caption

William Gandy, Mary Hawkins

Photo courtesy of Dave Penman (All rights reserved)

Details

Country House
Trewithen
Title(s)
Mary Hawkins
Date
1714
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
Overall height: 122 cm, Overall width: 80 cm
Artist
William Gandy (c.1655-1729)
Catalogue Number
TN63

Description

Mary Hawkins (1694–1780) was a key player in the dynastic allegiance of two branches of the Hawkins family. Mary’s father was Philip Hawkins I of Pennance, Cornwall, and her brother was Philip Hawkins II (? 1700–1738), who acquired ownership of the Trewithen estate in 1728. In 1716, Mary, who was co-heir of her father’s estate, married the heir to the other branch of the Hawkins family, Christopher Hawkins (1694–1767) of Trewinnard, grandson of John Hawkins (d. 1676), the purchaser of Trewinnard House and estate in St Erth. Christopher, in addition to his inherited wealth, was by profession a barrister-at-law in London, vice-warden of the Stannaries and deputy lord lieutenant of Cornwall. Around 1750, having lived previously in London, Mary and Christopher Hawkins moved to Trewinnard. In the meantime, on the death of her brother Philip, as neither he nor their brother John had children, Mary and Christopher’s son Thomas Hawkins (c.1724–1766; TN22) inherited Trewithen. Their daughter, Jane, married Sir Richard Vyvyan of Trelowarren, Cornwall.

A list entitled ‘Pictures at Trewithen’, dated 8 December 1906, states in relation to the present portrait, ‘Mary 3rd daur. of Philip Hawkins Esq: of Pennans & Mary Scobell/ married in 1719 Christopher Hawkins Esq: of Trwinnard/ died 1780 aged 86. Buried at S: Erth’. It also states, ‘Ms Mary Hawkins AEt: 19/ W. Gandy fec 1714’.1 In the portrait Mary Hawkins is depicted holding out her arm, as if beckoning the parrot to perch on her finger. The parrot, which was presumably a household pet, was also in Christian iconography associated with the Immaculate Conception of Mary, and here may allude to the virginal qualities of the otherwise alluring nineteen-year-old Mary Hawkins. The loosely handled draperies, broad brushstrokes and buttery pigment are entirely characteristic of Gandy’s work, which was little known beyond the borders of Devon and Cornwall.

By the time he painted the present portrait, William Gandy, who was previously based in Exeter, had moved to Plymouth, where he painted portraits of prominent members the business and professional community. According to the artist James Northcote, who was familiar with Gandy’s personal history, he was ‘a man of a most untractable disposition, very resentful, of unbounded pride, and in the latter part of his life both idle and luxurious’. Northcote noted also that, having no studio of his own, Gandy executed his portraits in the houses of his patrons.2 The present portrait may therefore have been painted at the Hawkins family home at Pennance, or Christopher Hawkins’s home at Trewinnard. As Northcote stated, there were many of Gandy’s pictures ‘scattered about Devonshire and Cornwall; some very fine and many more good for nothing, though the worst of them still look like the careless productions of a good painter; but the draperies were always so entirely neglected by him, that this very much conduces to destroy the effect of the picture’.3 Despite such misgivings, Northcote stated that his own master, Joshua Reynolds, had been an admirer of Gandy, whose paintings were ‘the first good portraits that had come to his knowledge previous to his going to London’.4

by Martin Postle

Footnotes

  1. CRO J/1/945.

    1
  2. Northcote, 1819, vol. 2, p. 339.

    2
  3. Ibid., p. 343.

    3
  4. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 22.

    4

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