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Ellen Sharples (1769-1849)

Rt. Hon. Russell Gurney Q.C., M.P. (1804-1878)

Pastel on paper; 10 by 9ins; 26 x 23cm; held in a Regency gilt wood frame; inscribed reverse
Provenance: Family descent


Guide Price: SOLD
Stock #: 539


Russell Gurney was the son of Sir John Gurney (1768-1845), Baron of the Exchequer, and Maria Hawes (1768-1849), daughter of Dr William Hawes of London. Born in September 1804 in Norwood, Surrey he attended Dunham School, Norfolk and Trinity College, Cambridge, being called to the Bar at the Inner Temple in 1828. In 1845 he was made a Queens Counsel and appointed Recorder of London in 1856, a public post that does not exclude the holder from parliament and therefore enabled Gurney to become M.P. for Southampton and later a Privy Councillor. In 1871 he was chosen by Government to settle the legal details of the Treaty of Washington. Admired in America for his tact and diplomacy at this time, the New York Times noted in its obituary that Mr Gurney was a keen politician, a fluent speaker, and, at the time of his death, one of the highest legal authorities in Great Britain. He married in September 1852 Emelia Batten and lived for the most part in London at Kensington Palace Gardens. He died in May 1878.

Ellen Wallace was a student of James Sharples in Bath and married him around 1787. The family moved to America in 1796 where James was virtually the only serious pastellist active, leading to great demand for his portraits from the likes of George Washington, John Adams, and Joseph Priestley. Hugely talented Ellen at first copied her husbands work and then after his death returned to England and continued a successful family practice. Drawing with a delicate, precise touch, using predominantly a restrained palette her talents undoubtedly grew to the extent that unless labelled her work is often indistinguishable from that of Jamess, this present portrait being a good example of this.

Gurney was painted in later life by eminent Victorian painters Henry Tanworth Wells and George Frederic Watts, both now in the Tate Gallery, London. This particular portrait contrasts well with these previously known images as it represents the man before he embarked on his successful public life. It depicts him probably before going up to Cambridge, very fashionably attired as a confident young Regency gentleman.

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