C1810 Georgian Oil on Canvas Portrait of a Regency Lady, possibly Lydia Bradley


This beautiful lady of mystery was bought at auction, then with the name Amelia Thomason Hitchens painted on the background, with a note that the paintings (this and several in identical early 20th century frames) once hung in Knebworth Castle. She is not Amelia, and she has no association with Knebworth House.

Knebworth House is the ancestral home of the family of Edward George Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1807), 1st Baron Lytton, who declined the crown of Greece in 1862, and became Baron Lytton of Knebworth in 1866. Knebworth House was inherited from his mother. He is now remembered more for his writing than his  career as a prominent politician. The Brisbane suburb of Lytton is named after him. I fear "The Last Days of Pompeii" is the only one of his works I have read. He and his wife had two children before an acrimonious separation. The boy became Viceroy of India, and 1st Earl of Lytton. The older daughter, Emily, died, estranged from her father, in 1848, aged 19, in a boarding house in Brompton, London, "in mysterious circumstances"!

This fine portrait purports to Amelia Thomason Hitchins (1823 Sussex - 1896 Devonshire) . Her father was James Cruikshak Hitchins (1793-1873), Coroner to the City of Lincoln, and son of John Hitchins of Garston Hall, Coulsden, Surrey, (died 1825) Her mother was Lydia Bradley (died 1840). Her brother, recorded as Edward Bulwer Lytton Hitchins (1836 Lincolnshire-1903) spent time in Australia and married first wife, Emma Jane Little, who was born in NSW in 1838.

Edwards' Bulwer Lytton names suggested a connection with the Bulwer Lyttons of Knebworth House. I can find no evidence of any connection whatsoever, although, momentarily, my fertile mind hoped for a melodramatic connection between the ill fated Emily of "mysterious circumstances" may have had a link with the Hitchens family, but the dates do show this most unlikely.

If only Edward Bulwer Lytton Hitchens had been born in 1848!

It seems likely that either the Bulwer Lytton names were innocently bestowed upon Edward by his father to honour one of the the greatest writers of the day (t can find no evidence of this) or Edward adopted them himself later in life for personal aggrandisement.

The group of ancestral family portraits included at least two two painted by Guy Lipscombe (1891-1951), noted for his portraits of army officers. One was a portrait of Colonel Charles Faurce Hitchins (1872-1959), son of Edward Bulwer Lytton Hitchins and Emma Jane. Another was a portrait of Edward Bulwer Lytton Hitchins MA JP, which was copied or possibly made up by Lipscombe. The white block letter  sitters' names painted on the canvases are almost certainly his work too.

Our lovely painting is a period portrait C1810, so it cannot be Amelia Thomason Hitchins, but if it is indeed an inherited portrait, it could conceivably be her mother Lydia Bradley who died in 1840 and probably born about the same time as her husband, the early 1790s. Alternatively, it is also possible our portrait was bought at any time by the family as an "instant ancestor" and has no familial relationship with the Hitchins at all.

Our charming mystery lady of C1810 has been cleaned and had the disfiguring later name tag removed. The handsome early 20th century frame is 75.5cm by 62.5 cm.





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