Sunday, May 1, 2011

1797 - Another 18th-Century Family Portrait & the Wife's Proper Place



Francesco Renaldi (Italian artist, 1755-1798) Portrait of Thomas Jones (1742-1803) and his Family. 1797


The subject of this painting Thomas Jones (1742-1803) was born into privilege and entitlement in Radnorshire, Wales, of a wealthy land-owning family. He enjoyed an early career painting landscapes. When he was 34 in 1776, he left for Italy, returning to London in 1784. In 1787, he inherited the Pencerrig, the family estate near Builth Wells in Wales.

Here, Jones is shown at his estate Pencerrig as the country squire and landscape painter. Well-schooled daughters Anna Maria and Elizabetha are at the spinet, as one plays the instrument. Here the artist portrays the ideal Welsh gentry family, concealing the fact both daughters were born in Italy, before Jones married their mother Maria who was his housekeeper. In this portrayal, the wife Maria is shown at a spinning wheel, which is rare in these gentry family paintings. It is clear that she is not the equal of her husband, or even of her daughters. She is still "the housekeeper."

The artist Francesco Renaldi (1755-1798) was an Italian painter of conversation pieces and history paintings. He trained at the Royal Academy Schools but returned to Italy in 1781, and subsequently worked in India.