Joseph Wright of Derby, Jane Hawkins

Photo courtesy of Dave Penman (All rights reserved)


Country House
Jane Hawkins
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 73.5 cm, Overall width: 61 cm
Joseph Wright of Derby (1734-1797)
Catalogue Number


Jane Hawkins (c.1732–1786) was the sister of Thomas (1724–1766; TN22) and daughter of Christopher Hawkins (1694–1767) of Trewinnard, near St Erth, and Mary Hawkins (1694–1780) of Pennans. On 6 December 1754 Jane married Sir Richard Vyvyan (1732–1781), fifth Baronet of Trelowarren, Cornwall.1 The present portrait may have been painted around this time, possibly in relation to the marriage.

The portrait has been attributed variously to Allan Ramsay and Thomas Hudson. It is identified here as a previously unrecorded early portrait by Joseph Wright of Derby (1734–1797). The Ramsay attribution may have derived from the closeness in size, format and pose of this work to TN22. However, the two cannot have been conceived as a pair, not least since they are facing in the same direction and there is a discrepancy in date. If TN24 is indeed by Wright, as suggested here, it cannot have been painted before the mid-1750s, when Jane Hawkins was in her early twenties.

Ramsay, Hudson and Wright all featured sitters in opulent, slashed-sleeved ‘Van Dyck’ costume, while Ramsay and Hudson also used the services of the drapery painter Joseph van Acken (d. 1649). The matter is further complicated by the fact that Wright trained under Hudson for two stretches, in 1751–3 and 1756–7, and his early work shows the strong influence of his master’s style. Hudson had been painting sitters in Van Dyck dress since the 1740s and some of his portraits of the 1750s, such as Anne Parsons (fig. 1), are close to the Trewithen type in pose and costume, although not in style. Examination of the drapery and handling of the likeness of this portrait reveals it to be closest to the early work of Wright. Up to now Wright’s earliest-known securely dated painting is a portrait of Anne Bateman, signed and dated 1755 (fig. 2). The Trewithen portrait’s similarities to this work in terms of format, pose, costume and colouring are suggestive of it being of a similar date, just before the artist returned to Hudson’s studio for further training. The artist’s own self-portrait in Van Dyck costume has been dated slightly earlier, to c.1753–4 (Derby Museum and Art Gallery, 1984-29).

1753. Oil on canvas, 124 × 101 cm. The University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education (6).

Figure 1.
Thomas Hudson, Anne Parsons, Daughter of Alderman Humphrey Parsons, Brewer and Lord Mayor of London, 1753. Oil on canvas, 124 × 101 cm. The University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education (6).

Digital image courtesy of The University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education. (All rights reserved)

1755. Oil on canvas, 65 × 77 cm. Private Collection.

Figure 2.
Joseph Wright of Derby, Anne Bateman later Mrs Gisborne, 1755. Oil on canvas, 65 × 77 cm. Private Collection.

Digital image courtesy of Art Heritage / Alamy Stock Photo (T8WRT7). (All rights reserved)

The picture was recorded as being on display in its present location, in the Dining Room, in an inventory of 1828. The inventory of March 1928, when it was still displayed in the Dining Room, states, ‘Companion Picture [to TN22] – Jane, sister to above, brown corsage, blue ribbon slashed sleeves, pearl necklace, in vignette as above, painted 1745, 30in by 24in’. 

by Emily Burns


  1. George William Collen, Debrett’s Baronetage of England, London, 1840, pp. 564–5.


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