Author: James Northcote (1746-1831), British
Source: The Internet
Owner: Tennants Auctioneers
Location: Tennants, The Auction Centre, Leyburn, North Yorkshire, DL8 5SG, UK
Link to: Website
James Northcote (1746-1831)
Portrait of Emily St Clare with a falcon
Signed and dated 1803, oil on canvas, 126cm by 101.5cm
Literature: J. Wilson, ' Hoppner's "tamborine girl' identified', Burlington Magazine, CXXX, October 1988, p. 767, no. 5; J. Simon, 'An Account Book of James Northcote', Walpole Society, LVIII, 1995/6, p. 76, no. 406
Emily St Clare was the mistress of Sir John Leicester (1762-1827), later 1st Lord de Tabley of Tabley Hall, Cheshire. He was obsessed with her and commissioned at least fourteen portraits of her by John Hoppner, William Owen, Henry Thomson and John Northcote during the first decade of the 19th century. A major patron of British Art, Leicester also commissioned paintings by Turner, Sir Thomas Lawrence and James Ward. After Leicester's marriage to Georgiana Maria Cotton in 1810, he hid the portraits of his mistress from his wife. He died in 1827 and shortly afterwards they were sold as subject paintings.
Northcote painted Miss St Clare no less than seven times, portraying her twice with a falcon. In the earlier canvas she is seated with the bird in profile on her hand, a head and shoulders canvas for which Leicester paid £21.10s in 1801 (see J. Simon, Walpole Society, pp. 73-74, no. 382). The painting has recently been identified in a private collection. The second painting is on a larger canvas and shows the sitter standing on garden steps with the falcon alighting on her hand. This portrait, which appears in the artist's account book in 1803, is the one offered in this sale. St Clare is shown wearing a white muslin cap, a white dress with a matching cape around her shoulders tied with a blue ribbon around her neck. It rehearses the self-portrait as a falconer Northcote painted of himself in 1823 (Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter).
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