George Chinnery RHA (British, 1774-1852) An important portrait miniature, probably of Anne Thackeray (née Becher) (1792-1864) and her son William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863); the former, wearing saffron dress with short bouffant sleeves and cord belt, her son secured onto her back within the seat of her crimson shawl, her dark hair upswept beneath a white striped bandeau tied loosely beneath her chin, her right hand pointing to her face; the latter, wearing white chemise, his brown hair curling naturally, his arms wound about his mother's neck
Lot 83Y
George Chinnery RHA
(British, 1774-1852)
An important portrait miniature, probably of Anne Thackeray (née Becher) (1792-1864) and her son William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863); the former, wearing saffron dress with short bouffant sleeves and cord belt, her son secured onto her back within the seat of her crimson shawl, her dark hair upswept beneath a white striped bandeau tied loosely beneath her chin, her right hand pointing to her face; the latter, wearing white chemise, his brown hair curling naturally, his arms wound about his mother's neck
Sold for £5,000 (US$ 8,025) inc. premium

Lot Details
George Chinnery RHA (British, 1774-1852)
An important portrait miniature, probably of Anne Thackeray (née Becher) (1792-1864) and her son William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863); the former, wearing saffron dress with short bouffant sleeves and cord belt, her son secured onto her back within the seat of her crimson shawl, her dark hair upswept beneath a white striped bandeau tied loosely beneath her chin, her right hand pointing to her face; the latter, wearing white chemise, his brown hair curling naturally, his arms wound about his mother's neck.
Gold fausse-montre frame with tooled border, the reverse with border of blue glass surrounding gold-mounted aperture, glazed to reveal plaited hair.
Oval, 105mm (4 1/8in) high
Provenance: Bonhams, London, 22 May 2003, lot 113.

Footnotes

  • George Chinnery painted the Thackeray family in 1814 (now in the Harris Art Gallery, Preston). Comparison with this watercolour and the current lot, shows a strong resemblance between the two portraits, in particular Anne's strong jawline, dark hair and eyebrows and William's brown eyes, curly brown hair and defined chin. The composition of the present lot, is comparable to Joshua Reynold's 1778 portrait of Mrs Stephen Payne-Gallwey and her son at the Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, Ohio.

    Anne Becher came from a staunch Anglo-Indian family. Shortly before her return to India with her sister and widowed mother in 1809, Anne's paternal grandmother told her that the man she loved, Henry Carmichael-Smyth of the Bengal Engineers, had died. The pair had met two years previously at an Assembly Ball in Bath. The young Ensign was meanwhile falsely informed that Anne was no longer interested in him. Although Carmichael-Smyth came from a distinguished Scottish military family, Anne's grandmother was determined to prevent their marriage and went to extreme lengths to do so, desiring a superior match for her grand-daughter.

    Mrs Becher's deceit resulted in the marriage of Anne to Richmond Thackeray (1781-1815), secretary to the Board of Revenue in the British East India Company, in 1810. The newlyweds settled in Chowringhee, Calcutta, where their only child, the future author, William Makepeace Thackeray, was born on 18 July 1811. The current lot probably shows him aged 2 in 1813.

    The truth was unexpectedly revealed one evening in 1812, when Richmond unwittingly invited the supposedly deceased but very much alive and promoted Captain Carmichael-Smyth to dinner. Anne's marriage to Richmond, now somewhat altered following that fateful encounter continued until Richmond died from a fever on 13 September 1815. William was packed off to England to be educated the following year. His mother, meanwhile, stayed behind and married Carmichael-Smyth on 13 March 1817 before joining William in England with her new husband three years later. The early separation from his mother had a traumatic effect on the young Thackeray which he discussed in his essay 'On Letts's Diary' in The Roundabout Papers (1863).

    Though Thackeray's recollections of his early years in India were scanty, Anglo-Indian culture features prominently in a number of his works, including, 'The Tremendous Adventures of Major Goliah Gahagan', 'Vanity Fair', and 'The Newcomes'. He even recalls Chinnery in his novel, 'The Newcomes', stating that, 'Chinnery himself, Sir, couldn't hit off a likeness better'.
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  1. Jennifer Tonkin
    Specialist - Portrait Miniatures
    Bonhams
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    London, United Kingdom SW7 1HH
    Work +44 20 7393 3986
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