** English children's clothes -- 18th century families

English Children's Clothes: 18th Century Families

Figure 1.--Rhis is a detail from the 1787 Gainsborough portrait of the Marsham children. We are not sure if the midde fugure is Charles' brother or sister. Notice that the three children have long uncurled hair.

English artists have provided us lovely views of English families in the 18th century. As there was no photography, the number of images is limited. The number of painted portraits is mo where mear the mimber that would become abailable after the invention of photigrapy, but we so have a number of paonted portatits, mostly from the second half of the century. We are mot entirely sure whu there was such a difference differebnce between the two halves of the century. It may reflect the growing eealth in England. Here the Industrial Revolution and the control of India may have been factors. But because most of the family images are portrits requiring expensive commissions, we mostly have views of well-to-do aristocrtic or merchant families. There ere not yet styles specifically for children who mostly wore scaled down versions of what their parents wore. The styles we see are mostly boys once breeched wearing knee breeches with long stockings. This only began to change ar rgevendvofvthe century when we see some boys wearing skeleton suits, some with long pants. Suits could be very coloful, as least for the privlidged classes. Neither boys or adult men wore long pants innthevportraits of the well to do. We are less sure about the the working class which were in the process of moving from the countryside into the growing industrial cities by the end of the century.

The 1730s

Trower Family (1730s)

William Hoare painted the Trower chikdre, we think in the 1730s. The chikldren are Elizabeth and Thomas Trower painted with a landscape background. We have no idea who the Trower Children were . They look to be about 4-6 years old. We are not sure if they were from Bath or viiting the resort town. Both chidren wear dresses, but different styles. The boy's brown dress has a hint of suit styling while the girl wears a standard white dress. Both wear blue sashes, but ine differently. We are not sure, however, to what extent the difference reflects gender conventions as opposed to non-consequential variation.

The 1760s

Young family (1766)

Sir William Young, 1st Baronet (1724/5–1788) was a British politician who became prominent because of his family's sugar plantation in the Caribbean which of course wee based on slave labor. He was born on Antigia (1725). His father, Dr William Young, had fled there from Scotland after the Jacobite uprising of 1715. Young had an interest in science and was a fellow of Royal Society. He publishede a book on developing Caribbean island economies. Because of his knowledge of the Caribben, he was selcted to serve as President of the Commission for the Sale of Lands in the Ceded Islands. The British wantedto create model colonies. This meant the Caribbean sugar islands obtained from France as a result of Britain's victory over France in the Seven Years/French and Indian Wars. He was appointed the first non-military Governor of Dominica (1768). Sir Willian benefitted from his position. He purchased some prime sugar growing sites on Antigua, St Vincent, and Tobago, although he doest not seem to have successfully developed then bnd was badly in debt at the time of his death. He convinced an Italian artist, Agostino Brunias living in London to accompny him to the West Indies to create an enduring legacy of his efforts. He sailed for Barbados (1764) abd would spend 10 years in the West Indies (1764-73), although returining teicec to England. After his first wife died, he maried Elizabeth Taylor (1729-1801). ge was the the daughter of mathematician Brook Taylor. Their large fmily included Sarah Elizabeth, William, Portia, Elizabeth, Mary, Henry, John, and Olivia. The family was depicted in a painting by Johann Zoffany (1766). It was painted on one iofhis trips back to England.

The 1770s

West Family (1772)

Benjamin West was the first American painter to rise to international prominence. He lead an astonishing life that led him from the American backwoods to the English Royal Academy and acceptance into the glitering halls of English aristocracy. This was an amazing accomplishment for a self-taught, largely uneducated colonial boy.

Earl Gower family (1777)

Potratist George Romney provides us a charming view of Earl Gower's family. The family made a fortine in building canals, the principal method of hauling freight in the 18th century. Romney liked to paint clasical images. Thus the children are done up in Grecian robes rather than the clothes they usually wore. They seem to be enjoyingthe experience.

The 1780s

The Marsham Children (1787)

This was one of the last of the magnificent portaits done by famed English portraitist Thomas Gainsborough (1727-88). Charles Marsham (1744-1811) was the son of Robert Marsham, 2nd Baron Romney, and Priscilla, daughter and heiress of Charles Pym. He was educated at Eton College (1753-63) and entered Christ Church, Oxford (1763). He succeeded his father to the barony (1793). He inherited his grandfather's large and hugely profitabke sugar plantations, jointly known as 'Romney's', on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. The property had been part of his father's marriage settlement to his mother (1742). Throughout the 18th century and into the 19th century it was operated with brutal slave labor. Caribbean sugar plantations were essenrially death camps. The French plabtaions in what is now Haiti were the wirse, but the British camos were akso extrodinarily brutal. Charles as known as Lord Romney between 1793 and 1801 and sat in the House of Commons from (1768-90), meaning during the American Revolution. He inherited his peerage after the death of his father (1793) and was created rge first Earl of Romney (1801). Marsham commissioned a life-size group portrait of his children (Amelia Charlotte, Frances, Harriot and Charles, (July 1787). Commisioning Gainsborough is just obe example of the family's wealth. The children are surrounded by an impressive late summer landscape, presumably part of the Earl's extensive gardens. Setting the portrai in tge garden was in part to create a sence of informality. The children, however, are pictured almost as they do not know that their siblings are present, even the two at the center embracing each other. Having four children sit still For an extended period woukd have been a challenge. So obviously he had them sit separtely (especially fir the faces) and merged them into the portait. Notice that their eyes do not meet. One art expert comments that as a result, 'the composition is lacking in convincing inner rapport'. The children are depicted collecting hazelnuts. The girls and younger boys wear long white dressess in the Empire style. The oldest girl has a large straw hat with blue ribbons.

The 1790s

Hoppner family (1791)

Court painter John Hoppner has left us a charming image if his three soms preparing to bsthe in a brook. The youngest boys are undressing, but the older boy wears an erly skeletin suit. These suits had become standard for boys by the 1790s. The boys name was Catherine. Hears a velvet maroon skeletin suit with an opoen frilly collar. It is a long pants skeleton suit with pants cut zbove the ankles. Hoppner was from a German immigrnt family with court connections.


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Created: 10:07 AM 4/23/2020
Last updated: 10:07 AM 4/23/2020