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Mary Ann Flaxman

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Mary Ann Flaxman

attributed to Mary Ann Flaxman
watercolour on ivory, circa 1820
2 3/4 in. x 2 1/8 in. (70 mm x 54 mm) oval
Purchased, 1913
Primary Collection
NPG 1715

Sitterback to top

  • Mary Ann Flaxman (1768-1833), Painter and wax-modeller; half-sister of John Flaxman. Sitter in 1 portrait, Artist associated with 1 portrait.

Artistback to top

  • Mary Ann Flaxman (1768-1833), Painter and wax-modeller; half-sister of John Flaxman. Artist associated with 1 portrait, Sitter in 1 portrait.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Rideal, Liz, Mirror Mirror: Self-portraits by Women Artists, 2001 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 12 September 2001 to 20 January 2002), p. 39 Read entry

    This miniature is thought to be by Mary Ann Flaxman, the sister of the well-known sculptor John Flaxman (1755-1826), who was appointed Professor of Sculpture in 1810 to the Royal Academy Schools. Mary Ann lived for a while with her brother, who was renowned for his generosity: his sister-in-law also lived with them and both women practised as amateur painters. Mary Ann exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts between 1786 and 1819, showing portraits and genre pictures with titles such as Ferdinand and Miranda Playing Chess (1789), Sappho (1810) and Maternal Piety (1819). There are also references to other works by her in the Royal Academy lists of exhibitors, including drawings, designs after poems and a portrait in wax from 1789.

    John Flaxman senior originally came from York and had a business making plaster casts and models, often of antique subjects. His shop was first in New Street, Covent Garden, and he then moved to larger premises on the Strand. Mary Ann must have enjoyed coming into contact with her father's famous customers, who included the sculptors Louis François Roubiliac (1702-62) and Peter Scheemakers (1691-1781) and the industrialist Josiah Wedgwood (1730-95). John Flaxman junior went to the Royal Academy Schools in 1769 and in c.1772 he produced a charming wax portrait of his 4-year-old sister sitting in a chair, her foot balanced on a mug, holding and caressing her doll (now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London). It is a piece of perfect observation with delicate touches within the rendering of the hair, the ruched lace bonnet and the drapery folds of her dress. This wax was probably that exhibited at the Royal Academy as Figure of a Child in 1772.

    Little is known of Mary Ann Flaxman. Her self-portrait, carefully built up with stippled paint, was bought for the National Portrait Gallery in 1913. It depicts a woman with an expression of sweet resignation, calm, with a hint of a smile and a dimple. She is well dressed, the curly fringe peeping out from under her lacy cap is the only suggestion of female coquetry.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 221
  • Walker, Richard, Regency Portraits, 1985, p. 189

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1820back to top

Current affairs

George III dies at Windsor Castle on 29 January and George IV ascends to the throne.
'Trial of Queen Caroline' in the House of Lords; Parliament drops the Bill which was to legitimise a divorce between Caroline and George IV.
Cato Street Conspiracy to assassinate the cabinet discovered. Arthur Thistlewood and fellow conspirators are hung.

Art and science

Sir Thomas Lawrence becomes President of the Royal Academy.
Astronomical Society is set up by John Herschel and Charles Babbage.
First iron steamship is launched.


Actor, Edmund Kean goes on a successful tour of America after making his name at the Drury Lane Theatre.
Revolutions begin in Spain, Portugal and Naples.
The famous ancient Greek statue of the Venus de Milo is rediscovered on the Island of Melos and purchased by the Louvre in Paris.

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