Catherine Andras (1775-1860)
Orphaned young, Andras worked in a local toy shop where her skills for creating wax models attracted the attention of local funfairs. Later, Andras was adopted by the portrait miniaturist Robert Bowyer...
Catherine Andras was born in Bristol. Orphaned young, she worked in a local toy shop where her skills for creating wax models attracted the attention of local funfairs. Following an introduction, Andras was adopted by the portrait miniature painter Robert Bowyer (1758-1834) whose only daughter had recently died. Bowyer was a highly reputed artist and in 1789, on the death of Jeremiah Meyer (1735-1789), he was appointed Miniature Painter in Ordinary to the King acquiring the patronage of numerous aristocratic figures and commissions for portraits in wax by his talented protégée.
In 1800 Andras modelled five year old Princess Charlotte from life, and, later the same year, Admiral Lord Nelson. Her wax of Nelson was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1801, the same year her talents were recognised by the Royal Society of Arts who awarded her the Greater Silver Pallet.
Nelson sat to Andras again in September 1805, shortly before he departed on the Trafalgar campaign. The immediate and commercial success of the resulting wax portrait, which was issued in several editions after Nelson’s death, probably prompted Andras to portray another national hero.
In fact, although Sir Arthur Wellesley, ennobled in 1809 as Viscount Wellington, was already celebrated as the victor of the battle of Assaye and hero of the ongoing Peninsula Wars when Andras produced and exhibited her wax portrait, he had yet to achieve his greater fame as the victor of Waterloo, or his dukedom (1814). As such, unlike Andras’s wax of Nelson, the edition was small and the wax now consequently rare; superseded as it was by other artists in wax―like Peter Rouw, Samuel Percy and Benedetto Pistrucci―who later capitalised on Wellington’s triumph at Waterloo.
As Wellington was campaigning overseas at the time the wax was produced, Andras was denied a sitting (in any event, unlike Nelson who indulged artists, Wellington is unlikely to have granted one). Instead, she relied on published images no doubt guided by Bowyer who had recently turned to print publishing. The resulting image displays that close attention and the unique skills of an artist at the height of her powers in her portrayal of a man on the verge of his.