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Tilly Kettle
18th century English portrait of a lady beside an urn, with a basket of flowers

c. 1765



Portrait of a lady wearing a white gown with a red cloak, pearls in her hair and draped over one shoullder, standing beside a classical urn with a basket of flowers, c.1765. The portrait is believed to be a companion portrait of a John (1741-1816) or James (1751-1807) Durno which is housed in an identical frame. The sitter is possibly either the wife of John who was Janes Byres of Stonywood or John and James's sister Elizabeth. (James never married). The Durno family were based around the Aberdeen area of Scotland and John was an advocate in the area and then later a customs official in Jamaica. James was a successful timber merchant, spending time in the Baltic before being made His Majesty's Consul in Memel, Prussia. The portrait is likely to have been painted before Tilly travelled to India in 1768, when John, Jane and Elizabeth would have been in their twenties. We are gtrateful to Mark Beattie for sharing his family knowlege and research on the portrait. Provenance: With W. C. Beattie in the mid 19th century, and by descent through the family Private collection, Kent With thanks to Hugh Belsey who has confirmed this to be the work of Tilly Kettle from photographs. Tilly Kettle (1735-1786) was born in London, the third of six children by Henry Kettle (c.1704-c.1773), a coach painter, and his wife Ann. He attended William Shipley's drawing school in the Strand and from there he may have progressed to the St Martin's Lane Academy and the Duke of Richmond's sculpture gallery. During the early 1750's he was introduced to Joshua Reynolds whom he admired and who greatly influenced his portrait style. He first exhibited at the Free Society of Artists in 1761 and between 1762 until around 1764 he undertook various commissions between Oxford, the Midlands and London. These included the principal of Brasenose College, Oxford, Dr Francis Yarborough, the poet Anna Seward (National Portrait Gallery, London) as well as numerous portraits of the Legge family, commissioned by the second Earl of Dartmouth. He continued to exhibit with the Society of Artists up to 1776, when he then began exhibiting with the Royal Academy. In 1768. he was granted permission by the East India Company to travel to Bengal, India, to work as as artist, becoming the first professional artist to make a career there. Arriving in Madras, among his first commissions was a portrait of Lord Pigot, the former Governor of Madras and his clientele consisted of nabobs, merchants and army officers. He also painted a group portrait of Muhammed Ali Khan, nawab of Arcot , with his five sons, which Kettle exhibited at the Society of Artists in 1771, as well as a full-length portrait of Muhammed. (Victoria and Albert Museum, London). By late 1771, kettle was in Calcutta where he painted a large double portrait of Charles and John Sealy (Courtauld, London) and Warren Hastings, whom Kettle painted at least three times. Whilst in Calcutta, he took an Indian 'bibi' or mistress, and had two daughters, Ann and Elizabeth. In 1776 he returned to England and married Mary, the younger daughter of the architect James Paine and he had two further children Mary and a son John. He began exhibiting at the Royal Academy, showing works there until 1783. The marriage was not a success and with increasing financial difficulties, in 1786 Kettle decided to return to India, reaching as far as Aleppo where he painted what might have been his last portrait of 'The Turkish Janissary of the English Factory (private collection). He is thought to have died shortly afterwards before the end of 1786 from unknown circumstances. Literature: James D. Milner, Tilly Kettle, The Walpole Society volume fifteen, 1927, page 47


  • Creator
    Tilly Kettle (1735 - 1786, English)
  • Creation Year
    c. 1765
  • Dimensions
    Height: 38.98 in. (99 cm)Width: 31.89 in. (81 cm)
  • Medium
  • Movement & Style
  • Period
  • Condition
  • Gallery Location
    Bath, GB
  • Reference Number
    1stDibs: LU9528862762

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    Estimated Customs Duties & Taxes to the Continental US: $0.
    Ships From: Bath, United Kingdom
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