William Hogarth

Mrs Salter

1741

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 762 x 635 mm
frame: 1037 x 916 x 122 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1898
Reference
N01663

Summary

When the National Gallery acquired this portrait in 1898 the true identity of the sitter had long been forgotten. Instead, because the subject's facial features bear a slight resemblance to Hogarth himself, the portrait was identified as the artist's sister, Ann. It was not until 1933 that a hitherto unnoticed inscription, 'Mrs Salter', in the bottom centre of the feigned stone surround revealed the true identity of the woman. The inscription suggested that the portrait was very probably the picture which had belonged to the author and engraver, Samuel Ireland (d. 1800), and which was described in an auction catalogue of 1801 as 'Mrs Salter of the Charterhouse, not engraved'. The fact that the picture had never been engraved inevitably helped to conceal the sitter's identity from future generations.

Elizabeth Salter (maiden name Secker), was born in Grantham, Lincolnshire, where she was baptised on 22 February 1720. On 2 November 1744 she married the Reverend Samuel Salter, Rector of Burton Coggles, Lincolnshire, and Prebendary of Norwich Cathedral. The couple continued to live in Lincolnshire for some years where their two eldest children were born. In 1756 Dr Salter was appointed Rector of St Bartholomew's near the Royal Exchange, in the city of London. By then he was also connected to the Charterhouse Pensioners' Hospital, where he was appointed as Master in 1761. In order to accommodate Dr Salter and his wife, the Governors changed the regulations to allow a married man to occupy the post, thus enabling Mrs Salter to become the first female resident of the Charterhouse since its foundation in 1611. Mrs Salter continued to live at the Charterhouse with her husband until his death in May 1778. What happened to her thereafter is unknown.

At the time Hogarth painted this portrait Mrs Salter was twenty-one years old, and still unmarried since, according to a signature appended to the picture, it was made in 1741. Quite how she was known to Hogarth is unknown, although her future husband had been tutor to the 2nd Earl of Hardwicke, who was also tutored in mathematics by Hogarth's friend William Jones, whose portrait he had painted in 1740 (London, National Portrait Gallery).

The format employed by Hogarth in this portrait, depicting a bust-length sitter within a feigned oval, was something of a cliché by the 1740s. However, Hogarth adopted it quite deliberately as a means of exploring the relationship between painting and sculpture. The painted bust in an oval, as Hogarth knew, had originated in an attempt by artists to imitate sculpted busts, which in relief form were often set in round or oval carved surrounds. He was also aware of artistic debates generated since the Renaissance on the relative merits of sculpture and painting. Around 1739 Hogarth had begun painting portrait busts in ovals designed to recapture the three dimensional quality of sculpted images. These included Mrs Catherine Edwards (Geneva, Musée d'Art et d'Histoire) and James Quin (Tate N01935). Shortly afterwards he painted Mrs Salter. In this painting Hogarth, through the opposition of the green drape and the yellow and orange dress, used colouristic, rather than tonal, contrasts to bring out the sculptural qualities of the image. As Robin Simon has observed, in Mrs Salter Hogarth 'seems to dispense with his hard-won skills in the use of dramatic light and shade, in order to demonstrate that the painter can create form and a powerful impression of naturally-lit three-dimensionality almost through the manipulation of colour alone' (Simon, p.89).

In Mrs Salter Hogarth has applied the paint in thick broad strokes which accentuate the folds in the draperies and serve to further heighten the sculptural aspect of the work. Similarly, the white lace ruffles on the bodice appear to stand proud from the dress as an independent feature, forming an 's' curve around the pink floral bow. This device is surely an early attempt by Hogarth to give visual form in a portrait to his so-called 'Line of Beauty and Grace', a serpentine curve which, he asserted, gave rise to the most beautiful forms to be found in art and nature.

Further reading:

Robin Simon, The Portrait in Britain and America with a Biographical Dictionary of Portrait Painters 1680-1914, Oxford 1987, pp.89-90, reproduced in colour, plate 24
Elizabeth Einberg and Judy Egerton, The Age of Hogarth. British Painters born 1675-1709, Tate Gallery 1988, pp.104-6, reproduced in colour, p.105

Martin Postle
June 2001

Display caption

In this innovative portrait Hogarth has applied the paint in thick broad strokes which accentuate the folds in the draperies and serve to heighten the sculptural aspect of the work. The white lace ruffles on the bodice appear to stand proud from the dress as an independent feature, forming an ‘s’ curve around the pink floral bow. This device may well be an early attempt by Hogarth to give visual form to his so-called ‘Line of Beauty and Grace’, a serpentine curve which Hogarth perceived as the basis for the most beautiful forms to be found in art and nature.

