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Identifying Russell’s other child with cherries

19 December 2017


In a recent post I identified the delightful Petite fille aux cerises in the Louvre. By an extraordinary coincidence, the other great John Russell pastel in the Louvre (above) also has a small child holding cherries – this time shown with his mother and brother. The French are going to think that cherry-picking is a national habit – it’s perhaps just as well the Louvre doesn’t also own Russell’s The Cake in Danger, a fancy picture which was also engraved by William Nutter.

Nutter ar Russell Mrs Jeans

Nutter’s engraving of Mrs Jeans and her sons gives it a title, A Mother’s Holiday, whose significance will probably be lost on modern audiences. It refers to a passage in a play called Pizzaro in Peru, adapted from the German of August von Kotzebue by another of Russell’s subjects, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and performed at Drury Lane in 1799. I shan’t go into the intricacies of the various versions, but you get the drift rapidly from this extract:

Kotzebue Pizarro

Whether the idea was entirely Nutter’s or Russell’s intention all along is questionable: the pastel was signed and dated 1797 (Williamson says it was done in 1796, but he’s often unreliable, and his discussion seems to suggest he met the Jeans family in 1780, which we shall see cannot have been right) and exhibited in 1798, so possibly not. But it does neatly explain why there isn’t a pendant of Mr Jeans with his daughters as German portraiture of the time (Daniel Caffe et al.) would probably have done: he’s there in spirit as it were. It’s also possible to read Nutter’s conceit and thus Russell’s portrait as a subtle reinterpretation of Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi: the French art of this period would of course have done this as a history painting (you can see the result by Peyron in the National Gallery in London: many will consider it a trifle dry).

Williamson of course may well not have been wrong when he wrote that the pastel was “considered by Russell his chef d’œuvre”; we can easily share that view of this imposing work, over a metre in height, executed in the subtle, late summer colouring of the English cherry season. Its impact is enhanced by the spectacular Maratta frame by Benjamin Charpentier (1747–1818) of Titchfield Street, invoiced by Russell with the pastel for a total of £93 8s. (of which 77 gns for the pastel plus £12 9s. for the frame and glass).

But who are the subjects? Williamson tells us they are “Mrs Jeans and her sons Thomas and John Locke Jeans”. (“John Locke” must of course refer to the philosopher, or I’ll eat my hat – so one jumps to the conclusion that the Jeans family were intellectuals.) That at least is an improvement on the current entry in the Louvre’s Arts graphiques database, where the title is given as a portrait of “Mrs Jean [sic] et de ses deux fils Thomas et John”. When it was exhibited in 1994 in the Outre-Manche exhibition, Mrs Jeans was described as the wife of the “révérend G. E. Jeans, Pasteur à Shorwell” – he was the owner of the pastel listed in Williamson’s book in 1894. In my 2006 dictionary, I identified her husband as G. E. Jeans’s grandfather, Dr Thomas Jeans (1749–1835), rector of Witchington, Norfolk.

More recent editions of the online Dictionary have progressed a bit further with details readily found on the internet today, but all derived from a 1907 volume by Robert Sanderson Whitaker, Whitaker of Hesley Hall, Grayshott Hall, Pylewell Park, and Palermo, which contains a reasonably complete genealogy of the Jeans family (p. 59). From this we learn Mrs Jeans’s maiden name, Mary Springer (but no more), and the names of her children: but they are laid out so that John Locke Jeans appears as eldest, Thomas the next brother. Thomas died young, and so is ill documented, but John Locke Jeans reached maturity, as did some younger children.

For the complete solution, you can now consult my updated pedigree for the family. And as always, once you know the answers, they are easy to verify; but the internet is a more powerful tool for verification than for discovery (just as a discovery is a more rewarding pastime than verification for us art historians).

The key facts are that the boy on the left is indeed Thomas, and I can confirm from the parish registers that he was baptised in Norwich 5.i.1794 (20 months after his elder sister Caroline, who never married), not the “circa 1797” that internet genealogists have inferred from the misleading table in Whitaker. There is no further record of him, and he probably died shortly after this portrait. The boy on the right, known as John Locke Jeans, was baptised “John Lock” in his father’s parish of Great Witchingham in Norfolk, on 1.x.1795 (according to the Archbishop’s transcripts; the registers are not online), but had been born 1.viii.1795 (the delay is unexplained): in the late summer of 1797 he would have been 2 years old, his brother being 19 months older. J. L. Jeans was a scholar at Pembroke College, Oxford, and took orders, and became a chaplain to the British church in Rotterdam in 1825 but died two years later; that most of these records add the e to his middle name may indicate a personal preference or a prevailing presumption.

