Joseph Lathbury, Antiquary

Aged 82


Born in 1719, Joseph was the son of Joseph and Maria Lathbury. His father was the rector of St Peter’s Church in Great Livermere, Suffolk. Following his graduation from Clare College Cambridge, Joseph followed in his father’s footsteps becoming a deacon at Ely initially before taking over as the rector at Great Livermere in 1768, a position he held until his death in 1804 at the age of 84. There is a memorial (in Latin) within St Peter’s dedicated to father and son alongside a later memorial dedicated to M. R. James, another antiquary and a well-known author of ghost stories, who likewise grew up in Great Livermere rectory whilst his father too was the rector.

Painted on plaster in 1793 by John Miers, the silhouette shows Joseph Lathbury at the age of 75 wearing his bands and a bag wig. It is presented in the original frame with a verre eglomise mount. The reverse was inscribed in 1800 by Peter Lathbury, Joseph’s nephew, with a tribute to his uncle.

Tho’ old He still retains
His manly sense & energy of Mind . . .
A graceful gentleness He for ever wears
And laughing can instruct.

The last part of the tribute is fittingly written in Latin with a later annotation to record the date of Joseph’s death as 6 Oct. 1804.

John Miers (1758-1821) did not believe in embellishing his silhouettes preferring the simplicity and grace of a black profile. He used a mixture of soot and beer to create a deep black that contrasted well with the stark white of the plaster base. Details, such the bands on the collar were achieved by thinning the black to add texture.

Item Ref. 5569

Size: framed, 168 x 144mm (6⅝ x 5⅝")