The Shoemaker’s Daughter

Albin Roberts Burt


It’s hardly surprising that this little girl is wearing the prettiest of shoes as her father, James William Slatter, was a shoemaker and Amelia was his only child. Pictured here in 1828, Amelia is about six or seven years old. Wearing a fashionable brown dress she holds a book with more books sitting on the tripod table to indicate that, despite being a tradesman’s daughter, she can read and is educated.

An element of vanity is apparent in the portrait as the artist’s signature has been altered from 1828 to 1838. Such tricks of vanity are regularly seen on needlework samplers where stitched dates are later unpicked to conceal the needlewoman’s true age! That appears to have been the motive here too.

Amelia Ann was born in Witney near Oxford though no formal record of her birth or baptism has as yet been traced. Her given age on the various census records is inconsistent and thus unreliable.

In addition to making shoes, Amelia’s father was a city councillor and a poet. (The University of Oxford have in their collections a watercolour profile of him taken in 1832.) Amelia’s own talents were using a needle, a skill learned perhaps in her father’s workshop. The 1861 Census shows Amelia working as an upholsterer and living in Paradise Square, Oxford with her father, now retired. By 1881, still working as an upholsterer, she is lodging in a different house in the same street, her father having presumably died. By 1901 she is lodging elsewhere in Oxford and, claiming to be aged 70, still taking in needlework at home yet ten years later in the 1911 Census she claims to be only 77. She died in January 1912.

Painted in watercolour on card, the portrait is signed in pencil ‘Drawn by A Burt / Oxford 1828’ (overwritten 1838). It is set in a handsome bird’s eye maple frame with a gilt slip. The artist’s Reading trade label appears on the backing board and indicates that the portrait would have cost £2 2s originally. A handwritten label with the sitter’s details is pasted below.

Albin Roberts Burt (1783-1842) was the son of a London grocer & his Welsh wife. He trained as an engraver before turning to portraiture and exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1807 and 1830. Burt boastfully claimed that he would paint anybody “from a lord down to a boots”. He married in 1810, settled in Chester, and had eight children whom he kept “in good style”.

Item Ref. 7302

Size: framed, 320 x 27mm (12⅝ x 10⅝")