was concerned with education, and was one of the promoters of the Society for the Education of the Poor in the neighborhood of Doncaster (Yorkshire). She died in 1818.
From a Welsh family of wealth and ancient lineage, the sitter was the only child of Philip Puleston and Mary Davies, daughter and co-heiress of John Davies of Gwysaney. She married Bryan Cooke (1756–1821) of Owston, near Doncaster, in 1786. Cooke was a lieutenant and colonel in the Royal Horse Guards from 1775 until 1785 and later a colonel in the Third West York Militia; from 1811 he sat as a member of Parliament for Malton. Frances Cooke was an early supporter of education reform for the poor.

Romney recorded a total of ten sittings for Mrs. Cooke in 1787 and 1789. Mr. Cooke paid for his wife’s portrait in full, fifty guineas, on April 26, 1791, and the picture was sent to Owston that day by the Doncaster wagon (Ward and Roberts 1904). Romney had also painted two portraits of Bryan Cooke before his marriage (both private collection, Wales); sittings are recorded in 1780, 1782, and 1783.

The format of the present picture appears, in reverse, in Romney's portrait of Mrs. Alexander Blair (National Gallery of Art, Washington), whose sittings were also in 1787 and 1789 and whose husband paid the same price for her portrait (see John Hayes, British Paintings of the Sixteenth through Nineteenth Centuries, Washington, 1992, pp. 243–45). Another work of the same type is Romney's portrait of Mrs. Nathaniel Lee Acton (Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, Calif.).

Two pentiments are visible in the present picture, where the artist drew in the outer contour of the fichu to lessen its bulk and where he moved the sitter’s hands a little to the right. When Duveen bought the picture from Mr. Davies-Cooke in 1927, it was replaced at Gwysaney by a modern copy in the original frame. The Museum's painting was engraved by John Dean in 1780.

[2010; adapted from Baetjer 2009]
Bryan Cooke, Owston, Doncaster, Yorkshire, and Gwysaney, Mold, Flintshire (until d. 1821); by descent to Philip Tatton Davies-Cooke, Owston and Gwysaney (until 1927; sold for £30,000 to Duveen); [Duveen, London and New York, 1927; sold for $225,000 to Bache]; Jules S. Bache, New York (1927–d. 1944; Bache Foundation, 1944–45; cats., 1929, unnumbered; 1937, no. 61; 1943, no. 61; sold to MMA)
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," January 6–March 14, 1896, no. 35 (lent by Philip B. Davies-Cooke).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Bache Collection," June 16–September 30, 1943, no. 61.

Indianapolis. Herron Museum of Art. "The Romantic Era: Birth and Flowering 1750–1850," February 21–April 11, 1965, no. 13.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Eighteenth-Century Woman," December 12, 1981–September 5, 1982, unnumbered cat. (p. 53).

George Paston. George Romney. London, 1903, p. 192, as engraved by H. Greenhead.

Humphry Ward and W[illiam]. Roberts. Romney: A Biographical and Critical Essay with a Catalogue Raisonné of his Works. London, 1904, vol. 1, pp. 111, 119; vol. 2, p. 32, record sittings on April 23, 25, and 30, and May 5, 9 [as Mrs. Cook], and 12, 1787, and on May 12 and 16, and June 1 [as Mrs. Cook] and 3, 1789; note that Mr. Cooke paid in full, 50 gns., on April 26, 1791, and that the portrait was sent to Owston that day by the Doncaster waggon.

Arthur B. Chamberlain. George Romney. New York, 1910, p. 322.

Édouard Brandus. "La collection des tableaux anciens de M. Jules S. Bache, à New-York." La Renaissance 11 (May 1928), pp. 184, 186.

Walter Heil. "The Jules Bache Collection." Art News 27 (April 27, 1929), pp. 4, 23, ill.

A Catalogue of Paintings in the Collection of Jules S. Bache. New York, 1929, unpaginated, ill.

August L. Mayer. "Die Sammlung Jules Bache in New-York." Pantheon 6 (December 1930), p. 542.

A Catalogue of Paintings in the Bache Collection. under revision. New York, 1937, unpaginated, no. 61, ill.

Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941, unpaginated, no. 293, ill., as from the collection of J. [sic] Davies-Cooke.

A Catalogue of Paintings in the Bache Collection. rev. ed. New York, 1943, unpaginated, no. 61, ill.

An American Correspondent. "English Portraits in the Jules Bache Collection." Connoisseur 113 (March 1944), pp. 54–55, ill.

John Steegman. A Survey of Portraits in Welsh Houses. Vol. 1, Houses in North Wales. Cardiff, 1957, p. 166, under no. 34, in the section on Gwysaney, under the entry for the portrait of Bryan Cooke by Romney, notes that the MMA picture was sold some years ago and replaced by a modern copy.

Barry Maclean-Eltham. George Romney: Paintings in Public Collections. Kendal, England, 1996, p. 23.

Katharine Baetjer. British Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575–1875. New York, 2009, pp. 131–33, no. 59, ill. (color).

Alex Kidson. George Romney: A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings. New Haven, 2015, vol. 1, p. 145, no. 281, ill. (color); vol. 3, p. 856, catalogues the copy made in 1927 when the MMA picture was sold from the Davies-Cooke collection as no. 281a and another version "known only from a photograph taken in a paintings store in the USA in 2001 by David Moore-Gwyn" as no. 281b.

The canvas is inscribed on the reverse: Frances, Mrs Cooke / born 1765 Died 1818 / Sole child of Philip Puleston Esqre of Havod-y-wern. / Chamberlain of North Wales, by Mary Davies / Heiress of Gwysaney Flintshire and wife of / Brian Cooke Esqre of Owston Co. York for sometime / a Lieut in the Royal Horse Guards (Blue) / an M.P. for Malton and from 1803–1812 Colonel. / of the 1st Regiment of Militia or 3rd West York / Light Infantry. Mrs. Cooke was a very clever woman / herself, was one of the first promoters of the Education / of the poor in the neighbourhood of Doncaster.

Engraved in mezzotint by H. T. Greenhead in 1897 (incorrectly titled Mrs. Davies-Cooke).
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