The Coach-Maker

Jemima Kipps


Looking soulful in a high-waisted dress with a funnel neckline and a lace cap, this portrait shows Jemima Kipps at the age of 25 in 1812. She would most certainly have been seen travelling around London in a fashionable and well-maintained barouche.

Jemima was born on 26 December 1787 to William and Mary Irvine. She appears to have been an only child. Based in Marylebone, William was a coachbuilder in partnership with Kipps. At the age of eighteen, Jemima married her father’s business partner, Thomas George Kipps. The couple do not appear to have had any children.

The coach-making business suffered a setback in June 1816 when a fire swept through their premises. Widely reported in the press, there was one fatality and several casualties as well as the loss of 8 new carriages and 18 unfinished vehicles, the intensity of the fire being blamed on the varnishes and paints stored in the warehouse. Presumably the business was insured as it did not go under.

In 1833, when Jemima was in her mid-forties, both her father and her husband died so she became the sole owner of the business. This is borne out by the 1841 and 1851 Census where she lists her occupation as Coach-builder. In 1845, at the age of 57, Jemima once again gets married. Her new husband, Richard Hermon, is 27 years younger than her! Strangely he is not listed at her address in either the 1851 or 1861 Census. Jemima died in Pimlico in 1863 at the age of 78. Her husband outlived her by nearly four decades.

The portrait is inscribed on the reverse and is set in a traditional papier-mâché frame with a star hanger. Although unsigned, the portrait can be attributed to Anne Mee on stylistic grounds. She typically gave her sitters over-large eyes and, in her early works, used a limited colour palette.

The daughter of a London portrait artist, Anne assisted her father in his studio from an early age and, when he unexpectedly died, took up miniature painting in order to support her mother and siblings. Following her marriage to an Irish barrister, Mrs Mee had six children of her own. She continued to paint commercially though her jealous husband ‘consented to let her paint ladies only who were never to be attended [at the sittings] by gentlemen’. She exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1804 and 1837.

Item Ref. 4503

Size: framed, 133 x 114mm (5⅜ x 4½")

Provenance: The Sykes Collection