NEWS - Clarence and the sketch of Turner by the Count d'Orsay in his father's house

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

engraving of Turner by d'Orsay, property of Marcus BicknellI have been researching further the apocryphal story, recounted in the family,  that Clarence would have observed Turner, Landseer, Stansfield, Roberts, Ruskin and other notable artists and writers of the time when they visited Elhanan's home, Carlton House in Herne Hill, now the site of Danecroft Road. A very useful summary of Turner and Elhanan Bicknell is in the Dulwich Society paper by Brian Green of 2014 which I put online (and linked to my last blog posting here) at http://www.clarencebicknell.com/images/downloads_news/dulwich_society_the_herne_hill_art_set_dec2014.pdf

This paper is brim full of other useful stories about Elhanan's world and is worth another read. For example "Turner, frequently dined at his father’s house, and objected to having his portrait taken. At one such dinner around Christmas 1845, Count D’Orsay and Sir Edwin Landseer, devised a little plot to defeat the result of this antipathy. Whilst Turner unsuspiciously chatted with a guest over a cup of tea in the drawing-room, D’Orsay placed himself as a screen beside him to hide, when necessary, Landseer, sketching him at full length in pencil on the back of an envelope. Landseer gave what he had done to D’Orsay, who after re-drawing it at home and enlarged the figure to eight inches in height, sold it to J Hogarth, printseller in the Haymarket, for twenty guineas”. Sixteen copies of this print were included in the Bicknell sale at Christie’s in 1863 after Bicknell’s death and I show an image of one of them, above.

When d'Orsay secretly sketched Turner sipping coffee in Elhanan's drawing room in 1845 Clarence was only 3, so if any children observed this little deception they would have been Clarence's elder siblings. He was the youngest of 13 children of Elhanan. I am continuing to hunt down the source of any anecdote about Clarence and the artists in the house especially as they would be useful to Clarence's biographer Valerie Browne Lester.

The Tate Gallery in London lists the d'Orsay engraving, and gives further details, at http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/hullmandel-dorsay-portrait-of-jmw-turner-the-fallacy-of-hope-engraved-by-j-hogarth-t05029 

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