Emma House, Keeper of Fine Art, The Bowes Museum
For my placement I identified four paintings from The Bowes Museum’s collection on which to carry out research. These included Allan Ramsay’s Man in a Red Coat whose identity can now be confirmed as the 10th Earl of Rothes. Sir Joshua Reynolds’ Portrait of a Lady has been traditionally identified as representing Mrs. Hester Thrale, Dr. Johnson’s friend, but research into her iconography and the painting’s internal evidence cast doubt on this identification, and I am conducting further research into the theory that the painting has been cut down. The final two portraits are pendants by George Frederic Watts of The Duke of Cleveland (1873) and Lawrence Alma-Tadema of The Duchess of Cleveland (1882-3), whose provenance and sitter biographies were the focus of my research. For these portraits I have written new display labels which make some of this new information available to visitors in the galleries. I have given a lecture to Museum’s volunteer guides on my research findings and provided them with extended label information so that they can incorporate this into their guided tours. I have added information to the Museum’s catalogue system and included further material in the object files. The Museum is currently embarking on a project that will redisplay the Museum’s British fine and decorative arts collections, and where appropriate I hope to feed my research findings into this display. The research bursary provided me with an opportunity to visit research facilities, such as the Heinz Library and Archive that I was not previously familiar with, as well as, the British Library and British Museum which I visit more frequently. The project provided me with an opportunity to improve my research skills and use different resources such as the Heinz records on known sitters, sales catalogues and exhibition catalogues. The research project also gave me an opportunity to establish links with curators at the National Portrait Gallery.