Mr and Mrs Wakefield and Catherine Bell


Francis Wheatley (1749-1801), Norfolk Museums Service,  More information here

In 2009 I did post about this picture and received some comments. It was painted  around 1774 and depicts Edward Wakefield, his wife Priscilla (on the right) and Priscilla’s sister Catherine Bell in the centre.  Read about Catherine here

It is such an intriguing composition that seems full of hidden meaning. I welcome any further comment on the background, the position of the subjects, the hands, the objects they are holding and the clothing.

Published in: on July 4, 2018 at 2:05 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. Yes, I have looked at this painting (which is quite small actually) and thought about it.
    Firstly, the date is actually quite uncertain. In 1774, Priscilla had at least two children – she was so child-centred it seems odd they are not there, which would have been normal for a family portrait of the period. I wonder (because I don’t know) whether it was painted earlier than that and to commemorate or celebrate something? If earlier, Priscilla may be engaged – hence her sister standing next to her rather than her husband. Catherine looks young, Priscilla is seated – perhaps to conceal a pregnancy?
    Their clothes – they are all Quakers, but their clothes are very “gay”. In fact, they are so well-dressed it does seem like a celebration of something, yet Priscilla seems not quite at ease at being a spectacle. Perhaps it was Edward’s idea?

    Francis Wheatley went on to be a rather louche court painter – I think this may be very early in his career. Perhaps they knew him before he was famous? And before Edward lost their money so they could afford to pay for such a thing?
    None of them are looking at anyone else – Priscilla and Edward are looking almost beyong each other, Catherine out to the viewer. Stiff posing and not very intimate.
    In all, it doesn’t look as though the women were that keen on it, but were doing their best to indulge the men.

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