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The Taylor Family (Martin Taylor; Ann Taylor; Jefferys Taylor; Isaac Taylor; Isaac Taylor; Jane Taylor; Ann Taylor)

The Taylor Family (Martin Taylor; Ann Taylor; Jefferys Taylor; Isaac Taylor; Isaac Taylor; Jane Taylor; Ann Taylor), by Isaac Taylor, 1792 - NPG 1248 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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The Taylor Family (Martin Taylor; Ann Taylor; Jefferys Taylor; Isaac Taylor; Isaac Taylor; Jane Taylor; Ann Taylor)

by Isaac Taylor
oil on canvas, 1792
17 3/4 in. x 13 1/2 in. (451 mm x 343 mm)
Given by the daughter-in-law of Ann Taylor, Mrs Josiah Gilbert, 1900
Primary Collection
NPG 1248

On display at Bath Preservation Trust, Bath

Artistback to top

  • Isaac Taylor (1759-1829), Nonconformist divine, writer and engraver. Artist associated with 3 portraits, Sitter in 1 portrait.

Sittersback to top

  • Ann Taylor (née Martin) (1757-1830), Writer; wife of Isaac Taylor. Sitter in 1 portrait.
  • Ann Taylor (Mrs Gilbert) (1782-1866), Writer of children's poetry; daughter of Ann and Isaac Taylor. Sitter in 1 portrait.
  • Isaac Taylor (1759-1829), Nonconformist divine, writer and engraver. Sitter in 1 portrait, Artist associated with 3 portraits.
  • Isaac Taylor (1787-1865), Writer and artist; eldest son of Ann and Isaac Taylor. Sitter in 2 portraits.
  • Jane Taylor (1783-1824), Writer of children's poetry; daughter of Ann and Isaac Taylor. Sitter in 2 portraits.
  • Jefferys Taylor (1792-1853), Children's writer; youngest son of Ann and Isaac Taylor. Sitter in 1 portrait.
  • Martin Taylor (1788-1867), Son of Ann and Isaac Taylor. Sitter in 1 portrait.

This portraitback to top

This portrait was painted by Isaac Taylor in his garden at Lavenham in Suffolk in 1792 shortly after the birth of his fifth child, Jefferys. Standing in the foreground in white dresses with pink sashes and red slippers are his daughters Jane and Ann. In the thatched summer-house in the background are Isaac himself and his wife Anne, also an author of children's books, who holds the new baby. On the lawn in front of the summer-house are the two older boys; Martin, who plays with a toy cart, and Isaac, who would grow up to be an artist, author and inventor. When they first moved to Lavenham, Ann Taylor pined for her London life but the garden soon captivated her: 'and I began to wonder at my insensibility to all its rich profusion on our first arrival'.

Linked publicationsback to top

Placesback to top

Events of 1792back to top

Current affairs

The famous seven year trial of Warren Hastings, Governor-General of Bengal, on charges of embezzlement and murder, ends with his acquittal. Pro-Revolutionary philosopher Joseph Priestley's house is destroyed by a mob on the anniversary of the fall of the Bastille. Their actions are later seen as a key moment in the defeat of Enlightenment ideals in England.

Art and science

Mary Wollstonecraft publishes A Vindication of the Rights of Woman; a radical work which called on women to be allies to one another; fearless in their support and free in their criticism.
Sir Joshua Reynolds dies and is succeeded by Benjamin West as President of the Royal Academy.

International

The mob invades the Tuileries and the French Royal Family is imprisoned marking the end of France's experiment with constitutional monarchy and the declaration of the first French Republic.
The Revolutionary Commune is established in Paris.
France declares war on Austria and then Prussia.

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Robin Taylor Gilbert

21 February 2019, 18:46

The date of this portrait is problematical. One certainly has to distinguish between the date at which it was painted and its "dramatic date" (ie, when the scene depicted occurred or was imagined to occur). The latter depends upon the identity of the baby in Mrs Taylor's arms, the former, to some extent at least, by what is known about the circumstances of Isaac Taylor, the painter, at relevant dates. The baby must be either Harriet (born 24 March 1790, died 5 October 1791) or Jefferys (born 30 October 1792). Since the scene is depicted as occuring in summer, when hollyhocks are in flower, the dramatic date can only be 1790, 1791 or 1793, though Harriet would surely have been too old in the summer of 1791 to be a babe in arms and Jefferys probably a little too old in the summer of 1793; in any case, the dramatic date cannot be the summer of 1792, since there was then no Taylor baby alive. As to the date at which the portrait was actually painted, the principal constraining factor is the very serious illness of Isaac Taylor - he nearly died of typhoid fever - which is recorded to have started about six weeks after the birth of Jefferys (ie, in mid-December 1792) and to have lasted for nearly five months, after which all of Isaac Taylor's (much depleted) energies will have had to be devoted to rebuilding his devastated business and to the move from Cooke's House (as it was then called - the scene of the painting) to the house next door that he had purchased in a ruinous condition at some point in 1792 and the renovation of which had been interrupted by his illness and the financial constraints that imposed.

The stretcher at the back of the picture apparently bears the incomplete inscription in ink "Ann & Jane... painted by Father...May 179.." (Richard Walker, Regency Portraits (NPG, 1985));  the final figure of the date is very indistinct, but apparently looks most like a 2.  The wording "painted by Father" suggests that this was written by one of the Revd Isaac Taylor's children, probably Isaac Taylor of Stanford Rivers, since he inherited the portrait.  In his old age, Isaac Taylor of Stanford Rivers stated (The Family Pen, p.17) that Ann and Jane were depicted as being nine and seven respectively, ie, that the dramatic date of the picture was between 30 January and 23 September 1791.  It thus seems certain that, in old age at least, he believed that the dramatic date was during the summer of 1791 and possible that he believed that the exact dramatic date, and perhaps the date of composition too, was May 1791. This would make the baby Harriet, but, as has been suggested above, a fourteen-month-old babe in arms seems a little improbable. More likely perhaps is that the picture was painted in May 1791, but imagining an incident from the previous summer when Harriet was still a baby (and the hollyhocks were out!); for it to have been painted in 1792, but imagining the same dramatic date, would entail the painter's having included a child who was already dead, even though the principal focus of the picture is unequivocally Ann & Jane - not impossible, but less plausible.

All in all, it is almost impossible to reach a firm conclusion on the date, but what can certainly be ruled out is that it "was painted by Isaac Taylor in his garden at Lavenham in Suffolk in 1792 shortly after the birth of his fifth child, Jefferys". It is also very much more likely that the baby is Harriet than that it is Jefferys.

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