Stephen Slaughter

The Betts Family

c.1746

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 737 x 616 mm
frame: 980 x 853 x 80 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Bequeathed by Mrs A. Sealy 1905
Reference
N01982

Summary

Stephen Slaughter, the supposed painter of this small group portrait, or 'conversation piece', was an exact contemporary of William Hogarth (1697-1764). Indeed, the earliest recorded owner of this picture, Mathew Raper (1741-1826), vice President of the Society of Antiquaries and a Director of the Bank of England, was quite certain that it was by Hogarth. However, while his attribution has since proved to be incorrect, Raper did provide valuable information on the identity of the sitters.

In the centre of the picture, seated, holding her granddaughter, is Mrs Betts. To the left, dressed in orange and holding a floral riband, is her eldest-surviving daughter, Anne Betts. At the extreme right hand side, in a blue dress, is her youngest daughter, Rebecca, behind whom stands her husband, Edmund Anguish. It is their baby daughter, Anne (c.1745-1824), who sits in Mrs Betts's lap, and who in later life became the wife of the above mentioned Mathew Raper. It is also her approximate date of birth (she died in 1824, aged 79), that provides the suggested date of 1746 for the present picture.

At the extreme left of the picture, seated cross-legged, is Dr Benjamin Hoadly (1706-57), son of the Bishop of Winchester, royal physician and dramatist. In his hand Hoadly holds a miniature of his deceased first wife, Elizabeth Betts, sister of Anne and Rebecca, whom he had married in 1733. The date of Elizabeth Betts's death is unknown, although it must have been before June 1747, when Hoadly remarried. As Elizabeth Einberg has noted (Einberg 1983, p.416), the miniature held by Hoadly bears more than a passing resemblance to a bust-length portrait by Hogarth, thought to represent Elizabeth Hoadly (maiden name Betts), and which has been dated 1743. In any event, Hogarth was a good friend of the Hoadly family and painted their portraits on several occasions, the principal reason, it may be supposed, that the present picture was also attributed to him. Indeed, it has been suggested (Einberg and Egerton 1988, p.208) that the image of Dr Hoadly in the present portrait was not painted directly from life but from a head-and-shoulders portrait of him by Hogarth (Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales).

In the nineteenth century the picture passed from Mathew Raper, who had no children of his own, to his nephew, who died in 1849 at his home in Hyde Park. It then passed to Mrs Anne Sealy, who bequeathed it to the National Gallery in 1879 as 'The Hoadly Family in Hyde Park' by Hogarth. It was transferred to the Tate Gallery in 1919, where it was described simply as 'British School'. Elizabeth Einberg disclosed the real identity of the sitters and provided the present attribution to Stephen Slaughter in 1983.

Although the attribution to Stephen Slaughter is by no means definite, his known portraits, as Einberg remarks, 'exhibit the same dry linear style, fussiness over small features … a somewhat naïve sense of perspective, combined with meticulous attention to detail' (Einberg 1983, p.416).

Further reading:
Elizabeth Einberg, 'The Betts Family: A lost Hogarth that never was', The Burlington Magazine, vol.125, 1983, pp.415-16, fig.30
Elizabeth Einberg and Judy Egerton, The Age of Hogarth. British Painters born 1675-1709, Tate Gallery 1988, pp.207-8, reproduced in colour

Martin Postle
June 2001

Display caption

This small group portrait, or conversation piece’, has recently been attributed to Stephen Slaughter, an exact contemporary of William Hogarth. Seated in the centre, holding her granddaughter, is Mrs Betts. She is surrounded by her two daughters and her son-in-law. Isolated at the extreme left is the physician and dramatist, Dr Benjamin Hoadly. In his hand Hoadly holds a miniature of his deceased first wife, Elizabeth Betts, sister of the two young women in the portrait. Hogarth was a good friend of the Hoadly family and painted their portraits on several occasions, which explains why this painting was originally attributed to him.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

N01982 The Betts Family c.1746

Oil on canvas 736×615 (29×24 1/4)
Bequeathed (as by Hogarth) by Mrs Anne Sealy to the National Gallery 1879 (and deposited there from then on), with life interest to her daughter Miss M.N. Sealy (d.1905); transferred to the Tate Gallery 1919
PROVENANCE ...; Mathew Raper, FRS, in 1817; ?thence by indirect descent to the donor
LITERATURE Nichols & Steevens, III, 1817, p.182; E. Einberg, ‘The Betts Family: A lost Hogarth that never was’, Burlington Magazine, CXXV, 1983, pp.415–16, fig.30

The sitters are described in detail in Nichols & Steevens 1817, p.182, by the then owner of this painting Mathew Raper (1741–1826), FRS, Vice President of the Society of Antiquaries and a Director of the Bank of England:

A Family Picture, in which Mrs Betts is represented sitting with a child in her lap. On her right side stands her eldest surviving daughter, Miss Anne Betts; and on her left, is the youngest daughter, Rebecca, married to Mr Edmund Anguish, who stands behind her. He was brother to the Rev. Thomas Anguish, Rector of Deptford, and uncle to the Accountant-General, Thomas Anguish. He was the father of the infant lying in the lap of Mrs Betts, whose name was Anne, and afterwards married the writer of these anecdotes. In the foreground of the Picture, on the right-hand side, Dr Hoadly is represented sitting with a case containing a miniature picture of his first wife in his hand, in order to entitle him to a place in the picture, representing a family to which he had always been much attached.

Mathew Raper was convinced that the picture was by Hogarth, and claimed that his family also owned a portrait by Hogarth of Elizabeth Betts, the lady whose miniature Dr Hoadly is holding and whom he had married in 1733. Her portrait remains untraced, and the date of her death is unknown; the widower remarried in 1747. Raper's information enables one to date the painting to c.1746, as his wife, Anne Anguish (1745–1824), the baby in the picture, appears to be about a year old.

The prominence given in the composition to Dr Benjamin Hoadly (1706–57), son of the Bishop of Winchester, physician to the royal household and popular dramatist, even while setting him respectfully apart from the rest of the Betts and the Anguishes, shows that the family set considerable store by this connection and was particularly desirous of making a visual record of it. It is interesting to note therefore that there is a similarity between Hogarth's head-and-shoulders portrait of the same sitter (now in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, repr. Beckett 1949, fig.130) and the Tate Gallery picture that is close enough to suggest that the Tate Gallery likeness was taken from the Hogarth portrait, rather than from the live sitter. The Sydney picture is dated to the early 1740s and is thought to have belonged to the Doctor's brother John Hoadly of Winchester, so that it could have been easily made available for copying.

As Mathew and Anne Raper had no children, their heir was their nephew Felix Vincent Raper, a Major-General in the Bengal Army. He died at his Hyde Park home in 1849, and although there is no mention of the Tate Gallery painting in his will, the name Sealy appears among its administrators, allowing one to postulate a family connection between the Rapers and the donor. Many of the above details could be said to be reflected in a garbled sort of way in the Hogarth attribution (impossible on grounds of style) and the title, ‘The Hoadly Family in Hyde Park’, under which the picture entered the national collection in 1879.

Although there are no securely documented works by Slaughter on this small scale, comparisons with his known portraits on the scale of life (e.g. ‘Sir Hans Sloane’, 1736, at the National Portrait Gallery and ‘John Hoadly, Archbishop of Armagh’, 1744, at the National Gallery of Ireland) show enough similarities in technique to make him the most likely candidate so far.


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

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