Gallery label, February 2010

Catalogue entry

N01663 Mrs Salter 1744 (or 1741)

Oil on canvas 762×635 (30×25)
Inscribed ‘W Hog [arth] Pinx 174[? 4]’ in b.r. spandrel, and ‘Mrs Salter’ bottom centre on stone surround, both in similar dark paint and cursive script
Purchased by the National Gallery 1898; transferred to the Tate Gallery 1951
PROVENANCE ...; Samuel Ireland, sold Sotheby's 7 May 1801 (455 as ‘Mrs Salter of the Charterhouse, not engraved’) bt Vernon; ...;? widow of Baillie Auchie; ...; Mrs Ainge, from whom bt by Colnaghi 1898 and sold the same year to the National Gallery as ‘Hogarth's Sister Ann’
EXHIBITED Tate Gallery 1951 (55); Manchester 1954 (33); Allan Ramsay: his Masters and his Rivals, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh 1963 (41); Tate Gallery 1971 (119, repr.)
LITERATURE J. Nichols, Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century, 1812, pp.221–2, (for biography of the Revd Samuel Salter); Nichols & Steevens 1817, pp.177, 207; Register of Charterhouse Chapel, Harlean Society 1892, pp.44, 45, 55, 59; Claude Phillips, ‘Hogarth's Mrs Salter’, Art Journal, 1899, pp.149–50, repr.; Dobson 1902, p.182, repr. facing p.8; Dobson 1907, pp.215, 220, repr. facing p.148 as ‘Hogarth's Sister’; DNB 1908, XVII (for Samuel Salter); H. Isherwood Kay, ‘A Famous Hogarth Rediscovered’, Connoisseur, XCI, 1933, pp.243–4, repr.; Davies 1946, p.73; Beckett 1949, p.60, pl.152; Baldini & Mandel 1967, p.106, no.153, repr., and pl. XXXVII (col.); Antal 1962, pp.29–30, 117–118, 157, 174, 217, 241 n.70; Paulson 1971, II, pp.5, 425 n.5; Waterhouse 1978, pp.174, 176; Webster 1979, p.186, no.142, repr.

Because of a superficial resemblance to known portraits of Hogarth himself, this was long thought to be a portrait of his sister Ann, in spite of the apparently contemporary inscription and the fact that Ann Hogarth never married. The actual identity of the sitter was rediscovered in 1933 by H. Isherwood Kay, who first published the inscription and deduced from it that the painting was probably identical with that sold from Samuel Ireland's collection in 1801 as ‘Mrs Salter of the Charterhouse’.

On this evidence one can assume that the sitter is Elizabeth, daughter of Elizabeth and Richard Secker (also spelt ‘Sackor’) of Grantham, Lincolnshire, where she was baptised on 22 February 1719/20. She married the Revd Samuel Salter, newly appointed Prebendary of Norwich Cathedral, on 2 November 1744. If the tentative reading of the last unclear digit of the date on the picture is correct (it has also been read as 1741), this could be a marriage portrait. Salter was Rector of Burton Coggles, Lincs., from 1740, and as their two eldest children were born there, the Salters must have continued to reside in Lincolnshire for some years before moving to London. Dr Salter became Rector of St Bartholomew's near the Royal Exchange in 1756, through the patronage of the 1st Earl of Hardwicke and his son Philip Yorke, later the 2nd Earl (1720–96), whose tutor he had been. He was also preacher at the Charterhouse Pensioners' Hospital in 1754, and was appointed its Master in 1761. It is claimed (letter from the Master of Charterhouse, 15 August 1946) that Mrs Salter was the first woman to live in the Charterhouse since its foundation in 1611, as the Governors altered the regulations in 1761, allowing a married man to be Master. According to J. Nichols (1812), Elizabeth Salter, née Secker, was a relative of Thomas Secker, Archbishop of Canterbury 1758–68; but although his will of 1768 (Prerogative Court of Canterbury 941, folio 309) leaves a small legacy to ‘my niece Elizabeth Secker’, it does not mention the name Salter at all. The compiler has been unable to find any proof that the sitter was, as has been repeatedly stated, a niece of Archbishop Herring, who was also painted by Hogarth in 1744. In terms of patronage, however, the Salters would have fitted well into the circle of the Earls of Hardwicke, who were tutored in mathematics by William Jones (painted by Hogarth in 1740, National Portrait Gallery) and were intimate friends of the 2nd Earl of Macclesfield (also painted by Hogarth, private collection).

Nothing further is known of Mrs Elizabeth Salter, except that she was still living when her husband drew up his will in March 1778 (Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Hay 1042, folio 218); he died 2 May of that same year, and was buried in the Charterhouse.

Although it is highly likely that the painting is indeed identical with the portrait sold from Samuel Ireland's collection in 1801, there is no direct documentation for its provenance before its purchase from Colnaghi in 1898 as ‘Hogarth's sister Ann, Mrs Salter’. According to a letter from Austin Dobson, dated 1 July 1908, the information on the Baillie Auchie and Ainge collections was given to him orally by the vendor, and neither of these collections can now be traced.

The particularly lively and richly coloured Rococo composition of the painting suggests that the later reading of the date, 1744 rather than 1741, is more likely to be correct and that the portrait reflects some of the panache of contemporary French painting seen by Hogarth during his visit to Paris in the summer of 1743.


Published in:
Elizabeth Einberg and Judy Egerton, The Age of Hogarth: British Painters Born 1675-1709, Tate Gallery Collections, II, London 1988