Of their father, the Rev. Dr Thomas Jeans (1749–1835), the usual progression of educational achievements and preferments can be extracted from ecclesiastical tomes. His family came from Christchurch in Hampshire; a cousin, also Thomas, was a well-known physician (the Rev. Thomas was a doctor of divinity, not medicine), but his father was an inn-keeper, a freemason, and closely connected with the local MP for Christchurch, James Harris, later Earl of Malmesbury (whose children were portrayed by Perronneau, as discussed here). Jeans travelled to France in the 1770s and became chaplain to the British ambassador, Lord Stormont; he was also a friend of Colonel Horace St Paul (1729–1812), secretary to the embassy in Paris, whose portrait Russell also exhibited at the Royal Academy (in 1797). The best source for information on Jeans [but see the postscript below] is his correspondence with Harris in Music and Theatre in Handel’s World: The Family Papers of James Harris, ed. Donald Burrows & Rosemary Dunhill, Oxford, 2002. (There is much too on the Wyndham and Knatchbull families, also important clients of Russell.) In these letters Jeans recounts his experiences at theatres and the opera in Paris in the 1770s, including a revival of Le Devin du village and a performance of Carlin: he would have been exposed to the world of pastel as well as the international theatre which would provide Nutter with his allegory.

Jeans never became a wealthy man, and in his will the only asset of any significance was his 37 shares in the Dudley Canal, an ill-fated infrastructure project of its day which was dogged permanently by subsidence caused by coal mining until it finally closed.

Much more mysterious is Mrs Jeans herself, of whom we have hitherto known only the name, Mary Springer. One source (now widely propagated, such is the nature of internet based genealogy) gives her birth as 1770 – plausibly, if her two eldest children were very young in 1796 (although as we now know she had already had three daughters who do not appear in the pastel, one at least of whom had died at the same age as the younger boy when the portrait was made). Perhaps some obscurity is appropriate since Russell chose (unusually) to portray her in profile (according to Williamson, Russell said that he did so because he was incapable of giving a just expression to her exquisite full face); but I can now complete the story of this extraordinary portrait with her biography, after a chance encounter with this passage in the will of Benjamin Springer of St Augustine, East Florida, who had come to London where he died in 1786:

BS will

What are we to make of Mrs Jeans and her mother thus effectively disowning Springer? Fortunately there is a good deal of material concerning Benjamin Springer in East Florida. An article in The Florida Historical Quarterly in July 1981 (Carole Watterson Troxler, “Loyalist refugees and the British Evacuation of East Florida, 1783–1785”, pp. 1–28) is particularly informative: the garrison at St Augustine attracted loyalists fleeing the Revolution, but in the early 1780s had become a bargaining chip in British withdrawal negotiations. In the Treaty of Paris of 1783 it was ceded to Spain; the British subjects were given 18 months to leave, but all incurred massive losses on selling their assets for a fraction of their value. Appeals to the Crown for compensation invoked the terms of Magna Carta. One of the worst hit was Benjamin Springer, losing livestock of 50 horses, 40 cattle and 40 hogs. His slave “Bob” accompanied him to London and gave evidence to the British Commissioners for American Claims concerning these losses. But Springer’s practices in accumulating these assets were notorious (see Leslie Hall, Land & Allegiance in Revolutionary Georgia, Athens, 2001, pp. 143f): under the cloak of authority from the army to gather provisions, he and his associates had “Pillaged, Plunder’d and Carried off” rice, cattle, slaves, silver plate and household furniture, without giving receipts, and selling them for personal gain. We can assume that Mrs Jeans did not welcome this activity (she probably also disapproved of the charges of malversation brought against her husband much later, in connection with the school at Egham which he ran).

Despite the preamble to his will, Benjamin Springer was not from America, but from England. Parish records for his marriage in 1765 to Mary Short (1737–1819), of Breamore, Hampshire:

SpringerB Mary Short 1765

This shows that he came from “Nony” (Nunney) in Somerset, and it was there that Mary, the future Mrs Jeans, was born in 1766 – not in 1770, and not in America (although she must evidently have spent most of her life there):

SpringerMary dau of Benjamin 1766

Further investigation reveals that two years after Benjamin’s death in London in 1786, three years after the family’s return, his widow Mary (Mrs Jeans’s mother) remarried: to a James Lock, Esq of Lyndhurst, Hampshire:

Lock Springer marriageJames Lock, who had a brother John, may have been (or was otherwise related to) the renowned hatter of that name in St James’s, a firm which is still in business (and one of whose products is in my coat cupboard, awaiting my consumption – as his step-grandson was obviously named after this family, not the philosopher). The hatter James Lock (1732–1806) had previously been married to the daughter of Charles Davis, whose business he inherited; the records do not note a second marriage, but he was buried in Stalfleet, Hampshire and his son George James Lock also retired to Lyndhurst.

A few months before Benjamin’s death (and several years before internet genealogy suggested), the younger Mary was married to Thomas Jeans, at St James’s Piccadilly, 13.iv.1786:

JeansT Mary Springer 1786

Mary Jeans outlived her husband by 15 years, dying in 1850 in Tetney, Lincolnshire, where her son George had been living since at least 1842 (the Church of England database notes his curacy at Sunbury until 1827, but not a subsequent preferment). Her will is mainly devoted to a discussion of the Dudley Canal shares which her youngest son and residual legatee, George, did not want to receive; and although there was mention of a few items of low value (curtains, a mahogany clothes press etc.) the Russell pastel is not mentioned. George’s son George Edward Jeans (1848–1921) owned the pastel in 1894 (at Shorwell, Isle of Wight, very close to Stalfleet where the hatter died); he intended to leave it to a niece, but it was probably sold before his death. His estate was valued only at £2410 13s. 7d., so the Russell would have been a significant component (and would probably have appreciated significantly better than the Dudley Canal shares).

