A beautiful Ramsay at Woolley and Wallis in Salisbury.

A very successful picture sale at Woolley and Wallis in Salisbury (Wednesday March 15th 2017 lot 386) included this fantastic Ramsay, the portrait of James Bateman (1696 – 1758), which sold for £21,000 hammer to some lucky person.

WW Ramsay Bateman

(c) Woolley and Wallis

This is everything you expect with Ramsay, the cool, elegant bearing, the face built with soft hatching strokes like a pastel and a look in the eyes that says Scottish Enlightenment. (c) Woolley and Wallis

WW Ramsay detail

The painting is signed and dated 1756 when Ramsay was in Rome, which puts James Bateman there with his wife Anne Chaplin, who sat to Ramsay at the same time. This is not so unusual. Lord and Lady Dacre sat to Pompeio Batoni when they were in Italy on a family tour. Be interesting to see Mrs Bateman’s portrait. I must look it up when I’m next at the archive.

That’s a rather lovely idea, travelling to Italy as a wise old couple, really appreciating it, rather than spending all your time there drunk like so many younger Grand Tourists did. Perhaps Mr Bateman was able to do both, if he was very lucky. It’s a very conservative portrait for the date, befitting a respectable man, and unlike the young bucks in their holiday suits, all Italian velvet, French lace and fur cuffs,  Bateman is wearing what looks like the sober London fashion of the previous decade. Anything trendy would be infra dig. Tho he does have a stunning waistcoat, which he might well have had made on his travels. And a silk coat, I notice.

The clothes are superb, actually. Ramsay used drapery painters – famously Joseph van Aken, who painted the dress for so many 1740s portraitists that even contemporaries noticed a certain sameness – but I wonder in this case. I’d be very interested to know from any Ramsay scholars whether you think this might be Ramsay’s own drapery here. The loose painting of the gold thread, the depth and texture to the silk waistcoat and the sketchy blue lining to the coat are beautiful.

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