John Hayls

Portrait of a Lady and a Boy, with Pan

1655–9

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Unconfirmed: 1730 x 1600 mm
frame: 2031 x 1910 x 68 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the Patrons of British Art through the Tate Gallery Foundation 1995
Reference
T06993

Summary

A label on the back of this painting, probably from the nineteenth-century, names the sitters as 'Mrs Dalison & her son Thomas Dalison. She was the wife of Thomas Dalison Esq of West Peckham Kent - and daughter of Sir Thomas Style 2nd Baronet of Wateringbury. Her Christian name was Susannah'.

However, the lady in this portrait wears a dress fashionable in the late 1650s, and neither Susan (as she was more commonly known) Style, nor her husband Thomas Dalison were born until around 1658; their son Thomas was not born until 1684. If this portrait does, nevertheless, relate to the Dalison family, the sitters must be of the previous generation. In this case, the lady could be Frances (1635-84), only daughter and heiress of Thomas Stanley of West Peckham, and the wife of Maximilian Dalison (1632-71); this couple's son Maximilian was born in 1655, and could be the boy depicted here. He died in 1665.

Infrared photography reveals that areas of this painting have undergone significant changes. At the right-hand side, the lady was originally accompanied by a large stringed instrument called a theorbo. In the sky above her, putti once circled - one grasping a wreath of leaves - while bombarding her with roses. It is not certain when the theorbo and putti were painted over, but the latter at least seem still to have been visible in 1929, when a sale catalogue description of the painting referred to 'cupids'. Whether they were overpainted due to early twentieth century prudery, or to conceal an area of damage to the painting, top-right, is unclear. Their present absence considerably alters both the visual balance and the meaning of the composition, which can be seen as a celebration of love and faithfulness within marriage, presumably commissioned by the sitter's husband.

Mythologising portraits of this kind were more commonly found on the Continent than in Britain. The figure to the left is a figure from Roman mythology, either a satyr or the god Pan, identifiable by his horns and goat's legs and by the pipes in his left hand. Presumably symbolic of the sin of Lust, he is here a rather humorous figure being kept in his place both by the classically attired little boy who holds a bow and arrow and probably represents Cupid, and by the small dog, a symbol of faithfulness. Pan is also being resolutely ignored by the lady herself, in the role of the goddess Venus, who leans against a rock entwined with the ivy that symbolises marital happiness.

Surviving works by John Hayls or Hales are extremely rare, and as he did not sign his paintings his style has had to be established by comparison with a handful of documented portraits. The one most comparable with the present picture is the double portrait of Lady Anne and Lady Diana Russell, c.1658 (Woburn Abbey). Common elements of handling confirm the attribution of the Tate work to Hayls.

The theme of a female sitter with a young male relative attired as Cupid was introduced to English art by the Flemish-born Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1643). Hayls was said to have been active as a copyist of van Dyck's works (see Buckeridge). Little is known about Hayls, from whom, between 1666 and 1668, the diarist Samuel Pepys (1638-1708) commissioned a number of portraits, of which only his own image survives (National Portrait Gallery). He described the progress of these in his Diary. Although sometimes described as a rival to Sir Peter Lely (1618-80) Hayls seems to have attracted rather less exalted clients.

Further reading:
B. Buckeridge, The Art of Painting, London, 1706, pp.382-3
Karen Hearn, 'Rewriting History on the Walls', Country Life, 22 May 1997, p.54, reproduced in colour

Karen Hearn
October 2000

Display caption

This painting combines portraits of individuals with mythological characters.

The figure to the left could be the god Pan but also displays some of the attributes of a satyr - goat’s legs, horns and horse’s ears. In either case, he would represent the theme of lust. The boy, who is painted as an individual, is presumably a family member, dressed up as Cupid, the god of love. We are left to work out the story, and what this might say about the status of the female sitter to the right.

Gallery label, March 2011

Technique and condition

The painting is on linen canvas made up of three pieces. The largest, measuring 1763 x 1173mm, contains the Lady, her son and the back half of the dog. The strip containing Pan, the tree trunk and the rest of the dog is made up of two vertical pieces joined horizontally about halfway up the picture. Raking light photographs suggest that the pieces are sewn together at butt joins but this cannot be confirmed, as the back is obscured by a lining canvas. The lining adhesive is glue and the stretcher is of pine. Its construction (four outer bars braced at each corner with a diagonal bar, all joints adjustable with wedges) could date from the early nineteenth century.

