Catalogue entry

T03111 [from] Two Scenes from Colley Cibber's ‘Damon & Phillida’ [T03111- T03112]

PROVENANCE ...; T.Lumley, sold Christie's 21 June 1940 (91 as ‘Mercier School’) bt Mrs P.Aitken; sold Sotheby's 27 November 1974 (81); ...; anon. sale Christie's 24 July 1980 (109, repr., as by ‘W.J.’) bt Leggatt for the Tate Gallery Purchased (Grant-in-Aid) 1980

T03111 Phillida and Damon Reconciled 1740

Oil on canvas 635×762 (25×30)
Inscribed ‘W.d G. [or ‘W.VdG.’] Pinxit 1740’ initials in monogram

The paintings represent two scenes from Colley Cibber's one-act opera or ‘after-piece’ Damon and Phillida, which was first performed in 1729 in a somewhat longer version as Love in a Riddle. The simple story tells of the shepherdess Phillida who, while in love with the handsome but fickle shepherd Damon, is wooed by two boorish shepherds called Mopsus and Cimon. An unexpected dowry enables her to reject the boors and accept a reformed Damon. The ballad form of the piece aimed to capitalise on the success of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera of the previous year. In this it failed, but was saved from extinction by the singing and acting of Kitty Clive (1711–85) - then still Miss Raftor - in the lead. Cibber immediately changed the title and slimmed the piece down to centre on Mrs Clive's scenes, in which form it remained a favourite after-piece on the London stage for many years. Mrs Clive continued to play Phillida well into the 1750s and was painted a number of times in what became one of her most popular roles (Chaloner Smith 1883, pp.331, 1364, 1397, 1682). Known portraits of her correspond reasonably well with the Phillida in the Tate Gallery pictures. Damon was played by various people and was sometimes a ‘breeches part’, i.e. played by a woman, notably by Charlotte Clarke until 1739. In the 1730s Mopsus was played by one Oates, about whom little is known. The part of Cimon, on the other hand, was a great success for the comedy actor Joseph Miller, and an engraved portrait of him after C. Stoppelaer, published in 1739, does show a certain resemblance to the beetle-browed laughing buffoon in T03112. Miller died late in 1738, but his memory remained green with the publication of Jo Miller's Jest Book in 1739, which was a runaway success.

This pair of paintings may be a response to the popularity of the entertainment and its leading actors, in the manner of Hogarth's famous scene from The Beggar's Opera, of which he painted at least six versions between 1728 and 1731 (see N02437). In treatment and style the pictures certainly show an awareness of Hogarth's work of the 1730s.

A version of T03112, unsigned and undated, was sold at Christie's 20 November 1964 (91, bt Marshall) with an attribution to Hayman, and was said to come from the collection of T.T. Cook of Messing, Essex, 1770,.A version of the single figure of Phillida in T03112 was with John Mitchell & Son in 1963, also ascribed to Hayman.

Most of the very many editions of the play published throughout the 1730s and 1740s have a frontispiece designed and engraved by Gerard Van der Gucht (1696–1776). Its upright design is loosely but nonetheless undeniably related to both T03112 and its other known versions in oils, and in some of its elements also to T03111. Moreover, the first letters of the artist's engraved name ‘Vdr Gucht’ conflate almost exactly into the latter part of the otherwise unfamiliar monogram signature on T03111. Although the Van der Gucht family produced several illustrators, engravers and painters over three generations, there is so far no record of anyone whose name begins with a ‘W’, which is clearly the first letter of the monogram. Nevertheless, in view of the Van der Guchts' evidently strong links with the theatre and the sheer size of this as yet little-studied family (Benjamin Van der Gucht, 1753–94, the painter of portraits and theatre scenes, is said to have been the thirty-second child of the above-mentioned Gerard, and it is not known if Gerard's brother John, 1697–1733, also an engraver and occasional painter, had any children) it seems reasonable at this stage to assume that the painter here is an as yet unrecorded member of the Van der Gucht family of artists. The name Vandergucht appears also in the list of ‘those painters of our nation, now living, many of whom have distinguished themselves and are justly esteemed eminent masters’, published in the Universal Magazine, November 1748, but there is no indication as to which Vandergucht is meant. A small group of similar genre or theatre scenes, usually ascribed to Mercier, Hayman or even Hogarth, can be attributed to the same hand (e.g. an interior with several figures called ‘Fortune Telling’, with Spink 1937; another version of the same subject with Gavin Graham Gallery 1981). The compilers gratefully acknowledge the help of Clare Hughes in identifying the play and actors.

Research in progress as the catalogue was going to press suggests that the author of T03112 and T03111 is the little-known painter William Jones (active 1738, died? 1747), and that the monogram in T03111should therefore be read as ‘W.J.’. His work as a painter of landscapes and portraits in Ireland is attested by a number of engravings after his works published 1744–47 (A. Crookshank & the Knight of Glin, The Painters of Ireland c.1660–1920, 1978, p.62). The distinctive landscape style of both Tate paintings and the handwriting of the signature in T03111 can also be seen in the four landscape overdoors in the Great Hall at Kimbolton Castle, Huntingdonshire, one of which has been found to be fully signed and dated ‘William Jones Pinxit/1738’. The attribution is also upheld by closer inspection of the figures, which, however, are more roughly painted in the overdoors, which are designed to be seen from afar. These were presumably painted for William Montagu, 2nd Duke of Manchester (1700–1739).
According to W.G. Strickland's Dictionary of Irish Painters, 1913, Jones's last work would seem to have been a portrait of ‘Charles Lucas’, known only from an engraving inscribed ‘Wm Jones pinxit 1747’, and in February ‘that year’ (which could also be February 1748 New Style) Samuel Dixon advertised as having for sale at his shop in Capel Street, Dublin, landscape and history paintings ‘done by the late ingenious Mr Jones’.

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