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