DescriptionEDWARD FRANCIS BURNEY (British, 1760-1848)
Portrait of Sophy Elizabeth Burney, Daughter of Charles Rousseau Burney, Esq., circa 1784
Oil on canvas
30 x 25 inches (76.2 x 63.5 cm)
Charles Rousseau Burney, Esq., father of the sitter, until 1819;
Colonel Henry Edward Burney, Woburn Sands, near Milton Keynes, Bedfordshire, by descent, circa 1907-1930;
Christie's, London, Duke of Leeds and others sale (part C.H.C.P. Burney, Esq., and the Trustees of the Will of the late Colonel Henry Edward Burney), June 20, 1930, lot 120 (as Portrait of Sophy Elizabeth Burney, daughter of Charles Rousseau Burney, Esq.: When a child, in white muslin frock, pink sash, and green hat trimmed with pink riband, kneeling on the ground fondling a pet dog), sold for £294;
Horace Ayerst Buttery (1902-1962), noted British art restorer, who worked for Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, the Tate Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Royal Collections among many others, and was the first person to care for the collections at Kenwood House, purchased from the above;
[With] Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York;
Private American collection.
Royal Academy, London, 1784, no. 187 (as Portrait of a Child).
A. Graves, The Royal Academy of Arts. A Complete Dictionary of Contributors and Their Work from its Foundation in 1769 to 1904, Vol. I, London, 1905, p. 354.
This painting retains what appears to be its original frame.
This delightful portrait of a young girl with her pet dog depicts Sophy Elizabeth Burney, a member of the distinguished and tightly-knit Burney clan of virtuoso musicians, musical historians, novelists, playwrights, explorers and bibliophiles. The sitter was one of three daughters (and eight children) born to musicians Charles Rousseau Burney (1747-1819) and Esther ("Hetty") Burney (1749-1832), violin and harpsichord prodigies who were first cousins who had known one another since childhood. The sitter's maternal grandfather was the patriarch of the Burney clan, Charles Burney, Esq., Mus. Doc. (1726-1814), the noted musicologist, composer, practicing professional musician, and close friend of Samuel Johnson. He is best known for his monumental four-volume A General History of Music (1776-1789). A 1781 portrait of him by Sir Joshua Reynolds in the National Portrait Gallery, London shows him holding a musical score. Charles' elder brother Richard (1723-1792) of London and Barborne Lodge, Worcester was the paternal grandfather of the sitter of this portrait; and Richard's son Edward Francis (or Francisco) Burney (1760-1848) is the author of the present painting of his little niece. She was also the niece of perhaps the best known member of the Burney family today--novelist and playwright Fanny Burney (1752-1840), who is considered the literary precursor to Jane Austen.
As this remarkably deft portrait fully demonstrates, Edward Francis Burney was a gifted painter. In 1776, at the age of 16, he became a student at the Royal Academy School of Art where he received encouragement from Sir Joshua Reynolds, then-president of the school. Burney exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy of Art from 1780 through 1803, and the present portrait of his niece represented him in the 1784 exhibition where it was titled simply "Portrait of a Child." Although a talented portraitist, he was apparently too shy to paint sitters apart from his closest friends and family, which explains why his efforts in this genre are quite rare. He produced a striking likeness of his cousin Fanny Burney in an enormous beribboned hat now in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London. Its palette of pinks and grays of close contrast is very similar to that of this painting of Sophy Elizabeth, as is the fluid and assured handling. Edward Burney worked mainly as an illustrator, and produced highly imaginative designs that are greatly sought-after today. In 1780, he executed three drawings to accompany Frances Burney's bestseller, Evelina, one of which was later engraved and incorporated into a 1791 edition of the novel. He went on to do a series of illustrations for Milton's Paradise Lost, which are now held by the Huntington Library.
During the early years of the 20th century, this portrait of Sophy Elizabeth Burney was displayed on the walls of Colonel Henry Edward Burney's home, Woburn Sands, near Milton Keynes, in Bedfordshire, England. Colonel Burney had inherited the Burney family portrait collection which included several portraits by Edward Burney including his Fanny Burney (now in the National Portrait Gallery) as well Thomas Gainsborough's stunning portrait of Charles Rousseau Burney, Esq. donning a scarlet coat with silver buttons and holding music in his right hand which is now in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. These and the other Burney family portraits had been removed from their frames by Colonel Burney so that they could be set neatly into the woodwork of his gallery at Woburn Sands. When the entire collection was sold after the Colonel's death in 1930 at Christie's, London, frames were loaned to the sale since most no longer retained their original housing. This portrait's frame, however, has every appearance of being the work's original, and was doubtless restored to the portrait of Sophy Elizabeth at the time of the 1930 sale.
Buyer's Premium per Lot:
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