Lady Busk of Bath

20 September 1816


This wonderfully well-painted and expressive portrait is of Lady Busk in her 78th year. It was painted in Bath in September 1816, almost exactly three years before she died.

A little detective work has revealed that Sarah Jane Birch was born in Warwickshire on 7 August 1739 and was the third surviving child of James Birch and his wife Jane (née Owen). She married Geoffrey Woodward Vane (1735-85) of Newtown, Isle of Man. The couple did not have any children and Geoffrey died in 1735 aged fifty. Two years later Sarah Jane re-married. Her new husband was Wadsworth Busk, Attorney-General of the Isle of Man.

This was also Wadsworth’s second marriage, his first wife having died in a tragic accident after being thrown from a carriage when an escaped chicken startled their horse. Sarah Jane now became a step-mother to five boys; they settled in Beaconsfield and it was there that Wadsworth died in 1811. Sarah Jane outlived him by eight years passing away in September 1819 in her 81st year.

This portrait was painted in Bath and it may be that Sarah Jane travelled there to take the waters for her health. Her character and life experience emerge strongly from this portrait with much attention having been paid to her features – note the wart on her cheek – and the fine details of her dress and lace shawl.

The portrait is unsigned but is certainly by an accomplished artist. It is in excellent fresh condition and resides in the original papier-mâché frame with a brass surround and emblems (rose, thistle and shamrock) hanger. It is inscribed on the backing paper – Lady Busk’s / Picture / taken at Bath in her / Seventy Eighth Year / Sept 20th – 1816′.

Item Ref. 6846

Size: framed, 127 x 107mm (5 x 4¼")