Mary & Sarah Smirke

The Artist's Daughters


This tender study of two young sisters was captured in pencil and watercolour by the girls’ father, Robert Smirke who went on to paint a larger oil portrait of them. The older girl, lost in her thoughts, is Mary whilst clamouring for her attention is her baby sister Sarah.

Mary was born in 1779; in 1816 she married Samuel Baker the Younger of Rochester, Kent and they had four children.  Sarah was born in 1786; she never married and died in 1855, two years after her sister.

The portrait is drawn on paper in pencil with watercolour highlights. It is set in an attractive giltwood frame with a verre églomisé mount. The backing paper is extensively inscribed and there are two accompanying letters of provenance.

Born in Wigton, Robert Smirke (1753-1845) was the son of an itinerant artist. He was apprenticed to a London coach-painter at the age of thirteen and seven years later entered the Royal Academy Schools. He specialised in small monochrome paintings to be engraved as book plates. He also contributed works to the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery in London.

Item Ref. 6718

Size: framed, 280 x 340mm

Provenance: By family descent from Mary Smirke's scrapbook