Portrait of Mary Browne, Westport House, County Mayo, Ireland, by Irish American artist Henrietta Dering Johnston
Portrait of Mary Browne, Westport House, County Mayo, Ireland, by Irish American artist Henrietta Dering Johnston
Portrait of Mary Browne, Westport House, County Mayo, Ireland, by Irish American artist Henrietta Dering Johnston
Portrait of Mary Browne, Westport House, County Mayo, Ireland, by Irish American artist Henrietta Dering Johnston
Portrait of Mary Browne, Westport House, County Mayo, Ireland, by Irish American artist Henrietta Dering Johnston
Portrait of Mary Browne, Westport House, County Mayo, Ireland, by Irish American artist Henrietta Dering Johnston

HENRIETTA DERING JOHNSTON (c.1674-1729)

Portrait of Mary Browne, Westport House, County Mayo, Ireland, by Irish American artist Henrietta Dering Johnston

c. 1704 Ireland

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A very fine and important drawing of Mary Browne c.1704 by Irish American artist Henrietta Dering Johnston.

Mary Browne was born in 1686, the eldest daughter of the Rt Hon Denis Daly of Carrownakelly and Mary Power of Limerick. In 1698 she married John Moore of Brees Castle, near Clanmorris, County Mayo, the ancestral home of the Moores. They had one son, Garrett, and two daughters, Mary and Frances. In 1705 John Moore inherited the Clanmorris estates from his uncle, Colonel Garrett Moore, along with Cloghan Castle in County Offaly (Will and codicil of Garrett Moore, Westport Estate papers, National Library of Ireland MS 40,905/2). John Moore died soon after in 1707 and Mary married Peter Browne of Westport, County Mayo. They had a son in 1709, John Browne, who became the 1st Lord Altamont. Mary Browne died around the 1st December of the same year.

The artist, Henrietta Dering Johnston, née de Beaulieu (c.1674-1729) married Robert Dering, the son of Sir Edward Dering, 2nd Baronet, in the parish of Knightsbridge, London, in 1694. Although little is known about her early years it is thought she may have had some formal training because of the quality of her Irish portraits. Art historians believe that either Thomas Forster (w.1690-1713), Edmund Ashfield (?-1700) or his pupil Edward Luttrell (w.1690-1720) may have taught her or at least influenced her work. Soon after her marriage Henrietta and Robert moved to Ireland perhaps to advance their position with the aid of Robert's influential brothers, Charles and Daniel. Charles Dering, the Auditor General in Ireland, was married to Margaret, the sister of John Moore, Lord Tullamore (the Irish families of Moore and the Derings were descendants of Kentish noblemen from Benenden and Pluckley dating back to the reign of Henry II ). Robert's other brother, Daniel Dering, a colonel in the Irish army, was married to Helen the daughter of Sir John Perceval. Of his sisters, Elizabeth (1649-1682) was married to the diplomat Sir Robert Southwell who later became Secretary of State for Ireland in 1690, and Catherine was married to Sir John Perceval in 1680. Their son, John, became the first Earl of Egmont.

In 1980 the contents of Belvedere House, County Westmeath, Ireland, were sold by the auctioneers Christie's. Among the sale items were nine pastels drawn by Henrietta Dering (Johnston) of her family and friends. These were acquired by the late James Arthur Williams of Mercer House, Savannah, Georgia (sale of Mercer House, Savannah, The collection of the late Jim Williams, Sotheby's New York, Oct.2000, Lot 342). This important collection contained seven pastels that were signed and inscribed on their backboards 'Dublin Anno 1704' or 'Dublin Anno 1705'. Included in this group were family portraits of the Earl of Barrymore 1704, Philip Perceval 1704, Sir John Perceval 1705, Sir Emanuel Moore (3rd Bt, Ross Carbery, County Cork) 1704 and John Moore, Lord Toullamore (Tullamore) 1704-05. These Irish portraits undoubtedly represent Henrietta Dering Johnston's best period. Stylistically the present pastel of Mary Browne can be dated to around 1704 when she was married to John Moore of Clanmorris and Cloghan. Like so many of Henrietta's drawings, the original 18th century soft wood frame with inscribed backboard has been replaced. However, the drawing has provenance to Lady Norah Browne of Linley Hall, Shropshire, daughter of Henry, 5th Marquess of Sligo, Westport House, County Mayo, and bears a 20th century inscription with details of the sitter, Mary Browne. The reference to the drawing being a copy by Mary Ann Curzon Howe or possibly Sophia, Baroness Howe of Langar of a Mary Beale (1632-1697) oil portrait now at Westport House is chronologically impossible and visibly this is an entirely different picture.

Robert Dering died on January 24th 1703 and Henrietta married the Reverend Gideon Johnston. Gideon, a vicar of Castlemore Co.Mayo, either applied or was recommended to the Bishop of London for appointment as the Bishop's commissary in South Carolina. They arrived at Charles Town in South Carolina in the spring of 1708. After living for many years in the relative comfort of her aristocratic family in Dublin there is little doubt Henrietta's life underwent a dramatic change after moving to Charles Town. Life was harsh in what was then a frontier town of mostly Indians, Spanish and French. Gideon suffered bouts of ill health and financial hardship but Henrietta continued to draw her portraits and in a letter of 1709 Gideon mentioned that " were it not for the Assistance my wife gives me drawing of Pictures (which can last a little time in a place so ill peopled) I shou'd not have been able to live". Henrietta returned to London in 1711 with church papers for Gideon and to visit her stepsons. She returned to Charles Town in 1712 and four years later Gideon drowned in a boating accident in Charles Town harbour. In 1725 she visited New York and drew four portraits of Colonel John Moore and his family, returning to Charles Town in 1725. She died there in March 1729 and is now recognised as America's first female professional artist.
The subject portrait is in excellent condition. Some slight cockling with 18th century size tideline marks to left and lower right.
Lady Norah Browne, Linley Hall, Shropshire.
Daughter of Henry, 5th Marquess of Sligo, Westport House, County Mayo.
Christie's Sale Catalogue, 9th March 2016, contents of Linley Hall,Shropshire," Linley Hall- The origins of the Collection....Then there are other more recent additions to the collection such as the miniatures relating to Browne's of Westport House, Co.Mayo, which came via Sir Jasper's [ More ] mother, Lady Norah Browne, daughter of the 5th Marquess of Sligo."
Dimensions
Height 11.00 inch (27.94 cm)
Width 9.00 inch (22.86 cm)
Medium
Pastel
Signed/Inscribed
Unsigned, 20th century inscription on reverse
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