Susannah Merest

Sampson Towgood Roch


Writing in A¬†Dictionary of Irish Artists¬†(1913) Walter Strickland ranks Roch’s miniatures ‘amongst the best produced by Irish artists’ and this well-modelled portrait is certainly testament to that claim. Painted in 1811, the portrait shows a bright-eyed young lady named Susannah Merest wearing an elegant white dress with a draped train and a narrow mauve sash. Her hair has been arranged in the latest style with a plaited hair bandeau and curls framing her face.

The daughter of Abraham Jenkin, clerk of the peace, of Long Sutton in Lincolnshire, Susannah married John William Drage Merest (1789-1873) of Thetford in Norfolk in 1810. Merest was elected to Parliament in 1818 but, when he lost his seat just two years later, he became a clergyman and, with good patronage, obtained a rich living.

The portrait is signed ‘S. Roch / 1811’ and is set in a gold frame with blue glass on the reverse.

Sampson Towgood Roch / Roche (1757-1847) was the eldest son of William and Mary Roch of Youghal, Co. Cork. Despite being born deaf and dumb, he showed an early talent for drawing. Advertising in a Dublin newspaper in 1778, Roch offered striking likenesses ‘even to the smallest size’ for just one guinea. He goes on to plead that ‘his Misfortunes, Abilities, Attention and moderate Price will insure him support in his own Country’. He worked first in Dublin and Cork before moving for a time to Bath to join the many successful artists working there at the height of its popularity as a spa resort. He had many wealthy clients including royalty and is said to have declined a Royal honour on account of his disability.

Item Ref. 6084

Size: framed, 72 x 64mm + hanger

Provenance: Christie's, July 1974