Portrait of Mrs. Wertheimer (née Trautz) by Sir William Orpen for auction

at

Sheppard’s Irish Auction House, The Square, Durrow, Co. Laois R32 FN88.

Dublin & Provincial, Tuesday, 5th December 2023 at 10 am.

Lot 35:

Size: 60 x 50 cm.; framed: 74 x 62 cm.

Estimate: €30,000 – €50,000.

Starting Bid: €18,000.

Description:

Portrait of Mrs. Wertheimer (née Trautz). Signed bottom left. Oil on canvas. Framed. Provenance: The Dr. Kevin Moynihan Collection, Macroom, Co. Cork. A re-discovered portrait of a lady, signed by William Orpen Hedsor (1904) is believed to be one of two portraits of Jessica Wertheimer (née Trautz). Both were commissioned by Charles Wertheimer (1842-1911), a notable art dealer and an early patron of the artist. A paper on the back of the painting testifies that The Fine Art Society sold this painting titled Mrs Wertheim of Hedsor Priory – 1904 in December 1978. The spelling of “Wertheim” is believed to be a typo for the family name of Wertheimer. Orpen was an Irish artist, born in Stillorgan, County Dublin. He moved to London and studied at the Slade School of Art between 1897 and 1899. His rise through the socially nuanced world of British society portraiture was meteoric. By 1914, according to the Dictionary of Irish Biography, he had become “the most successful artist of his generation in Britain, and the country’s most fashionable portraitist.” He was a brilliant draughtsman, but part of his talent was for ingratiating himself with those who could pay for prestigious and expensive portraits. By 1904, Charles Wertheimer had become Orpen’s leading patron. In the same year, Orpen showed a portrait of Wertheimer as his first exhibit at the Royal Academy. This portrait shows Mrs Wertheimer dressed in the height of Edwardian fashion with hair piled high under a wide-brimmed hat, an elaborate dress with a high collar incorporating lace, and a string of pearls. The brush strokes are moving towards gestural, giving the impression of dappled light. She looks healthy, wealthy, and smug. It may have been painted at Hedsor Priory. A report in the Nottingham Evening Post (Thursday 26 May 1904, page2, column 5) notes that: “Several of the best houses on the Thames have been let for the Upper Thames season … Hedsor House, adjoining Cliveden, has been let by Lord Boston to Mr. Charles Wertheimer.” It was a very prestigious venue. Hedsor House is now best known for featuring in historic films and TV drama, including the ITV series Downton Abbey. Jessica has the appearance of a trophy wife. Charles had been separated from his first wife, Frieda, for more than twenty years and lived with his companion Sarah Hammond until that relationship ended in the 1890s. Portraits of both Charles Wertheimer and Sarah Hammond by John Everett Millais (1829-1896) are in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. In 1904, the same year that Frieda died, Charles married Jessica and commissioned Orpen to paint her twice. Both paintings were exhibited in London. This one was shown in the New English Art Club, London, Winter 1904, No.69, as A Portrait Study; and the other painting in Guildhall, as part of an Exhibition of Works by Irish Painters, 1904, No.27, as Jessie Wertheimer, lent by C.J. Wertheimer. The immediate public display of images of his new wife reads like a statement of some description. Possibly, it was as simple as pride in his bride. Approximate Time: 10:24 am.

Text by: Sheppard’s Irish Auction House, The Square, Durrow, Co. Laois R32 FN88.

______

Orpen’s 1904 portrait of Charles Wertheimer (not in auction).

 

Post by Dominic Lee, Orpen Research Archives.