The Moulsham Hall panels, appendix: The private museum of Charles Yarnold (d.1825), surgeon of Great St Helen’s, City of London.

Since posting the previous blog, Martin Robb has very kindly sent me an article he mentioned when we discussed Moulsham Hall. The preview of Charles Yarnold’s sale from The Literary Gazette and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences etc. for the year 1825 (London 1825 page 382) is worth quoting in full:

Curiosities, Antiquities Catalogue of the private Museum of the late Mr Yarnold of Great St Helens (about to be sold by auction) has been put into our hands. Among the articles we observe some not unworthy of public notice. Passing over cameos, intaglios etc., there is Hugo Vander Goe’s picture of ‘Abigail and her Maid’, which Pilkington mentions as an admired painting, and several royal portraits from Mouseham Hall, Essex, viz. Edward IV, Henry IV, VI and VII, Richard II and III, and Elizabeth Queen of Henry VII. There are other portraits on a piece of tapestry, called the Plantagenet Tapestry, and containing twenty-three likenesses of the life-size, of individuals belonging to the Houses of York and Lancaster. Other large tapestries, used in ceremonies in ancient times, are also curious and interesting.’

I’m also glad to say that Richard Barton has corrected my uncertainty about who this collector Charles Yarnold was, noting Yarnold’s will in The National Archives dated 14th June 1825 (PROB 11/1701/8) that confirms he was a surgeon of Great St Helen’s in the City of London. A set of manuscripts in the British Library (Egerton MSS 217-20) is catalogued as ‘Yarnold Charles (fl.1809 – 21), surgeon, historian, collections for a new edition of Sir George Buck’s History of Richard III and correspondence with printers’, a perfect fit for the owner of a private museum.

According to a note on the catalogue in the Getty Provenance Index (catalogue no. Br-2719), Yarnold’s library contents were sold by Southgate in a previous auction on June 8th 1825. Not everything in the museum sale belonged to Yarnold and the catalogue on the Getty Provenance Index only lists the paintings. Twenty-six of the thirty-eight picture lots belonged to Yarnold, including the Moulsham panels and the painting attributed to Hugo van der Goes (c.1430/40 – 1485), lot 191, bought Thompson, £24 13 shillings. It is described in the catalogue as:

‘The celebrated Picture of Abigail and her Maids in the presence of David. — Noticed in Pilkington, p. 225, as follows: Hugo Vander Goes History, (no date.) According to Sandrart he flourished about 1480, was born at Bruges, and became a disciple of John Vandyck [Jan Van Eyck], from whom he learned the art of painting in oil. He had much capacity, and gave something elegant and graceful to the heads of his figures, especially to the female; he finished his pictures with almost unexpressible neatness of pencil. — The foreground of his paintings are usually enriched with plants, pebbles, and herbage of various kinds, imitated from nature in a curious and exact manner. A great number of his works are preserved at Bruges, particularly a picture of “Abigail and her maids in the presence of David,” in which the composition, expression, and becoming modesty of the women have been much commended.’

The description is vague and it doesn’t say whether Yarnold’s painting was on panel as Van Der Goes would’ve used at that date. It resembles a composition known from several copies after a lost original, including this later example on canvas, sold Christie’s May 7th 2013 (lot 42) for 10,000 Euros.

(c) Christie’s

Twenty four pounds and thirteen shillings is not a huge price if Yarnold’s painting was an original, but it’s a decent figure. Around 1825 £24 13s was (according to the National Archives’ online currency calculator) is half a year’s wages for a skilled tradesman. Experts will know what kind of figure Van der Goes was fetching in the 1820s and how this compares with autograph works recorded as being on panel.

I’d love to have seen Yarnold’s museum. The tapestries sound incredible – ‘the Plantagenet Tapestry, […] containing twenty-three likenesses of the life-size, of individuals belonging to the Houses of York and Lancaster. Other large tapestries, used in ceremonies in ancient times’. I wonder what they were, and what happened to them. Lot 205 sounds exciting too: ‘Ancient view of London before the Fire’ bought Knapp £1 18 shillings.

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