John Singer Sargent, ‘Ena and Betty, Daughters of Asher and Mrs Wertheimer’ 1901

Room 2 in Spotlights

John Singer Sargent's Wertheimer Family Portraits

Mrs Asher Wertheimer

James Havard Thomas, Mrs Asher Wertheimer  1907

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Essie, Ruby and Ferdinand, Children of Asher Wertheimer

John Singer Sargent, Essie, Ruby and Ferdinand, Children of Asher Wertheimer  1902

These three Wertheimer children were painted in the schoolroom of their home at 8 Connaught Place, London. Essie (aged 22) is presented as an adult, seated slightly detached on the sofa with a small dog on her lap. Her younger siblings, Ruby (aged 12) and Ferdinand (13), lean more informally across an ottoman, dressed in clothes typical of the upper classes at this time.

Despite the naturalness of the grouping, certain critics disliked the atmosphere of privilege. The Spectator observed 'Here the pet dogs are bedecked with bows, and the air we feel smells of scent and burnt pastilles'.

Gallery label, July 2004

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Alfred, Son of Asher Wertheimer

John Singer Sargent, Alfred, Son of Asher Wertheimer  ?1901

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Ena and Betty, Daughters of Asher and Mrs Wertheimer

John Singer Sargent, Ena and Betty, Daughters of Asher and Mrs Wertheimer  1901

This is one of a series of portraits Sargent was commissioned to make of the family of the art dealer Asher Wertheimer (1844–1918). Sargent befriended the family and Wertheimer helped Sargent obtain commissions. This portrait shows Wertheimer’s eldest daughters, Helena (Ena) and Elizabeth (Betty). Sargent was attracted by the charm of the Wertheimer family, especially the vivacity of Ena (right), something which is clearly revealed in this portrait. The different textures of the sisters’ dresses are skilfully evoked, the rich depth of Betty’s red velvet contrasting with the shine of Ena’s white damask.

Gallery label, February 2016

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Edward, Son of Asher Wertheimer

John Singer Sargent, Edward, Son of Asher Wertheimer  1902

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Hylda, Daughter of Asher and Mrs Wertheimer

John Singer Sargent, Hylda, Daughter of Asher and Mrs Wertheimer  1901

Hylda was the third daughter of the wealthy art dealer Asher Wertheimer, who had commissioned Sargent to paint twelve portraits of his family. Sargent''s reputation ensured that such portraits were a token of wealth and social standing. The portrait of Hylda is in the grand manner of the old masters, and great care is given to the depiction of the different luxurious textures of her clothing. Sargent tried to dissuade Hylda from wearing her pince-nez, which undermine this illusion, but they were retained at her insistence.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Mrs Wertheimer

John Singer Sargent, Mrs Wertheimer  1904

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Almina, Daughter of Asher Wertheimer

John Singer Sargent, Almina, Daughter of Asher Wertheimer  1908

This painting was the last in the series of Sargent’s portraits of the Wertheimer family. Almina was Asher Wertheimer’s fifth daughter. She is shown in an exotic, ‘oriental’ costume, including an ivory-white Persian dress and a turban entwined with pearls. The white and green over-jacket was a studio prop and the musical instrument (the sarod from northern India) was owned by the artist. Such fantasy images of European women cast as alluring ‘orientals’ were highly fashionable at the turn of the twentieth-century.

Gallery label, September 2004

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John Singer Sargent, Portrait of Ena Wertheimer: A Vele Gonfie  1904

This portrait of Ena Wertheimer is one in a series of twelve that Sargent painted of her family. Its shows her playfully wearing the uniform of the Order of the Garter of the British monarchy. At the time the Order only admitted men, apart from the queen. The Italian subtitle translates as ‘in full sail’, referring to her billowing outfit. To create the illusion of motion and suggest the presence of a sword, Sargent asked Wertheimer to hold a broomstick underneath her cloak. It can be seen sticking out on the right.

Gallery label, October 2020

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Hylda, Almina and Conway, Children of Asher Wertheimer

John Singer Sargent, Hylda, Almina and Conway, Children of Asher Wertheimer  1905

This is a portrait of three of the children of the art dealer, Asher Wertheimer. It is is one of a series of twelve that Sargent painted of the Wertheimer family. The stone terrace and urn in the background recall the style of eighteenth - century portraiture in the grand manner designed to confirm aristocratic status. Here, the tradition is adopted by a wealthy, middle-class Jewish family. The riding habit and crop worn by Almina (on the right) and the spaniel with Conway (in the centre provide) also refer to aristocratic pursuits.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Asher Wertheimer

John Singer Sargent, Asher Wertheimer  1898

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Art in this room

Mrs Asher Wertheimer
James Havard Thomas Mrs Asher Wertheimer 1907
Essie, Ruby and Ferdinand, Children of Asher Wertheimer
John Singer Sargent Essie, Ruby and Ferdinand, Children of Asher Wertheimer 1902
Alfred, Son of Asher Wertheimer
John Singer Sargent Alfred, Son of Asher Wertheimer ?1901
Ena and Betty, Daughters of Asher and Mrs Wertheimer
John Singer Sargent Ena and Betty, Daughters of Asher and Mrs Wertheimer 1901
Edward, Son of Asher Wertheimer
John Singer Sargent Edward, Son of Asher Wertheimer 1902
Hylda, Daughter of Asher and Mrs Wertheimer
John Singer Sargent Hylda, Daughter of Asher and Mrs Wertheimer 1901

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