Portrait of an Actor of the Covent Garden Theatre Company, 1811.
|Title:||Portrait of an Actor of the Covent Garden Theatre Company, 1811.|
|Artist:||Henry William Pickersgill R.A. Attributed to (1782-1875) British|
|Detail:||Oil on cradled panel.17 ½ x14 ½ in. Frame.23 x20 in. Indistinctly inscribed on remnants of old label verso ‘Portrait of Master++of Covent +++Theatre. Painted by ++Pickersgill. Exhibited at London 1811’. Cradled panel impressed ‘G.Morrell’*.|
The inscription on the old label on reverse of the present portrait refers to an actor of the Covent Garden Theatre co. (The Theatre-Royal, Covent Garden, now the Royal opera house) in 1811.
The sitter is presumably one of the company of Regency actors under the stage management of the actor/manager John Philip Kemble in 1811.The present sitter shows a very strong resemblance with large forehead and strong jaw to Charles Farley** who was in the Covent Garden troupe with his Timour the Tartar, May 1811, aged 40. More investigation is needed to confirm if our sitter is a young Charles Farley or another actor in the troupe of 1811, which is made difficult by artists having different styles of representation and many of the recorded images of the actors in costume.
We are very grateful to Carmen Holdsworth-Delgado, curator of the Garrick Club pictures for her assistance in our research.
* The panel, sometime ago cradled is with impressed stamp & ‘G. Morrill’. George Morrill (c.1812-1865) picture restorer who worked extensively for the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Royal Collections and other prominent collectors.
**Charles Farley as Cloten in Cymbeline, 1821 (aged 50), engraving by Thomas Woolnoth after Thomas Charles Wageman (NPG D38673)
Charles Farley (1771-1859) was born in London and entered the theatrical profession at an early age, making his first appearance as a page at Covent Garden Theatre, London, in 1782. He was the instructor of Joseph Grimaldi, with whom he starred in a production of Valentine and Orson in 1806, Farley playing the former role. He also assisted Thomas Dibdin in the composition of Harlequin and Mother Goose, the show which boosted Grimaldi to stardom. From 1806 to 1834 the Covent Garden pantomimes owed much of their success to Farleys inventive mind and diligent superintendence.
Henry William Pickersgill was a successful portrait painter whose work was recognised as a refreshingly sober and accurate alternative to the elaborate styles of the leading portraitists. Pickersgill first studied under George Arnald and in 1805 enrolled at the Royal Academy Schools in London. The following year he exhibited his first work, a portrait of his adoptive father Henry Hall. During a prolific career that spanned 66 years, Pickersgill showed nearly 400 works at the Royal Academy and painted many more. After the death of Thomas Phillips in 1845, Pickersgill’s position as a painter of eminent men and women became almost unchallenged. He was a Royal Academician for almost fifty years and painted many of the most notable figures of his time.