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Zoomable Image of Christiana Cranstoun Tugwell (née Metcalfe) (c.1807/08-1839), wearing white dress and red coral necklace, her brown hair covered with a lace, frilled bonnet tied under her chin, c. 1811

Christiana Cranstoun Tugwell (née Metcalfe) (c.1807/08-1839), wearing white dress and red coral necklace, her brown hair covered with a lace, frilled bonnet tied under her chin, c. 1811

George Engleheart (1750-1829)

Christiana Cranstoun Tugwell (née Metcalfe) (c.1807/08-1839), wearing white dress and red coral necklace, her brown hair covered with a lace, frilled bonnet tied under her chin, c. 1811

George Engleheart (1750-1829)

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Price:

£7,500

Materials:

Watercolour on ivory

Dimensions:

Oval, 2 7/8 in (73 mm) high

Provenance:

Private Collection UK

Frame:

Gold frame, the reverse with central opalescent glass panel with gold letter ‘M’, surrounded by bands of plaited brown hair and blue glass

Christiana’s carefree childhood, recorded here, was not to last. After her marriage to George Tugwell in 1828, she gave birth to twin boys, Charles and Thomas, in 1831. It is recorded that in January 1839, she murdered the two boys and then took her own life through Prussic acid poisoning.

The sitter in this portrait, Christiana Cranstoun Metcalfe, is shown at around three years of age. Engleheart responded well as an artist to his younger sitters but has been particularly careful in capturing details of the sitter’s costume – even the dress smocking, the shadow of the coral beads and the lace of the bonnet are recorded here in meticulous brush strokes...


Christiana’s carefree childhood, recorded here, was not to last. After her marriage to George Tugwell in 1828, she gave birth to twin boys, Charles and Thomas, in 1831. It is recorded that in January 1839, she murdered the two boys and then took her own life through Prussic acid poisoning. A contemporary account states that she was ‘insane’ from ‘milk fever’ and killed herself and her boys from mixing Prussic acid with milk and sherry.[1] She is buried with her children at Claverton in Bath, where her husband was mayor.

Born at Kew, George Engleheart enrolled in the Royal Academy schools in 1769, after a period working with the landscape painter George Barret. Once he became an independent miniaturist, Engleheart enjoyed virtual overnight success and from 1775 ran one of the most successful studios in the country. He was prolific – his fee book records almost thirty sittings on some days – and his forty-year career maintained virtually the same consistent pace throughout. His careful draughtsmanship and rapid drawing from the life make his portraits some of the most lively and attractive from the period.


[1] The tragic tale is recorded in the Annual Register, vol. 81, 1839 p. 318. Milk fever is an infection also known as mastitis, where an infected milk duct can cause the breast to swell; symptoms include a high temperature. It may be that postnatal depression was a factor which would have gone undetected at the time.

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