Infra-red photography shows that the upper right quadrant and lower right corner have been repainted to obscure a group of putti in the first area and a stringed musical instrument in the second. Analysis of the blue paint obscuring the putti (done by Dr.Joyce Townsend in 1996, using polarising light microscopy and Energy Dispersive X-Ray), indicated that it is Phthalocyanine blue, which has been available only since 1935.

The painting is awaiting cleaning to remove the discoloured varnish and the restorations.

Rica Jones
November 1997

Catalogue entry

John Hayls 1600–1679

Portrait of a Lady and a Boy, with Pan
c.1655–59
Oil on canvas
1730 x 1600 mm
Label on verso: ‘Mrs Dalison & her son Thomas / Dalison. She was the wife of Thomas / Dalison Esq of West Peckham / Kent – and daughter of Sir / Thomas Style 2nd Baronet of / Wateringbury. Her Christian name was Susannah’: Christie’s stencil ‘63FA’.
Presented by the Patrons of British Art through the Tate Gallery Foundation 1995
T06993

Ownership history
…; F. Newcombe, by whom offered at Christie’s, London, 1 August 1929 (97, as ‘LELY. Portrait of Mrs Dobson, of West Peckham, Kent, and her son, Thomas Dobson, in a landscape with a Satyr and Cupids’ ) bt in; …; J. Leger & Son, 1935; …; anonymous sale by ‘a deceased estate’, Sotheby’s, London, 13 April 1994 (26), unsold, and 12 April 1995 (24, as ‘Portrait of Susannah Dalison and her Son Thomas by Adriaen Hanneman’), again unsold but subsequently purchased by the Patrons of British Art.

Exhibition history
Van Dyck and Britain, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2009, no.103, pp.190–1.

References
J. Leger & Son advertisement, Connoisseur, vol.95, May 1935, [n.p.] repr., as ‘Mary Dobson of West Peckham and her son by Sir Peter Lely’; Karen Hearn, ‘Rewriting History on the Walls’, Country Life, vol.191, no.21, May 1997, p.54, reproduced; J. Douglas Stewart, ‘Reflections on Eroticism, Love and the Antique in Van Dyck’s Art’, Apollo, vol.152, no.462, August 2000, p.33, note 55.

The lady in this portrait is dressed in a fashion datable to the late 1650s which means that the individuals named on the label on the back of this painting lived a generation too late to be the actual sitters. Neither Susan[nah] Style, nor her husband Thomas Dalison of West Peckham in Kent were born until around 1658; their son Thomas was not born until 1684. If this portrait does nevertheless relate to the Dalison family, the sitters must be of the previous generation. In this case, the lady could be Frances (1635–1684), only daughter and heiress of Thomas Stanley of West Peckham, and the wife of Maximilian Dalison (1632–1671).1 Their son Maximilian was born in 1655, and could be the child depicted here. He was recorded as his father’s heir at the heralds’ visitation in 1663 but died young in 1665.2 It was his younger brother Thomas, born in September 1658 (see above) who was to inherit Hamptons, the property at West Peckham that Frances Stanley brought into the Dalison family upon the death of her father in 1668.3

Surviving works by John Hayls are extremely rare, and because he did not sign his paintings his style has had to be established, as in the case of the present work, by comparison with a handful of documented portraits.

The documented image most comparable with the present picture is the double portrait of two children, Lady Anne and Lady Diana Russell c.1658.4 Common elements of handling confirm the attribution of the present work to Hayls, which was first proposed by Sir Oliver Millar. A comparison of the figures of the two Russell girls with the female subject here shows the same short arms with rather stubby hands, a similarly polished handling of the satin dresses, and similar small red mouths set deep into the jaw, and little, rounded slightly protuberant eyes with very dark irises.

