- Museum number
Portrait of Mrs Mathews, actress, in 'The Masquerade'; whole-length wearing richly brocaded satin dress, with elaborate jewellery and tiara, holding candlestick with candle in her right hand
Watercolour with red chalk
- Production date
Height: 272 millimetres
Width: 228 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The following text is from S Lloyd and K Sloan, 'The Intimate Portrait', BM and NGS, 2008, no 181:
Mrs Mathews was the second wife of the great comic actor and impersonator Charles Mathews (1776-1835). She was born Anne Jackson (d. 1869) and they met while they were both working for the York company of actors and married in March 1803. He made his London debut the same year at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket and the following night repeated it by command for George III and his family. Charles and Anne Mathews often performed together over the next few years while he established himself as one of the leading comedians on the London stage.
In the 1810s the couple worked a great deal in the provinces as well as in London and later devised a new type of one-man show which was a great success and he took it briefly to American before returning as 'the comedian of the age'. He earned some of the highest salaries paid at the time and formed a large collection of over 400 theatrical portraits, a large number of them by De Wilde. In 1833 bad investments forced the Mathews to exhibit the collection in an attempt to sell it and then to head for America again in 1834. Mathews fell ill there but was forced to continue to perform and died shortly after their return in 1835 when they managed to sell the collection to the Garrick Club. His widow survived him for more than thirty years.
An oval engraved portrait of 'Mrs Mathews of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane' published 31st December 1806 does not name the original artist; she is not obviously portrayed in a role but as herself, a young woman in an empire dress, with flowers at her breast and shoulders and a veil over her head. She appears to be the same age as she is in De Wilde's portrait of her here which bears a pencil inscription 'The Masquerade', an otherwise unrecorded play. He portrays her as lively and engaging with large eyes and a slight smile, a fitting companion to the wife and partner of a great comic actor. It is a striking contrast to her portrait in chalk by George Henry Harlow, of a later date (Sotheby's, London, 19 Nov. 1970, lot 88). Harlow's image is of an older woman, with the same large eyes, but her long nose emphasized and the edges of her mouth turned down - the expression of a tragic actress. It must date from near the end of Harlow's life when he was competing with Lawrence's portraits in a similar medium.
SELECTED LITERATURE: L Binyon, 'Cat. of British Drawings in the BM', De Wilder, no. 18; G. Ashton, 'Pictures in the Garrick Club', 1997, xxxix-xlvi; R.L. Klepac, 'Charles Mathews', Oxford DNB [article 18329, accessed 1 Feb. 2008]
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2008/9 Oct-Jan, Edinburgh, SNPG, 'The Intimate Portrait', no.181
2009 Mar-May, London, BM, Room 90, 'The Intimate Portrait'
- Associated titles
Associated Title: Masquerade
- Acquisition date
- 1837 (before)
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number