Jane Hollings
Jane Hollings

THOMAS HUDSON (1701-1779)

Jane Hollings

c. 1736 England

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A portrait of Jane Hollings, Mrs Arthur Champernowne
Painted by Thomas Hudson (1701-1779) in about 1736
Size 41½” x 31” (105.5 x 79 cms)
Oil on unlined canvas and on its original strainer

This very fine early portrait by Thomas Hudson is in remarkable condition and has survived untouched for over 280 years.
Jane Hollings was born in 1712 to a father who had graduated M.D. from Cambridge University two years earlier and his wife, Jane. Dr. John Hollings embarked on a highly successful medical career, which saw him elected F.R.S. in 1725, F.R.C.P. in 1726 and reached the pinnacle of any 18th Century doctor’s ambitions when he was appointed Physician to the King in 1727, a position he held until his death 12 years later. He was also Physician General of the Army and was a subscriber to Sir Isaac Newton’s ‘Philosophy’ in 1728.

The Hollings lived in considerable style, with an estate at Bicton near Shrewsbury in Shropshire and from 1730, a London house in Pall Mall, just a few minutes walk from the King and his family in St. James’s Palace.

Jane’s father’s position with the Royal family would have brought her into the circle of the Royal children; Frederick, Prince of Wales, was five years older than her and his sisters Amelia and Caroline were respectively a year older and younger. There is compelling evidence that Dr Hollings was much in the Prince of Wales’ favour, even after his banishment from Court, and it is significant that Hollings was able to retain his appointment with the King as well as being in the circle of his estranged heir.

When she was 21, in December 1735, Jane married Arthur Champernowne at St. George’s in Bloomsbury, a new church by Hawksmoor and one of the most fashionable churches in London.

The Champernownes were one of the oldest and most distinguished families in Devon and records show members of the family holding public office from the middle of the Thirteenth Century onwards. In 1559, Sir Arthur Champernowne, Vice-Admiral of the West, acquired the Dartington Hall Estate, near Totnes from the Crown. Construction of the main part of the house, a great hall, had been commenced in 1388 by a half brother of Richard II but, by the time Jane arrived as a newly-wed, the property was in a sad state; the hall was overgrown with ivy and a long range of residential buildings were virtually ruinous.

Arthur’s mother was a member of the Courtenay family from nearby Powderham Castle. This family were the first patrons of Thomas Hudson and it is natural that this up and coming artist was commissioned to paint this picture of Jane. In later years, as one of the most successful artists in London, he painted her again with the costume done by his extremely talented assistant Joseph van Aken, but this picture is important because it is entirely by Hudson.

This second portrait, together with Hudson’s pencil sketch, was exhibited at a major retrospective to celebrate his bicentenary at Kenwood House in London in 1979 and this is still owned by the family. In the catalogue notes for her portrait, it is suggested that Jane returned to London by herself not long after her marriage, but was reunited with her husband in 1761.

It would seem, however, that this is more family legend than fact. Dartington was remote, cold and in terrible condition and Jane was used to a life of considerable luxury and moved in the highest echelons of society. Her new husband was the head of an ancient family; he would have been very comfortable in her world and his position in society was such that he would have been immediately accepted by her circle – in fact, if he were not, he would have never met her.

In common with other members of the gentry who had town and country houses, Jane and Arthur probably divided their time between Dartington and the house in Pall Mall. As well as other friends, Arthur’s first cousin, Sir William Courtenay (later Viscount Courtenay), was the Member of Parliament for Devon at this time, so was often in London and when, in 1741, he married Frances, daughter of the Earl of Aylesford, it was to Thomas Hudson he turned to have her portrait painted.

1739 was a momentous year for the young couple. In May, Jane’s father died, leaving his estate to his son, also called John and also a physician. Four months later, Jane gave birth to a daughter who was christened Jane in St. Anne’s, Soho, a church much favoured by society and where Jane’s childhood friend The Prince of Wales had his son William christened four years later. This daughter proved to be their only child.

Then, in December, life changed for Jane and Arthur forever, when her brother unexpectedly died, leaving her as heiress to a substantial estate. Some sources suggest Jane had a sister named Margaret, but no trace can be found of her life and it seems most likely she died young and unmarried before 1735 , so it was down to Jane to manage this inheritance. The 1830 engraving of Dartington suggests that the residential wing was restored around this time and the family legend of Jane living in London whilst Arthur remained at Dartington may have stemmed from her needing to administer her house there and the estate in Shropshire whilst he was in Devon, overseeing the rebuilding works.

In a good illustration of how important family connections were in the 18th Century, their daughter Jane returned to her paternal grandmother’s family home when she married the Rev. Richard Harrington, vicar of Powderham Castle and son of Sir James Harrington, Bart. About the same time, 1766, Arthur Champernowne died, aged 58. As a result of the law of primogeniture, the ownership of Dartington had to pass to a distant, unmarried, cousin called Rawlin Champernowne. Arthur, knowing he was powerless under the law to prevent this, but being aware his cousin was the last male heir, inserted a clause in his will declaring that a male offsping of his only daughter could inherit on Rawlins’ death, if he changed his name to Champernowne. He became the second owner of this portrait.

So far as this portrait is concerned, Jane’s grandson, Arthur, must have inherited it and hung the picture at Dartington, where he lived and immersed himself in country affairs. He was an officer in the local Devon Militia, married the daughter of the Member of Parliament for Exeter, had a brief spell as an M.P. and was High Sheriff of Devon in 1811-12. He and his descendants obviously did nothing to the house and during the 19th Century the once large estate was gradually sold off and, as parts of the house were closed off, also sold the contents. This portrait would have hung quietly in one position in the house for 175 years, hence its untouched condition. Very fortunately, when it was sold in about 1912 to an American picture dealer, it was reframed and put under glass, which also preserved its near pristine state, in which state it remained in Toledo, Ohio in the same family until now.

The Champernownes remained at Dartington until 1925, by which time the house was in a very decayed state. The entire property, including 1,200 acres, was purchased by a visionary couple, Dorothy and Leonard Elmhurst. They set up farming, forestry and educational projects and founded Dartington Hall School, a progressive co-educational boarding school, and also a tweed mill and the Dartington Hall Glass Company. Today, the house is fully restored and the Dartington Hall Trust is internationally famous as a model of sustainability and social justice and a great supporter of all facets of the arts.

Very good original condition on original unlined canvas and stretcher
By descent in the family until circa 1912
With Ehrich Galleries, New York
Purchased (together with a Gainsborough and several other
portraits) by Martin
V. Kelly of Toledo, Ohio in 1918
and thence by descent.

Height 105.50 cm (41.54 inches)
Width 79.00 cm (31.10 inches)
Oil on canvas
c. 1736
Isherwood Fine Art Ltd

Isherwood Fine Art Ltd
United kingdom

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