A Well-Read Couple

William Wellings (1766-1796)


This striking pair of half-length watercolour portraits show a well-dressed Georgian couple each keen to show off their learning by posing with books. The gentleman is dapper in a bright blue tail coat buttoned over a white double-breasted waistcoat and a frilled chemise. His powdered wig is worn en queue and tied with black ribbon. The lady, looking pensive as she sits with her elbow on the table, has a fur-trimmed coat over her dress and a luxuriously trimmed mob-cap. Both are seated before tasselled drapes.

Although unsigned, the watercolours can be confidently attributed to the hand of William Wellings. Better known as a silhouette artist, Wellings also painted a series of colourful theatrical portraits of, amongst others, David Garrick and Mrs Siddons. This couple may also have theatrical connections.

Recent genealogical research has revealed that William Wellings was born in Lingfield, Surrey in 1766 to Edward Wellings, a millwright, and his second wife Alice (née Downing). He appears to have left his family and moved to London at an early age where he lodged with Susannah Sledge first at Tavistock Row and then at Henrietta Street, both streets being at the heart of London’s theatrical life. One of Wellings’ earliest portraits is dated 1779 when he would have been just thirteen years old. Whether he had drawing lessons or was self-taught is unknown but he was certainly a talented young artist. Sadly though, his career was short-lived as a brief death notice in the Monthly Mirror in November 1796 records “Mr William Wellings miniature painter at Margate”. Just thirty years of age, he was buried at St John the Baptist in Margate in October 1796.

The pair of portraits are housed in the original giltwood frames.

Item Ref. 6527

Size: framed, 202 x 175mm (and smaller)