Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Deciphering labels to identify sitters

Murray's, from the Isle of Man, sell on 2 July 2016 a "19th c. English" portrait of a woman, estimated at £350 to £500.

It has a number of papers stuck to the back, one barely readable letter and one paper identifying the sitter. The auctioneer has deciphered this paper as follows:

"Selina Dowager of Governor Passon of St. Helena and widow of General Lumsdaine, then wife of William Walker Rowley (b 1790, d 1873)"

The actual text, with some further research, seems to be:

"Selina, daughter (!) of Governor Patton (!) of St. Helena and widow of general Lumsdaine, then wife of William Walker Rowley (b 1790 (c), d. 1873).

Selina was the 9th daughter and 13th child (out of 10 daughters and 17 children) of Robert Patton (1743-1812), Governor of Saint Helena between 1800 and 1807. She was born 24 September 1793 in Scotland, and died in 1872 or 1873. In 1813 she married James Lunsdaine in India, but he died in 1816. William Walker Rowley was a clergyman, younger than Selina Patton (one site gives 1813 as his year of birth, but that seems too young), who survived her.

And there the trail ends. She apparently had no children, and no claims to fame. But she left behind a nice enough portrait,  though the auction site photos seem to distort it significantly. Probably not worth more than the estimate, but better than many of those anonymous portraits at least.

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