The fashionably dressed mother of this family portrait appears lost in thought, while her children romp by her side, aiming playfully sly glances at the viewer. The portrait was commissioned by the family’s father and husband, a baronet and member of Parliament. Expressing cultural ideals of femininity and upper-class childhood, this portrait was a popular exhibit at the Royal Academy in the year it was painted.
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Title:Lady Smith (Charlotte Delaval) and Her Children (George Henry, Louisa, and Charlotte)
Charlotte Sophia, daughter of the late Sir Francis Blake Delaval, married Sir Robert Smith, fifth Baronet, in 1776. He had been a member of Parliament for Cardigan borough and later, from 1780 to 1790, would be a member for Colchester; he died in Paris in 1802. Lady Smith died in 1823 and was buried at Versailles. The little boy is George Henry Smith, sixth Baronet (1784–1852), who changed the family name to Smyth. He was a member of Parliament for Colchester from 1826 to 1830 and from 1835 to 1850. Since he had no legitimate children, the baronetcy became extinct at his death. His sisters are Louisa, born in 1782, who married Thomas Este, and Charlotte, born in 1783, who married Charles Este in 1803.
Sir Robert visited Reynolds on February 20, 1787, presumably to commission this portrait. His wife’s first appointment was two days later, and she had eleven sittings in all between February and April 1787; it is not clear how many of them involved the children. Sir Robert paid £162.10.0 in March for “Lady Smith and three children and likenesse for a fancy Child” and the further sum of £152.10.0 in May. The picture was exhibited at the Royal Academy that year as Portrait of a lady and three children.
The painting was engraved by Francesco Bartolozzi in 1789 (The Met, 42.108) and by R. Josey in 1880 (see Henry Graves, Engravings from the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, P.R.A. by S. W. Reynolds, and other Eminent Engravers, London, n.d., vol. 7, no. 20). An oval miniature by Samuel Shelley closely duplicates the portrait group but shows Lady Smith without her hat (sold, Sotheby's, London, July 11, 1977, no. 170, ill.).
When the picture changed hands in 1878, it was described as much damaged by damp; afterward it was “carefully restored” (Hamilton 1884). Its condition is compromised by extensive drying cracks, particularly in the dark foliage.
[2010; adapted from Baetjer 2009]
Sir Robert Smith, 5th Baronet (until d. 1802); his son, Sir George Henry Smyth, 6th Baronet, Berechurch Hall, Colchester, Essex (1802–d. 1852); his grandson, Thomas George Graham White, Berechurch Hall and Wethersfield (1852–78; posthumous sale, Christie's, London, March 23, 1878, no. 40, as "Portrait of Lady Smyth and Her Children," for 1,250 gns. to Graves); [Henry Graves, London, from 1878; sold for £5,250 to Stirling-Crawfurd]; William Stuart Stirling-Crawfurd, London and Milton (by 1882–d. 1883); his widow, Caroline Agnes, dowager Duchess of Montrose (1883–d. 1894; her sale, Christie's, London, July 14, 1894, no. 30, withdrawn; her estate sale, Christie's, London, May 4, 1895, no. 80, for £5,040 to M. Colnaghi); [Martin Colnaghi, London, 1895]; [Sedelmeyer, Paris, from 1895; cat., 1895, no. 89; sold to Huntington]; Collis P. Huntington, New York (until d. 1900; life interest to his widow, Arabella D. Huntington, later [from 1913] Mrs. Henry E. Huntington, 1900–d. 1924; life interest to their son, Archer Milton Huntington, 1924–terminated in 1925)
London. Royal Academy. April 30–June 9, 1787, no. 7 (as "Portrait of a lady and three children," by Reynolds).
London. British Institution. 1817, no. 145 (as "Lady Smith and Children," lent by Sir Henry Smith).
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," January–March 1882, no. 176 (as "Lady Smyth and her Children," lent by W. S. Stirling Crawfurd).
New York. University Club. October 13, 1948–March 20, 1949.
Des Moines Art Center. "Masterpieces of Portrait and Figure Painting," November 5, 1952–February 1, 1953, no catalogue.
Milwaukee Auditorium. "Metropolitan Art Museum $1,000,000 Masterpiece Exhibition," March 7–14, 1953, unnumbered cat. (p. 19).
Austin, Tex. City Coliseum. "Texas Fine Arts Festival: Metropolitan Museum $1,000,000 Collection of Old Masters," April 18–26, 1953, unnum. checklist.
Columbus, Ohio. Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts. "Sir Joshua Reynolds and his American Contemporaries," January 30–March 2, 1958, no. 31.
Indianapolis. Herron Museum of Art. "The Romantic Era: Birth and Flowering 1750–1850," February 21–April 11, 1965, no. 12.
