Full Details for Lot 170

Sale 1905 Lot 170

Attributed to John Opie
(British, 1761-1807)

"Portrait of a Lady, by Repute Mrs. John White"

oil on canvas
with "Arnold Wiggins & Sons/London" and "Scott & Fowler/New York" labels and a handwritten expository note en verso.
29-1/2" x 24-1/2", framed 37-5/8" x 32-1/2"

Provenance: Mr. George White, Esq., Ashley House, Epsom, Surrey, UK; Arnold Wiggins & Sons Ltd., London, UK; Scott & Fowler, New York, New York; Knoedler Galleries, New York, New York, ca. 1923; Bruce McCashin Collection.

Notes: Celebrated English portraitist John Opie (1761-1807) revealed an exceptional talent for drawing and other academic pursuits early in life. By age 12, he had started an evening school for underprivileged children where he taught mathematics, writing and reading. Born into a working class Cornwall family as the youngest of five children, Opie’s father, a master carpenter, wanted his youngest son to apprentice and follow in his footsteps.

After catching the attention of Dr. John Wolcot, a noted satirist and physician, Wolcot offered to be his mentor. In 1775, Wolcot bought him out of his apprenticeship and Opie went to live with him at his home in nearby Truro where he was provided all of the financial support and training he needed to launch his successful career. Opie eventually moved to London in 1781 with Wolcot after establishing a formal profit-sharing agreement.

Despite Wolcot’s major role in Opie’s professional development, he presented Opie to London society as a “self-taught” prodigy (nicknamed “The Cornish Wonder”), garnering the attention and praise of social elites and other leading artists, including the acclaimed Sir Joshua Reynolds. Opie first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1782 and went on to paint many notables of the time, including several members of the Royal Family.

The present portrait, apparently a member of the White family according to inscriptions en verso, remained in said family since its commission until sold by George White, Esq., Ashley House, Epsom, Surrey, and was most recently acquired by the grandfather of the present consignor at Knoedler Galleries, New York in 1923. Another portrait from the White Family (possibly a companion to the present painting), of a Mr. James White, was offered at Christie’s, New York in May 2005.

Estimate $1,200-1,800

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