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Zoomable Image of A portrait of Miles Booty, ship’s purser on the ‘Melville Castle’

A portrait of Miles Booty, ship’s purser on the ‘Melville Castle’

John Smart Junior (1755-1834)

A portrait of Miles Booty, ship’s purser on the ‘Melville Castle’

John Smart Junior (1755-1834)

Purchase Enquiries

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Price:

£6,500

Materials:

Pencil on paper

Dimensions:

Rectangular, 6 ¼ in (159 mm) high

Provenance:

Anonymous Collection, Bonhams, London, 28 April, 2005, lot 263

Literature:

D. Foskett, John Smart; the Man and his Miniatures, London, 1964, p.62 (as by John Smart)

Inscriptions:

Signed with initials ‘J S J. delin.’ and dated ‘1797’, the reverse inscribed in pencil, ‘Mr Booty/ Ship’s Bursar’

Frame:

Later gilded frame, buff-coloured mount

Booty was the purser on the ship ‘Melville Castle’, which had transported his father back to England from India in 1795...

This portrait of a ship’s purser, the aptly named Mr Booty, is most likely to be a work by the miniaturist John Smart junior after his father, John Smart senior, and as such provides a rare glimpse into the working relationship between the two. Booty was the purser on the ship ‘Melville Castle’, which had transported his father back to England from India in 1795.[1] John Smart junior must have copied his father’s drawing just a few years later.

The younger Smart was born in 1776 to his father’s lover at the time, Sarah Midgeley. Smart the elder had, it would seem, suffered from misfortune when it came to affairs of the heart. His first wife, Marianne Howard, eloped to Rome with the artist William Pars, leaving Smart to raise their two daughters and, according to recent research, perhaps a third, who likely died young.[2] After this, Smart married a further two times, fathering a total of six children over the course of his various relationships. Smart did not, however, let their upbringing interfere in his potential for professional success, as in 1785 he sailed to India to make his fortune, leaving his children by Sarah Midgeley, John junior and Sarah junior, aged only nine and four respectively. Nevertheless, he made suitable arrangements for their care, ensuring that the boy would be educated under the capable hands of Robert Bowyer, himself a miniaturist.

Drawings made by Smart in 1795, the year of his return from Madras to England – he arrived in November of that year – which were likely made on the course of the journey itself bear a close resemblance to this drawing. From it, we can see that Smart junior must have matured into an artist of some talent in his father’s absence as after only two years of his father’s tutelage he is able to copy his style very closely. Indeed, if it were not for the signature, it would be difficult to distinguish between this work and the work of his father. From 1800, he began to exhibit his work at the Royal Academy; registering his address as 2 Russell Place, his practice was closely tied into that of his father, with Smart junior seeking to make a particular specialism of his works in paper and card – as in the case of the present work.

In 1808, his father – who clearly held his son’s work in high regard – petitioned the East India Company to invite his son to Madras in India, where he hoped that he would be able to find patronage among the wealthy mercantile and administrative classes there, as he had done before. In his letter, he writes with a father’s evident pride of how he expected his son to do ‘honor to me and credit to himself’.[3] Tragically, however, Smart junior was not to have an opportunity to prove his talent. Within four months of his arrival, he had died, perhaps succumbing to one of the tropical diseases to which Westerners in the Subcontinent were so prone. Certainly, his illness seems to have developed rapidly, as only one surviving miniature can be dated to this period in his life. His heartbroken father died only two years later.


[1] For one of a handful of drawings by John Smart on his voyage home see a drawing of Captain John Lambe (1768-1803), dated 1795 (previously with Philip Mould and Company)

[2] L. Hendra, ‘John Smart: The Early Years’, in L. Hendra and E. Rutherford (eds.), John Smart: A Genius Magnified (London, 2014), pp.13-14.

[3] Quoted in V. Remington, ‘Smart, John (1741/2-181), miniature painter), in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn., http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-25744 [accessed May 2018].


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