With the petite fille aux cerises, an important clue came from unravelling the identity of the donor to the Louvre. In this case the position was different, as the pastel had evidently been purchased, probably through a dealer, although the exact steps are unclear. The normally useful Donateurs du Louvre provided little information concerning the Mme Démogé who left the work to the Louvre in 1962, under a reserve of usufruct which expired the following year. Seeking a British connection one might have wondered if this was the Muriel Tomasson of Huguenot extraction who married a Léon Démogé in Kensington 1920; but in fact the donor was the widow of his uncle, also Léon Démogé; she was born Juliette Lucas (1873–1963). Her philanthropy included a major donation to the bibliothèque municipal de Tours. The Démogé fortune was made in retailing, founding the Société française des grands bazars et nouvelles galeries réunis in 1898. In buying a fine pastel by John Russell they were following the trend established by other retailers such as Jacques Doucet or François Coty.

Postscript (20.xii.2017)

I am very grateful to the comment below which has drawn my attention to the biographical material on Dr Jeans to be found in the numerous references in the diaries of his neighbour James Woodforde, and in particular in three articles by Robin Gibson, “More about Mr Jeans”; afterword; “Early career of Parson Jeans”; Parson Woodforde Society quarterly journal, 1996–98, xxix/3, pp. 5–21; xxx/1, pp. 19–20; xxxi/3, pp. 5–15. These confirm that the Russell pastel was still with G. E. Jeans in 1894, but was probably sold c.1900-1910 before his death. The copy retained by the family may well have been one of those offered by dealers to reluctant sellers of family portraits around that time. Gibson draws on Marion Ward’s Forth (1982) for information on Jeans’s early life in Paris. Through Nathaniel Parker Forth Jeans became acquainted with the duc de Chartres, and legend has it that Jeans located the Hampshire girl Nancy Syms who became known as Pamela and married Lord Edward Fitzgerald – at least in one version of the story (most sources believe that Pamela was the duc’s illegitimate daughter by Mme de Genlis). In any case Jeans’s close connections with France – Woodforde called him “Frenchified” – make this a particularly appropriate Russell to hang in the Louvre.


From → Art history

  1. Diana Kostyrko permalink

    Dear Neil,

    All the best to you from Australia for a festive Christmas/New Year in London, and a bright and happy 2018. It sounds as if you are positively buzzing with insights and discoveries, and I expect more to come. Should you collate all your wonderful posts into a book (although don’t talk to me about books)?

    Tres meilleurs vœux,


    Dr Diana J. Kostyrko Cultural historian

    School of Literature, Languages & Linguistics The Australian National University Canberra ACT 2601 AUSTRALIA

    Literature hasn’t yet been strangled,

    but the cinema, which is more directly tied to the forces of capitalism,

    has already learned to hold its tongue

    • Now there’s a thought…although any delusions I have about print publishing are pricked when I look at the viewing stats for the blog in a medium which is free for all… Particularly disappointing when I’m writing about a picture in the Louvre is the fact that my French readers constitute less than 1% of an already tiny number!
      All seasonal wishes (which should at least reach you before a card would!)

  2. Carole Child permalink

    During their time in Great Witchingham Mr & Mrs Jeans were neighbours of the diarist James Woodforde at Weston Longville (both parishes being in the gift of New College Oxford) and feature prominently in his diary. Woodforde lived with his niece Nancy (sister of the painter Samuel Woodforde) and neither had a very high opinion of the Jeans’s high ‘Frenchified’ ways and their ability to take advantage of others. For 10 day in November 1792 Thomas Jeans went away leaving his wife and two eldest daughters, Mary b. 1787 and baby Charlotte, to stay, uninvited, with the Woodfordes for 10 days. Mrs Jeans and the eldest child sleeping in Nancy room with her. 1792 was also the year that Nancy wrote her one full diary, and complained about them every day during their stay:

    ‘I can’t say that their Company is very agreeable Mrs Jeans being a very dull Companion and the Children troublesome. Mrs. Jeans is a good Mother but she makes too much fuss with her Children. Her Ideas are much too high for her line of Life, she talks of nothing but Drawing Rooms, Lawns and Servants, I wish she was fonder of Needlework.’ (02/11/1792)

    The Parson Woodforde Society has done quite a lot of research on the Jeans family and published it in their Journal. In one article from Autumn 1996 it states that the picture, which remained in the family and was with Mabel Harker who died in 1968, was found to be a copy and it was believed that the original, now in the Louvre, may have been sold sometime around 1900 by the Rev. G.E. Jeans but I have no idea where the copy is today.

    • How wonderful. I was quite unaware of the article, and am most grateful to you for drawing my attention to it.

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