John Linnell

Mrs Phillips, Wife of the China Man, Oxford Street


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
John Linnell 1792–1882
Graphite on paper
Support: 302 × 241 mm
Purchased 1981

Catalogue entry


Inscribed in pencil ‘J. Linnell. 1814.’ bottom centre and ‘Mrs Phillips wife of the/Chana [sic] man in Oxford St/next to Pantheon’ bottom right
Verso: slight pencil sketch of sitter's face
Pencil on paper, 11 7/8 × 9 1/2 (30.2 × 24.1)
Purchased from A. Buckland Kent (Grant-in-Aid) 1981
Prov: As for T03117.

This is a study of one of Linnell's ‘Baptist sisters’; in 1814, both Linnell and Mrs Phillips were members of the Keppel Street Baptist Chapel. Born in Lincolnshire on 3 December 1752, Elizabeth Phillips had been brought up as a Methodist, but was ‘baptized’ in 1781 and became a member of the Baptist congregation which met first in Grafton Street and later in Keppel Street, Bloomsbury, under the Rev. John Martin, whose portrait Linnell painted in 1812. Her husband George Phillips, a member and eventually a deacon of the same chapel, carried on a business as ‘China and glassman’ at 358–359 Oxford Street, next to the Pantheon (see below).

George Phillips died in 1813; Linnell's portrait drawing of 1814 thus shows Mrs Phillips as a widow. She later left London for Hanley, Staffordshire, where she died in July 1822. An obituary notice in the Baptist Magazine, 1822 (pp.428–430) concludes ‘Thus terminated a life of daily walking with God’. A memorial service for Mrs Phillips at the Keppel Street Chapel in London included a sermon preached by the Rev. John Martin's successor Mr Pritchard (also a sitter to Linnell, in 1816), and transcribed by Linnell's brother-in-law. Linnell's unpublished correspondence includes a letter from Mrs Phillips's son Jonathan to Thomas Palmer, 1822 (not precisely dated), asking Mr Palmer to thank his son for copying out ‘the very excellent sermon preached by Mr Pritchard on the occasion of my dear mother's decease’ (Linnell MSS., in the collection of the Linnell Trust, kindly communicated by Katherine Crouan. The compiler is also indebted for information relating to Mrs Phillips to Faith Bowers, and to Kenneth Dix, Hon. Secretary, Strict Baptist Historical Society).

Katherine Crouan comments (in correspondence) that ‘curiously for Linnell’, there is no mention of payment for T03269 in Linnell's cashbook accounts for 1814, and concludes that Linnell made no charge for this drawing because it was of and for a friend and fellow-Baptist. Linnell's MS notebook ‘Outlines and Account of Portraits’ (in the collection of the Linnell Trust, p.12) however includes a small sketch of a different portrait drawing of Mrs Phillips (in a dark dress and cap, turned towards the left), made in August 1816, annotated ‘Drawing of Mrs. Phillips Sen./of Oxford St. -done for/ Jacob Phillips/her son/5 - 5./framed &/glazed’, and, below it on the same page, the outline of an upright portrait (the inside left blank) annotated ‘Painting in oil of the above/for Jonathan Phillips -/life size £10.10.0’. The present location of the drawing and of the painting of 1816 is not known.

The Phillips china business was apparently established by George Phillips at 358–359 Oxford Street by the early 1780s. That the premises were ‘next to [the] Pantheon’ (the elegant prototype of the modern ‘hypermarket’, opened in January 1772, destroyed by fire on 4 January 1792 and rebuilt in 1795) is recorded in the inscription on T03269 and illustrated by John Tallis's London Street Views (reprinted 1969, Part 34, pp.104–5). Tallis represents 358–359 Oxford Street as adjoining five-storied houses, with shops on the ground floor, on the south side of Oxford Street, next to the Pantheon (whose site is now occupied by a branch of Marks & Spencer). Nos.358–359 Oxford Street must have been substantial premises. In 1879 the young Joel Duveen, looking for a London gallery large and impressive enough to display his stock of Oriental porcelain and French furniture, ‘heard that Messrs. Phillips, leading English porcelain and pottery agents, were thinking of letting part of their too large premises in Oxford Street ... and within a few hours of hearing the news he had concluded the matter’ (J.H. Duveen, The Rise of the House of Duveen, 1957, pp.60–1).

After George Phillips's death, the business was carried on by Mrs Phillips's two sons, Jacob and Jonathan, at least until the 1830s. The firm seems later to have continued, first as W.P. & G. Phillips, at 358–359 Oxford Street until 1897 (and also at 155 New Bond Street, c.1858–89), then as Phillips & Co., Mount Street, Grosvenor Square c.1897–1906 and probably finally as Phillips Ltd, 43–4 Bond Street, c.1908–29. There may well have been a family connection with two firms of Staffordshire pottery dealers: Edward & George Phillips, of Longport, Burslem (a firm which flourished 1822–34, and was continued as George Phillips 1834–48), and Jacob Phillips of Shelton, who was in partnership with John Denton Bagster from 1818–25, continuing the firm after Bagster's death until it was closed down in 1828. The Baptist Magazine (op.cit.) records that Mrs Phillips (Linnell's sitter) spent her last years with one of her sons at Hanley, one of the ‘five towns’ in the heart of the Staffordshire potteries. (Bailey's British Directory, 1784, and various London Directories; Geoffrey Godden, Encyclopaedia of British Pottery and Porcelain Marks, 1964, pp.491–2, nos.3006–3012, illustrating a printed mark used by the firm while at 358–359 Oxford Street; Wolf Mankowitz and Reginald C. Haggar, Concise Encyclopaedia of English Pottery and Porcelain, 1957, pp.173–4.)

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1980-82: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1984


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