Day-Dreaming Elizabeth

Richard Crosse, 1795

£2,800

The artist, Richard Crosse, has captured Elizabeth looking pensive as she takes a break from reading her book. Seated on an armchair in a garden landscape, she is shown wearing an ivory satin cross-over gown with frilled cuffs and a blue ribbon sash.

Born to John and Elizabeth Lyde of Berry Pomeroy in Devon, Elizabeth was baptised in July 1755. At the age of 27, she married 40-year old Walter Palk from nearby Rattery. Walter followed in the steps of his uncle by entering Parliament. He also served briefly as the Sheriff of Devon and was a captain in the local militia. The couple had two daughters though only one survived, making her their sole heiress. She went on to marry a Baronet in the Carew family. Walter Palk died in 1819, aged 77; Elizabeth died in 1828, aged 73.

Being a Devonian family, Richard Crosse would have been the obvious choice of artist to commission as he too was a Devonshire man. Indeed, by coincidence, Walter Palk and Crosse were born in the same year so may have known each other growing up.

Throughout his career Richard Crosse kept a ledger in which he listed the receipt of all the fees paid to him between 1776 and 1798. He offered a choice of portrait sizes including what he labelled as ‘3rd size’ priced at £12 12s and as ‘4th size’ at £16 16s. But his ‘large’ pictures were the most prized and it was this size that Mr Palk commissioned of his wife in 1795. The ledger shows that Mr Palk paid the princely sum of £33 12s on 27 November 1795 for this very portrait, the amount equating to over £4,000 in today’s money!

The portrait is in excellent condition and is housed in a later ebonised frame with a gilt slip.

A native of Devonshire, Richard Crosse (1742-1810) was born deaf and dumb, as was one of his sisters. He began painting miniatures as a hobby and in 1758 won a prize at the Society of Arts that inspired him to study art. He became a successful artist and built up a distinguished clientele that included royalty. He fell in love with his cousin, Miss Cobley, but she did not reciprocate and married elsewhere, the disappointment reportedly turning him into a recluse.

Item Ref. 9103

Size: framed, 264 x 215mm (10¼ x 8½")

Provenance: By family descent to Sir Rivers Verain Carew, 11th Baronet ; Christie's Nov. 1980 ; Neales, New Orleans 1996 ; Richard Allan collection 2014

Literature: 'Richard Crosse, Miniaturist and Portrait-Painter' by Basil Long (17th Vol. The Walpole Society 1928-29)