Helena & Beatrice

Sir William Charles Ross


This well-observed double portrait demonstrates a tender closeness between two young sisters, Helena and Beatrice Trevelyan. The girls were the daughters of Sir John Trevelyan and his wife Maria Wilson. They grew up in Nettlecombe Court, an historic rambling house located within Exmoor National Park, the perfect home for a large family, Helena being was the youngest, and no doubt most spoiled, of the thirteen children. Both girls are fashionably dressed: Helena, her auburn hair in a chic crop, wearing white trimmed with blue ribbon; and, Beatrice in lilac silk edged with white lace, a pink wrap draped over her shoulder and her hair in a coming-of-age upswept plaited knot with curls framing her face.

Beatrice was born in 1809 so she was 18 when this portrait was painted in 1827. Three years later, aged 21, she married Ernest Augustus Perceval, the youngest child of Spencer Perceval, the British Prime Minister who was assassinated at Westminster in 1812, Ernest being just four years old at the time. Beatrice and Ernest had a long life together and raised their own large family of nine children.

Helena was six years younger than Beatrice. At the age of 21 in 1837, she married a clergyman, Bryan Faussett. They had three children before getting divorced. Divorce was still considered a great scandal at this time and could only be afforded by the most wealthy. Helena subsequently married Walter Blackett Trevelyan, a first-class cricketer, barrister and Scottish cousin of sorts and with him had four more children.

Curiously the sisters died within a few days of each other: Helena on 14 March 1898 at the age of 82 and Beatrice on 19 March 1898 at the age of 88.

In fine condition with strong original colours, the portrait is set with a gilt-metal mount and decorative gilt frame within a later oak frame. It has been extensively annotated on the reverse by Helena’s granddaughter with biographical details and provenance.

William Charles Ross (1794-1860) was born into an artistic family so his talents were nurtured and encouraged from an early age. He received his first commission when just twelve years of age and exhibited his first miniature at the Royal Academy at the age of fifteen. In 1834 he painted the Prime Minister Lord Melbourne; in 1837 he painted Queen Victoria. His success thereafter was assured and he enjoyed a long and prolific career, retiring only when forced to do so by ill health. He was knighted in 1842.

Item Ref. 9124

Size: framed, 205 x 185mm

Provenance: By family descent ; UK private collection