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The present lot derives from the portrait miniature on ivory by Andrew Plimer. Arguably Plimer's most famous work, the miniature was exhibited at the Royal Academy, London in 1788. Plimer's entry in the Dictionary of National Biography 1885-1900, vol.45 describes the miniature as having recently been in the collection of Mr Edward Joseph and now (1895) being the property of Mr Frank Woodroffe. By 1903 it had passed into the collection of George J. Gould esq (see G.C. Williamson, Andrew & Nathaniel Plimer, Miniature Painters, Their Lives and their Works, 1903, ill.opp. title page). The miniature was, at some point after this date, purchased by The Duveen Brothers and sold to Henry Huntington in 1922, in whose collection it remains to this day, at the Huntington Library, San Marino, California.
The charm of the image of three young and beautiful sisters led inevitably to the painting's reproduction during the nineteenth century. Engravings were made by both Thomas Burke and Edward William Stodart, an example of the latter, dating to 1892, which depicts the image truncated at the ladies' wrists is in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
Plimer was commissioned to paint members of Lord Northwick's family on several occasions. The J. Pierpont Morgan collection contained two portraits of Rebecca, Lady Northwick, as well as individual portraits of her daughters, Anne, Harriet and Elizabeth. These three portraits, along with one of the portraits of their mother had been sold in 1900 by Sir Charles Rushout Bt, a direct descendant and came into the possession of Pierpont Morgan via Messrs Agnews. Three further individual portraits of Anne exist in the collections of The Philadelphia Museum of Art (1955-1-2); The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (3765); and The Thomson Collection, Art Gallery of Ontario. A further individual portrait of Harriet was in the collection of Dr. Propert. Plimer also painted Lady Caroline Rushout (d.1818) and her husband, the Hon. Rev. George Rushout (1771-1842), 2nd son of Lord and Lady Northwick (Christie's, 6 July 1965, lot 26) and George Bowles, brother of Lady Northwick (Christie's, 24 May 2000, lot 324).
The inscription on Bone's preliminary drawing for the present lot, dated August 1809, indicates that the enamel was commissioned by Elizabeth Rushout's first husband, Sydney Bowles. This, along with the fact that the protoype was not part of the collection of Capt. E. G. Spencer-Churchill of Northwick Park (a descendant of the Lords Northwick) sold by Christie's in 1965, which included the Bone enamel, suggests that the Plimer miniature belonged to Sydney Bowles and that his commission of a copy was intended as a gift for his father-in-law. The Christie's sale of July 1965 also included a triple portrait of the three sisters by Mrs. Anne Mee dating to circa 1815 (lot 20) and an enamel by Bone portraying Lady Caroline after Plimer (see previous paragraph) (lot 28).
Celebrated in their day for their beauty, Anne, Harriet and Elizabeth were the three daughters of John Rushout, Baron Northwick of Northwick Park (1738-1800) and his wife, Rebecca (née Bowles) (1740-1818). Anne died unmarried due to the death of her fiancé days before their wedding. Harriet married Sir Charles Cockerell, 1st Bt. on 13 February 1808. They had a son, Charles Cockerell Rushout, 2nd Bt. (1809-1869) and a daughter, Harriet Anne (b.1812). The Cockerell (later Rushout) Baronetcy, of Sezincote in Gloucester, was created on 25 September 1809 for Sir Charles Cockerell 1st Bt. The title became extinct upon the death of his great-grandson, the fourth baronet, in 1931. Elizabeth married 1stly, Sydney Bowles on 24 June 1797 and 2ndly, John Wallis Graeve on 7 August 1819.