Stolen in 1774

Mr David Gaston


This well-provenaced miniature depicting 98-year-old David Gaston in a full-bottomed wig and brown coat cost a man his life. Painted during the early eighteenth century, it was subsequently inherited by the sitter’s daughter, Christiana, but in 1774 it was stolen from her house.

Old Bailey records show that three men – George Stephen Hearsay, James Burrell and the aptly named Christopher Lawless – were indicted for felony, breaking and entering Christiana Williamson’s dwelling house in the County of Surrey and stealing several medals, 6 diamond rings, 3 cloaks etc. The men were sent to the Common Gaol. Records also show that Hearsay had previously been imprisoned between July and September 1772.

The remainder of the story has been engraved for posterity on the reverse of the frame –

This Picture was stol’n from the House of his Daughter
Mrs WILLAMSON [sic], 27th April 1774.
& returned to Mrs Williamson by
Hearsey [sic] who was executed
at Guildford the same YEAR.

Painted in oil on copper, the miniature is set in a gold frame with an inner gold surround within a lilac, gold and white enamel border surrounded by a plaited band of fair hair, possibly Christiana’s. It is engraved extensively on the reverse.

A unique piece of history.

Item Ref. 7062

Size: framed, 55 x 49mm

Provenance: By family descent