"A Pair of Portraits of Anne and George Venables-Vernon"
Arthur Devis (British, 1711–1787)
Inventory Number 7854-88
Oil on canvas
Paper: 23.5" x 16"
Framed: 30" x 22.5"
George Vernon of Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire inherited the barony of the Venables of Kinderton in 1728 through his maternal relations. Anne Lee was his second wife and came from a prominent Buckinghamshire family. Their marriage in 1741 ended with her death less than a year later, which suggests a date for this painting of about 1741-42.
Anne Vernon is depicted in seventeenth century Van Dyckian costume, with a view of Sudbury Hall beyond. Sudbury Hall’s expansion was begun in the 1660’s, on the site of an older manor house, and remained in the Vernon family until 1967. Considered one of the finest Restoration houses in England, the interiors were well regarded in the period. Its features include a magnificent staircase and long gallery, elaborate plasterwork by master craftsmen, as well as an overmantle executed by Grinling Gibbons. The hall’s small dome, crowned with a golden ball on the roof of the hall, visible in the background, acted as a beacon for travelers. Today Sudbury Hall is a National Trust Property.
Arthur Devis was born in Preston, Lancashire in 1712, the son of Anthony Devis and Ellen Rauthmell. He reputedly studied under the celebrated topographical and sporting painter, Peter Tillemans, who was working in England between 1708 and 1734. Some of Devis’s earliest works are landscapes, gradually shifting his emphasis to portraiture once he gained a following among the pro-Jacobite Lancashire families. After marrying Elizabeth Faulkner in 1742, Devis set up a studio in Great Queen Street, London, a prospering artists’ community. By then he had established himself as a prominent painter of small-scale portraits and conversation pieces. He eventually retired to Brighton in 1781 and died there in 1787.
His conversation pieces and portraits, commissioned by a clientele consisting of nobility and landed gentry, are exceptional for their verisimilitude of detail and painstaking rendering of texture. His background in landscape painting is most evident in the elaborate backgrounds of these portraits.
Paintings and drawings by Arthur Devis are conserved in the following collections, among many more: The Art Institute of Chicago; The National Gallery of Art in Washington DC; The Courtland Institute of Art, London; The Tate, London; The Victoria and Albert Museum, London; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
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