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Enquiry from Online Galleries regarding "A Fine Pair of 18th Century English Pastel Portraits"
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The sitters here are Charles Elliott and his second wife, Eling Venn, daughter of the Reverend Henry Venn, an Anglican clergyman and one of the most important figures in the Evangelical movement in the eighteenth-century. Charles Elliott was a British cabinet-maker and importer of furniture by Royal appointment. The importing of French furniture on a large scale began in the 1780s, when the Prince of Wales (later George IV) came of age and was allowed a separate dwelling at Carlton House, which he rebuilt and refurnished in the French style he admired. Elliott was probably involved in obtaining furniture for the Prince of Wales from France, as suggested by financial documents showing the Prince receiving from Elliott a bill for £1,745 for having "furnished his said Royal Highness with various Articles of upholstery and other things".
In 1792 Elliott became a shareholder in the Sierra Leone Company, a scheme for settling freed slaves in Africa. Its supporters included the famous slavery abolitionist, William Wilberforce, and other members of “the Clapham Sect”. The Clapham Sect was a small but important group of Church of England social reformers, based in the eponymous suburb of London, who Elliott became associated with after moving to Clapham in the late 1790s. The Clapham Sect shared common political views regarding the liberation of slaves, the abolition of the slave trade and the reform of the penal system. As part of his Royal duties, Elliott also arranged the funeral carriage for Admiral Lord Nelson in 1805 after the victorious Battle of Trafalgar, which defeated the combined French and Spanish forces under Napoleon Bonaparte, and extinguished the threat of a French invasion of Britain.
Comparative literature: N. Barton, 'Rise of a Royal Furniture Maker', Country Life, 10 February 1966, p. 293; G.C. Williamson, 'John Russell R.A.', London, 1894, pp. 44 and 142, no. 3