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"Sir John Lees and his wife Mary - ?", two British portrait miniatures on ivory, ca.1785
FINAL DISCOUNT PRICE= 2500 USD
( for EUR price see date rate )
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Two supreme quality British (probably Irish) miniatures on ivory depicting a Georgian gentleman and his wife. The dress and hairstyle of both sitters (especially of the wife) provide the date of making - ca. 1785. The latter strongly contradicts the legends inscribed on labels attached to both miniatures (see our image nr.10; clearly, these legends were written by an expert of some auction house, who in turn recorded them from the information provided by the previous owner). We are certain that this error occurred somewhere along the way between the previous owner and the auction house, for the sitters "transformed" from parents to son and daughter-in-law.
The erroneous (we emphasize!) legend of the male portrait says that it is a portrait of Sir Edward Lees 1st Bart (Baronet) of Blackrock (created 1804). Distinguished soldier in Germany, under Marquis of Granby…".
In truth, this biographical information refers not to Sir Edward Lees who was born in 1783 and who in 1811 succeeded his father as secretary to the post-office in Ireland, but to his father, Sir John Lees (who in 1804 was created 1st Baronet of Blackrock).
Hence, the names of "our" sitters (if the legends on verso are at all serious) would be as follows: Sir John Lees and his wife Mary, nee Cathart.
Sir John Lees Esq. was born about 1737, probably at Cannock in Ayrshire and was the son of Adam Lees and his wife Agnes, daughter of Mr. Goldie of Glasgow. John had two brothers and one sister Agnes, who married William Armit.
There is not much existing information about John Lee's early years and education - it is only known that he obtained every available benefit of education in Scotland and particularly fitted himself for public life. He distinguished himself early with the British Army in Germany under the command of Marquis of Granby (Seven Years' War). It is believed that he occupied a civil post and was not in the army as a soldier. His talents, courage and intrepidity soon brought him to the notice of the Commander-in-Chief and it was through this that he made the acquaintance of the Marquis of Townshend.
The Marquis of Townshend landed in Irland as Lord Lieutenant on 14 October 1767, and it appears that John Lees came to Dublin at about this time as private secretary and confidential friend to the Viceroy. His position was apparently a very lowly one and it was even alleged that during his early years in Ireland he sat down to dinner with the domestics in Lord Townshend's retinue. There is no doubt, however, that he served his master loyally. In due time, he became Secretary to Lord Harcourt when that nobleman was appointed Viceroy, a post involving responsibility and trust which he occupied until Lord Harcourt's death in 1777. Lees' sincere regard for the Lord Lieutenant caused him to approach the members of the Dublin Corporation and persuade them to petition for a portrait of Lord Harcourt to hang in their rooms.
John Lees was appointed Secretary of the Post Office in Ireland in 1774, but at first it was little more than a sinecure. During the following ten years he continued to devote himself to Government affairs and on 27th October 1780, we find him embarking for England on a Mission to Lord North, the Secretary of State. He was also offered employment as Usher of the Black Rod in the Irish House of Commons… (further can be read in the article "John and Edward Lees /Secretaries of the Irish Post Office, 1774-1831" by Beatrice Bayley Butler (in "Dublin Historical Record", 1953)).
Sir John Lees died in 1811. He and his wife had seven children; the eldest of them - son Harcourt (b. 1776) - became a well-known political pamphleteer. Their son Edward Smith (erroneously referred to as sitter in aforementioned legend) succeeded his father as Secretary of the Irish Post-Office.
Provenance: private collection, London
Condition: good; in newer frames
Creation Year: ca 1785
Measurements: UNFRAMED:10,5x8,3cm/4,1x3,3in FRAMED: 15,6x13,4cm/6,1x5,3in
Object Type: Framed miniatures
Style: Portrait Miniatures
Technique: both: oil and watercolor on ivory
Inscription: both: attached label with legend
Creator: English School
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Creator Dates: -
Nationality: English / British / Irish
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