Pink and Frothy

Thomas Heathfield Carrick


The style of this lady’s sugar pink silk dress with its wide shoulders, pleated bodice dipping to a point and demi-gigot sleeves that are full above the elbow but narrow to the wrist date this portrait to the early to mid-1830s. Her elaborately plaited and looped hair is topped with a frothy cap trimmed with lace and ribbon. The sitter is seated in a well-furnished interior with a classical urn on a pedestal adding depth to the background.

By family descent, the sitter is said to be Maria Athill. Born in Antigua in 1781, Maria was the daughter and sole heiress of Samuel Byam Athill, an author of medical texts, and his wife Mary Lynch whose family owned sugar plantations in Antigua. In 1804, Maria married Charles Turner, a West India merchant based in London and Liverpool. The couple settled in Liverpool and had a large family of ten children.

The portrait is painted in watercolour on a marble base and so can be firmly attributed to the artist Thomas Heathfield Carrick, an artist working in the north west during the 1820s and 1830s. It is in excellent condition and sits within a gilt metal mount. Please note it lacks a hanging ring but will display beautifully placed on an easel-type stand.

The son of a Carlisle mill-owner, Thomas Heathfield Carrick (1802-1874) pioneered the use of marble as an alternative to ivory as a base for miniature painting. Self-taught as an artist, Carrick also trained as a chemist but art was his true vocation and so became his sole career from 1836 onwards. He later moved with his wife and children initially to Newcastle and then to London. Carrick exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1841 and counted many eminent figures amongst his sitters including politicians and poets. A key to his success as a portrait artist was said to be his ability to engage his sitters in lively conversation as he painted enabling him to capture their animated and engaged expressions. Sadly the rise of photography forced him into retirement during the 1860s. The V & A Museum have four miniature portraits by Carrick in their collection.

Item Ref. 7325

Size: mounted, 146 x 128mm

Provenance: By family descent from the Turner / Athill family