- Museum number
Portrait of Michael Bryan, picture dealer and author of 'Dictionary of Painters and Engravers'; nearly three-quarter length, seated in chair to front, head to left and looking l, behind the Pietà by Annibale Carracci
Watercolour and bodycolour, over black chalk
- Production date
Height: 241 millimetres
Width: 189 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- As Denning wasn't born until 1795, this must have been drawn just after the publication of the final volume of Bryan's Dictionary in 1816 and before his death in 1821.
The following text is from S. Lloyd and K. Sloan, 'The Intimate Portrait' (exh. SNPG & BM, 2008-9), cat. no. 136:
Stephen Poyntz Denning was a pupil of the miniaturist John Wright who also made copy drawings of oils for engravers. Given the apparent age of Bryan in this picture (about sixty), Denning must have painted it when he was around twenty years of age. It is very accomplished and in style and medium borrows heavily from Edridge and Cosway but employs watercolour in a deft and more extensive way than either of those artists. Sadly it has suffered from fading. In 1821 Denning was made Keeper of the Pictures at Dulwich Gallery but he carried on painting portraits and exhibited at the RA from 1814-52. He resided there until his death and produced the intermediary drawings from the collection at Dulwich when they were engraved in 1855. Several of his portraits were engraved but not the present work. In 1835, Denning painted a similar portrait in watercolours of Henry Petrie, the antiquary and Keeper of the Records in the Tower (BM 1872,1214.391).
Michael Bryan (1757-1821) left Newcastle for London and spent most of the 1780s in Flanders, possibly in connection with the clothing trade. He met Juliana Talbot (1759-1801), the sister of the Earl of Shrewsbury on one of his crossings and they married in 1784. The social prestige this brought him along with his presence in Flanders enabled him to build up his knowledge of art and its collectors and when he returned to London in 1790 he established himself as a dealer and an authority on fine art. Around this time he met the successful mezzotint engraver James Ward and encouraged him in his pursuit of painting, commissioning a large family portrait (Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne).
His gallery in Saville Row became a meeting place for artists and patrons to discuss the paintings on display. He had an extensive knowledge of the history of art and his prices were fair with the result he was well-respected by the artistic community. The painting in the background of this portrait is Annibale Carracci's ‘Pieta’, now titled ‘The Dead Christ Mourned ("The Three Maries")’, about 1604 (NG London, NG 2923) It was one of the paintings from the Duc d'Orléans' collection that he brought to London from France in 1797 and put on public display for six months before distributing the works to their various purchasers. He retired to write his ‘Biographical and Critical Dictionary of Painters and Engravers’ published in two parts in 1813 and 1816, still a standard reference work for many less well known artists today. His frontispiece portrait was after a miniature by Alexander Pope.
SELECTED LITERATURE: LB 2; H. Mallalieu, ‘Dictionary of British Watercolour Artists up to 1920’, 1976; D. Foskett, ‘Dictionary of British Miniature Painters’, 1963; L. Peltz, 'Michael Bryan', Oxford DNB
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2008/9 Oct-Jan, Edinburgh, SNPG, 'The Intimate Portrait', no. 136
2009 Mar-May, London, BM, Room 90, 'The Intimate Portrait', no. 136
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- A note on the back of the mount indicates the drawing is from the collection of J. Wadmore, Esq. which may be James Wadmore, a printmaker c. 1840.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number