Charming family portrait found in a chest of drawers

This touching folk art depiction of William Winter and his family is coming for sale at Dreweatts on Tuesday November 24.


This Irish School pen, ink and watercolour of William Winter and his family most probably painted by a professional letter-writer while Winter was garrisoned in Dublin in 1816 with the 48th Regiment of Foot is estimated at £4000-6000 in Dreweatts’ November 24 auction.

It is lot 111 in the auction to be held at Donnington Priory in Berkshire and was discovered in a chest of drawers by London antiques and art dealer Robert Young.

It dates from around 1816 and shows Winter alongside his parents and his seven siblings. Winter had commissioned it as a token of affection for his family in Gloucestershire while he was garrisoned in Dublin.

He sent it to them with a letter dated January 15, 1816 and which is part of this lot. The letter begins: “Dear Father Worthy, I hope you are in receipt of this small gift I have sent you a Rep(resent)ation of the whole of our family which I ha-got drawn by a friend of mine in Dublin and I hope it will please you all.”

A few months later Winter deserted his regiment and was detained and committed to imprisonment in Chester. His regiment was to be transferred to Australia and it is possible that he had tried to source money to buy himself out of the army. When the money was not forthcoming rather than be sent to the other side of the world so far away from his family, he decided to abscond.

The pen, ink and watercolour portrait is estimated at £4000-£6000 in Dreweatts' Old Master, British and European art sale.

Watch Dreweatts specialist Brandon Lindberg discuss the painting.

More folk art

Folk art has been described as 'the unselfconscious creativity of academically untrained artists' and it is this quality that gives many of the works an immediacy and playfulness that has chimed with generations of collectors. 

Many pieces are quite affordable. Some other examples in the Dreweatts sale include:

Lot 105: two figures by a card table, a late 18th century American work, estimate £1500-£2500

Lot 101: an early 19th century picture of George Washington, estimate £300-£500

And lot 99: The States Eagle, believed to have been painted in New England in about 1810.

In the beginning years of the American nation, the need for a national symbol was acutely felt by many people - but what to choose? They borrowed many symbols from other cultures but in the end it was the eagle, the ancient symbol of Jupiter, king of the gods, that became the most popular.

This early depiction is particularly endearing, check out the video on the lot 99 description page.


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