Francis Alleyne

Portrait of Mrs J.P. Fector, with her two children, Peter and Mary, in an interior

Oil on canvas: 27.2(h) x 34.3(w) in /

69.2(h) x 87(w) cm

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BK 77

 

FRANCIS ALLEYNE

Fl. 1774 – 1792

 

Portrait of Mrs James Peter Fector of Dover, with her son Peter (b.1787) and daughter Mary Frances (b.1791)

 

Oil on canvas: 27 ¼ x 34 ¼ in / 69.2 x 87 cm

Frame size: 33 x 40 in / 83.8 x 101.6 cm

 

Painted circa 1791-92

 

Provenance:

Mr and Mrs James Peter Fector;

their daughter Mary, who married Major-General Edward Matson (1791-1873), Royal Engineers[1];

their daughter Emma, who married Lieutenant-General Sir Henry James (1803-1877), Royal Engineers;

their son Ernest CF James, 87th Royal Fusiliers, Hyde Park Court, London, by 1895[2]

Sir Philip and Lady Haldin, Lympne Place, Lympne, Kent, circa 1920-1958;

by descent

 

 

Francis Alleyne specialised in small-scale oil portraits, often in oval format, drawing his sitters from the landed gentry, wealthy merchants, Army and Navy officers. He painted a number of Kentish families in the 1780s and 90s, including a pair of portraits of William Wheatley of Lesney House, Kent and his wife Mrs William Wheatley, which are both dated 1786 (private collection)[3].

 

This delightful conversation piece is more ambitious in scope than most of Alleyne’s works, depicting a young mother and her two children in an easy, affectionate relationship. Four-year-old Peter Fector rests a hand on his mother Frances’s knee and with the other holds a doll to amuse his baby sister Mary, who in turn glances trustingly up at Frances. Given Mary’s age (she was baptised on 16th May 1791), the painting must have been made circa 1791-92. The family are all dressed in fine white muslins, the children with lace and ribbon trimmings, reflecting the trend towards neoclassical purity and simplicity that characterised the last decade of the eighteenth century. The austere interior, with just a hint of a red curtain, concentrates attention on the sitters and their relationships. The beautifully painted, elegant doll that Peter holds may not be merely a child’s toy, but a ‘fashion doll’ sent over from the Paris dressmakers to show ladies in England the latest modes. The Fectors, prominent Dover merchants and bankers with roots in Europe, were especially well placed to receive news from France, at least until the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1793 disrupted communications.  

 

Frances Lane was the daughter of Thomas Bateman Lane, who was four times Mayor of Dover between 1770 and 1800, and Lieutenant Governor of Dover Castle[4]. In 1783 she married the banker James Peter Fector, a partner with his father Peter and elder brother John Minet Fector in the firm of Fector & Minet. The firm was founded in the late seventeenth century by Stephen Minet, a Huguenot from Calais who fled to Dover after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. By the 1740s the business, which also had a London branch, was involved with banking as well as merchant and agency work. Peter Fector Snr (1725-1814), whose mother was a Minet, joined the bank in 1740. He was made a partner six years later and hugely expanded the business, becoming one of the wealthiest men in Dover. He married a cousin, Mary Minet, daughter of John Minet, Rector of Eythorne. ‘Possessed of much landed property’, Peter Snr built himself a fine house overlooking the Channel at Upper Eythorne[5]. The bank, known as Dover Bank, issued its own notes. It was sold by Peter Snr’s grandson in 1842 to the National Provincial Bank of England, today incorporated into the Royal Bank of Scotland.   

 

Alleyne’s conversation piece was inherited by Mary Frances, the baby in the painting. She married Major-General Edward Matson (1791-1873) of the Royal Engineers. He saw service in the Peninsular War (1812-14), the campaign in America (1814-15) and the Netherlands (1815), and in 1818 was with the Army of Occupation in France after the final defeat of Napoleon. Matson met Mary when stationed at Dover Castle the following year. The painting passed in turn to their daughter Emma, who married Lieutenant-General Sir Henry James (1803-1877), a Royal Engineer who had a distinguished career in the Ordnance Survey Department. Alleyne’s painting was owned by their son Ernest James in 1895.

 

The work of Francis Alleyne is represented in the Royal Marines Museum, Southsea; the Cobbe Collection, Hatchlands, NT and Burton Constable Hall, Yorkshire.

[1] History of the Matson family by Colin Matson, kindly brought to my attention by Richard Matson.

[2] Family tree on a piece of paper attached to the reverse of the painting, written by Ernest CF James on 2nd March 1895.  

[3] Ellis Waterhouse, The Dictionary of British 18th Century Paintings, Woodbridge 1981, p.27, illus.

[4] Kathleen Hollingsbee, Dover History Scrapbook.

[5] Edward Hasted, The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent, vol. 10, Canterbury 1800, p.62.

BritishFrancis Alleyne