Catalogue entry

T03249 ANNA MARIA FERRI, THE ARTIST'S FIRST WIFE c.1790–2

Not inscribed
Oil on canvas, 29 × 24 1/2 (73.8 × 61.6)
Purchased from Leggatt Bros (Grant-in-Aid) 1981
Prov: Estina Baker (née Fagan), daughter of the artist, at Bayfordbury, nr Hertford; by descent to Lt. William Lewis Clinton-Baker, R.N.; sold Christie's 1 June 1945 (89), bt G.F. Cumberlege; sold by his widow, Sotheby's 18 March 1981 (46, repr.in colour), bt Leggatt.
Lit: H. Avray Tipping, ‘Bayfordbury’ in Country Life, 17 and 24 January 1925, pp.92–99 and 124–132, illus. in photograph of the great library p.129; Raleigh Trevelyan, ‘Robert Fagan, an Irish Bohemian in Italy’ in Apollo, LXCVI, October 1972, pp.298–303, fig.2.

Fagan married the seventeen-year-old Anna Maria Ferri in Rome on 12 April 1790. She appears to have been the daughter of an employee of Cardinal Rezzonico, who was her godfather. The marriage was not happy, and she died on 25 August 1800 as a result, it is said, of deprivations suffered by the family during the Napoleonic wars, when the French occupied Rome in 1798 and Fagan had to flee the city. A daughter, Esther Maria, or Estina, was born to them on 15 November 1792.

In 1806 Estina met William Baker (d.1813), the wealthy young heir to the Bayfordbury estates, while he was on his grand tour of Greece and Italy. Despite his parent's opposition the couple were married in Palermo on 2 August 1809 and soon departed for England. Estina appears to have taken several of her father's portraits with her, including this one of her mother.

The portrait, which is unfinished, shows the sitter wearing an attire which can be dated with some precision to 1790–2 (the compiler is grateful to Dr Aileen Ribero for this information) which suggests that this might be a wedding portrait, as well as one of Fagan's earliest known paintings.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1980-82: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1984