Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Rice Portrait Provenance by Mrs. Henry Rice - Mrs. Thomas Harding-Newman 1789-1831, and The Rev. Dr. Thomas Harding Newman 1811-1882

Thomas Harding Newman
reproduced by kind permission of Edward Harding-Newman
Mrs. Rice tells us about the fifth and sixth owners of the portrait today.

Elizabeth Hall who married Colonel Thomas Harding Newman in 1818 was the fourth owner of the portrait. She was his second wife, and acquired his son by his first wife Elizabeth Cartwright, as her step-son. In family lore she was the model for Jane Austen's "Emma" so one can only suppose her to be managing and somewhat manipulative; I wonder also if she was a good matchmaker! In any case, she was nineteen when she married and died young, again, I believe in childbirth, in 1831. Her husband married again, but on his death in 1856 the portrait was inherited by his eldest son, the Rev. Dr. Thomas Harding Newman, the fifth owner of the portrait.

The Rev. Dr. Thomas Harding Newman 1811-1882

The fifth owner of the portrait never married. A don at Oxford he hung the portrait in his rooms at Magdalen College where by all accounts he was exceedingly proud of it. So proud in fact, that he decided that the portrait had been painted by Zoffany. The name Humphry is written across the right hand corner of the painting, but rather indistinctly. He may have made a genuine mistake as the names both end in y, or he may just have chosen the smarter artist. Be that as it may, this mis-attribution caused a very great problem for the poor picture later in my story. Humphry and Zoffany were great friends, and Zoffany is credited with teaching Humphry how to paint muslins and draperies whilst they were together in India. Humphry also figures in Zoffany's famous painting 'Colonel Mordaunt's Cockfight' painted in India. This helped the confusion.
Rev. Dr. Thomas Harding-Newman
Also up at Magdalen at the time, and friends of Harding-Newman, were the first cousins Lord Brabourne, and Morland Rice, Elizabeth Austen-Rice's 4th son, an extremely clever and handsome young man who became a close friend of the Rev. Harding Newman. He always promised Morland that he would leave him the portrait in his will " as you are a relative of the lady". However, he died in 1822 without doing so officially. His nephew, and heir Benjamin Harding-Newman, a member of a very honorable family knew of his uncle's wish, and gave the picture to a friend of Morland Rice's, Dr. Bloxham, to deliver to him in 1883, the year after the Rev. Dr. Harding-Newman's death.

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