Infrared photography reveals that some areas of this painting have undergone significant changes. At the right-hand side, the lady was originally accompanied by a theorbo, a large stringed instrument of the lute family, popular in England between about 1600 and 1750. In the sky above her, putti formerly circled – one grasping a wreath of leaves – while bombarding her with roses. It is not certain when the theorbo and putti were painted over, but the latter at least seem still to have been visible in 1929, when the sale catalogue referred to ‘cupids’, although by 1935, when the work was reproduced in the Connoisseur, they were no longer visible. Whether they were overpainted due to early twentieth-century prudery, or to conceal an area of damage to the painting, top right, is unclear. Their presence considerably alters both the visual balance and the meaning of the composition, which can be seen as a celebration of love and faithfulness within marriage, presumably commissioned by the sitter’s husband. Careful cleaning and restoration by Tate conservator Helen Brett has revealed these elements again.

John Playford printed the first of his collections of Ayres ‘to sing to the Theorbo’ in 1652, and it is interesting to note that Hayls’s most celebrated sitter, the diarist Samuel Pepys, was a keen player of this instrument, who on 9 October 1661, ‘put my theorbo out to be mended’.5 Another enthusiast was Richard Symonds, who gathered information on painting techniques from Hayls. Symonds had to leave his theorbo behind in England during the Civil War, but was able to hire one in Paris from March to June 1649.6 Technical investigation has still to establish whether the instrument at the lady’s side was painted out by Hayls himself, or during the early twentieth-century campaign of overpainting.

Mythologising portraits of this kind were much more commonly found on the Continent than in Britain, and this composition may help to substantiate suggestions that Hayls travelled overseas, particularly to the Netherlands. The figure to the left is a figure from Roman mythology, and is either a satyr or the god Pan, identifiable by his horns and goat’s legs and by the pipes in his left hand. Presumably symbolic of the sin of Lust, he is here a rather humorous figure being kept in his place both by the classically attired little boy who holds a bow and arrow and probably represents Cupid, and by the small dog, a symbol of faithfulness. Pan is also being resolutely ignored by the lady herself, in the role of the goddess Venus, who leans against a rock entwined with the ivy that symbolises marital happiness.

The theme of a female sitter accompanied by a young male relative attired as Cupid seems to have been introduced to English art by the Flemish-born Sir Anthony van Dyck in, for instance, his portrait of Lady Mary Villiers with her Cousin, the Earl of Arran c.1636 (North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh). Hayls was said to have been active as a copyist of van Dyck’s works and it is worth noting that the present sitter’s pose is similar to that used by van Dyck in 1637 for a second image of Lady Mary Villiers, this time holding a martyr’s palm and in the guise of St Agnes (The Royal Collection).7 The circling putti, at present covered by overpaint, are also frequently found in Flemish painting, and similar examples can be seen in van Dyck’s 1633 portrait, Venetia Stanley, Lady Digby, as Prudence (National Portrait Gallery, London).

Few facts are known about the artist John Hayls or Hales. He was related to the celebrated portrait miniaturist Samuel Cooper, and was mentioned in his will. Between 1666 and 1668, Samuel Pepys commissioned a number of portraits from Hayls, of which only his own image survives (National Portrait Gallery, London), and the progress of these is described in his Diary. For his own picture, and for the now-lost portrait of his wife in the guise of St Catherine, Pepys paid Hayls £14 each, with their frames costing an additional 25s each. It is worth comparing these figures with the sum Pepys paid in 1668 for his wife’s portrait miniature by Cooper. At £30, Cooper charged more than double Hayls’s rate, with a further £8 3s 4d for the frame and the piece of crystal to go in front of it. Although described by Buckeridge as a rival to Sir Peter Lely, Hayls seems to have attracted significantly less exalted patrons.

Karen Hearn
June 2009

Notes

1 See Rev. W. A. Scott Robertson, Dalison Documents, London 1883, pp.19–20.
2 The Visitation of Kent in 1663–1668, p.44.
3 W.H. Ireland, A New and Complete History of the County of Kent, London 1829, vol.3, pp.504–5.
4 Woburn Abbey, where first recorded as by Hayls in 1727, see Vertue, Notebooks, vol.2, Walpole Society, 1931–2, p.40.
5 See Robert Spencer, ‘Chitarrone, Theorbo and Archlute’, Early Music, vol.4, no.4, Oct 1976, pp.411–13, kindly drawn to my attention by Dr Frances Palmer.
6 See Mary Beal, A Study of Richard Symonds, London and New York 1984, p.20.
7 See Bainbrigge Buckeridge, The Art of Painting, London 1706, pp.382–3.

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