Brisbane. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art. "European Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," June 12–October 17, 2021, unnumbered cat.
Osaka. Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts. "European Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," November 13, 2021–January 16, 2022.
Tokyo. National Art Center. "European Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," February 9–May 30, 2022.
William Cotton. A Catalogue of the Portraits Painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Knt., P.R.A. London, 1857, p. 69, as Lady Smith and Children in the collection of Sir H. Smith, engraved by Bartolozzi in 1789.
Charles Robert Leslie and Tom Taylor. Life and Times of Sir Joshua Reynolds. London, 1865, vol. 2, pp. 500, 505, 512, as Lady Smyth [sic] and her Children, one of thirteen pictures sent to the Royal Academy in 1787; list Lady Smith and children among sitters in February 1787.
Edward Hamilton. The Engraved Works, of Sir Joshua Reynolds: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Engravings Made after His Paintings from 1755–1822. 2nd ed. (1st ed., London, 1874; repr., Amsterdam, 1973). London, 1884, pp. 132, 185, reports that it had been much damaged by damp by 1878, when it was sold, but was carefully restored ("One eye nearly gone; the glove on one hand had disappeared; the children in good preservation").
Illustrated Catalogue of the Second Hundred of Paintings by Old Masters . . . Belonging to the Sedelmeyer Gallery. Paris, 1895, p. 106, no. 89, ill. opp. p. 106.
Algernon Graves and William Vine Cronin. A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds P.R.A. Vol. 3, London, 1899, p. 909, record that they sat in February 1787 and that Sir Robert Smith made payments for the portrait in March and May 1787.
Walter Armstrong. Sir Joshua Reynolds, First President of the Royal Academy. London, 1900, p. 230.
Elsa D'Esterre-Keeling. Sir Joshua Reynolds P.R.A. London, 1902, p. 171.
A. L. Baldry. Sir Joshua Reynolds. London, , p. xxxii, pl. 62 (Bartolozzi engraving).
J. Kirby Grant. "Mrs. Collis P. Huntington's Collection." Connoisseur 20 (January 1908), pp. 3–4, as Lady de Smythe.
Bryson Burroughs. "The Collis P. Huntington Collection Comes to the Museum." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 20 (June 1925), p. 142, ill. p. 145.
H[arry]. B. Wehle. "Notes on Paintings in the Huntington Collection." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 20 (July 1925), p. 178.
"Some of the Choicest Paintings in the Collis P. Huntington Collection at the Metropolitan Museum." Art News 23 (July 18, 1925), ill. p. 7.
Ellis K. Waterhouse. Reynolds. London, 1941, pp. 78, 97, pl. 272.
Millia Davenport. The Book of Costume. New York, 1948, vol. 2, p. 780, no. 2199, ill. (cropped).
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 83.
Malcolm Cormack. "The Ledgers of Sir Joshua Reynolds." Walpole Society 42 (1970), pp. 163–64, records payments of £162.10.0 in March 1787 for this portrait and "likenesse for a fancy Child," and in May 1787 £152.10.0 for the portrait.
Renate Prochno. Joshua Reynolds. Weinheim, 1990, p. 98, fig. 70.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 187, ill. p. 186.
David Mannings and Martin Postle. Sir Joshua Reynolds: A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings (The Subject Pictures catalogued by Martin Postle). New Haven, 2000, vol. 1, pp. 417–18, no. 1635; vol. 2, colorpl. 124, fig. 1519, provide additional biographical information and list appointments on February 22, 24, and 27, March 2, 7, 13, 21, and 28, and April 10, 13, and 18, 1787.
Shelley M. Bennett inBritish Paintings at the Huntington. [San Marino, Calif.], 2001, pp. 2–3, fig. 3.
Ian McIntyre. Joshua Reynolds: The Life and Times of the First President of the Royal Academy. London, 2003, p. 462.
Katharine Baetjer inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Chefs-d'œuvre de la peinture européenne. Exh. cat., Fondation Pierre Gianadda. Martigny, 2006, pp. 17–18 [Catalan ed., Barcelona, 2006, p. 18].
Esmée Quodbach. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 65 (Summer 2007), pp. 22–23, fig. 21 (Huntington library photograph).
Katharine Baetjer. British Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575–1875. New York, 2009, pp. 80–82, no. 34, ill. (color).
Mark Hallett. Reynolds: Portraiture in Action. New Haven, 2014, pp. 383, 412–13, 465 n. 90, fig. 400 (color), reproduces (fig. 402) Ramberg's engraving of the Royal Academy exhibition of 1787 showing the placement of this painting.
Katharine Baetjer inEuropean Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Exh. cat., Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art. South Brisbane, 2021, pp. 177, 232, ill. p. 176 (color).
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