Mary Beale (1633-1699)

Portrait of Margaret Wharton 

Mary Beale (1633-1699)

Oil on Canvas 126 x 103cm

Sold to Private Collector, UK 

Provenance 

Collection of Earl and Countess of Swinton Exhibited at Royal Academy exhibition of the Works of Old Masters, 1882 – contributed by John M. Teesdale

Stowe sale, September 1848 bought by James Dorington

 

Considered to be Britain’s earliest professional female painter, Mary Beale, (1633–1699), was a prolific portrait artist and commercially very popular at the time. She was born in Barrow, Suffolk, the daughter of John Cradock, a Puritan rector, amateur painter, and a member of the Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers. She was acquainted with local artists, such as Nathaniel Thach, Matthew Snelling, Robert Walker and Peter Lely. In 1652, at the age of eighteen, she married Charles Beale, a cloth merchant from London – also an amateur painter. Many details of her busy working life are recorded in the notebooks kept by her husband, who acted as her studio assistant. During the 1650s and 1660s, Mary Beale was a semi-professional painter, working from her home in Covent Garden and later in Fleet Street. In 1665 due to the Great Plague of London and their financial circumstances the family moved to a farmhouse in Hampshire where, for the next five years, a two storey timber-framed building was her family home and studio until she returned to London in 1670. Back in London she established a studio in Pall Mall, while her husband became her assistant and kept the accounts. Mary Beale became very successful, mixing with the likes of Thomas Flatman, the poet Samuel Woodford, the Archbishop of Canterbury John Tillotson, and Bishops Edward Stillingfleet and Gilbert Burnet. She became reacquainted with Peter Lely, now Court Artist to Charles II, who had a great influence on her later work, being mainly small portraits or copies of Lely’s work. Her work became unfashionable after his death in 1680. She died in 1699 in Pall Mall, and was buried at St. James’s, Piccadilly in London. Her second son, Bartholomew, painted portraits before taking up medicine. While a third son, named Charles after his father, was also a painter, specialising mainly
in miniatures. The sitter was the eldest daughter of Philip 4th Baron Wharton (1613–1696) and his second wife Jane Goodwin. Her father was a staunch Parliamentarian and close friend of Oliver Cromwell. He had a great taste for architecture and gardening and spent a handsome sum on his home at Woburn. He had a considerable collection of works by Van Dyck of whom he was an important patron. She married three times: her first husband was Major Dunch (1651–1679) by whom she had one son and two daughters. Following his death she married Sir Thomas Sulyarde, 2nd Baronet of Delaware and Chiddingstone, Kent (1648 –1692) and subsequently William, 12th Lord Ross of Halkhead (1656 –1738).