Gloriously Enchanting Portrait by Robert Thorburn of the Campbell Sisters of Eden Wood Signed and Dated 1834


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THE STORY - There is so much I adore in this picture which I find truly enchanting. The two young girls in their white muslin dresses with blue sashes around their waists, rest on the trunk of large tree near the water's edge with their faithful Canine Companion close at hand. The younger girl rests her head on the shoulder of her sister who in turn puts a reassuring arm around her waist. Their faces are almost 'doll-like' with their huge blue eyes and their auburn ringlets. And how I adore their tiny feet in their beautiful laced slippers. The picture is both a pencil sketch and a watercolour and is signed at the bottom left R. Thorburn and dated 1834.
The signature is that I believe of a young Robert Thorburn who was born in 1818, and went on to become a famous Miniature Portrait Artist and a favourite of Queen Victoria. But this picture was painted long before that as a piece of old verso on the back of the frame fells us... 'The smallest girl is Francis Campbell who married Admirable (The Honourable) FOLEY'.
The two sisters are the children of Sir George Campbell and Margaret Christie of Eden Wood, Fifeshire in Scotland. Frances (which I believe is the correct spelling unlike the verso) at the time of the painting would have been only 3 years of age as I believe she was born in 1831. I failed to find out a lot about the two Sisters especially the older one Margaret, but what I did come across which for me breathed so much life into the two sisters was an article in The Guardian Newspaper dated 1st September 1850 on the marriage of Frances to Admirable Foley, they referred to Frances as young and lovely bride with a robe of rich white glace silk with a wreath and garniture of organge blossoms, but it is the bit about the dejeuner after the wedding I loved as it was given by Mrs Jones sister of the bride with a much admired Wedding Cake which was 4 foot in height! Indeed Margaret married David Jones of Pentglas in 1845.
It is lovely that at the time of this painting all three young protagonists were most likely unaware of what would lay ahead of them in the future. It is possible that Robert Thorburn was at the Academy in Edinburgh, although he was the son of a Tradesman he obviously showed great talent and a kindly Lady Neighbour paid for him at the age of 15 to go to The Academy in Edinburgh where he excelled, after which he moved to London and became acquainted with Queen Victoria. Indeed Robert Thorburn would only have been 16 years old when he painted this picture. And I think the picture is representative of his age at the time of drawing it. In my research I came across a picture called 'The Hay Girls Next To a Grand Piano' painted in a very similar style especially with the doll like portrayal of the children and this was dated 1835.
This picture is large approx 29cm in height and 21.5cm in width. It sits in what I think could be its original gold/bronze painted wooden frame which as you can see is missing one of the wooden swirls which sits on the corners. Although I think the frame could be the original one as it proportions work perfectly with the picture, it has certainly been reframed in the recent past with the label of the framers on the back as well as that fragment of the original verso. The mount looks to be covered in an ivory coloured shot silk which I am pretty certain was done as the time of the reframing.

DATE - 1834

CONDITION - The Painting is in good condition with the colours still strong and the image clear. I do think the paper has darkened with age. The frame as I have mentioned is missing one of its wooden swirls, and I have chosen to leave it for the new owner to decide whether they want to get a new swirl made or may be simply paint over the exposed area. All the other swirls do feel secure. There are small much small chips to the frame mainly to the inner edge. Sadly due to the large size of the Painting I am unable to offer free shipping.

DIMENSIONS (Approx) Framed - Height 19" / 48cm, Width 15&3/4" / 40cm, Depth 1" / 2.5cm. Image Size Height 11&1/2" / 29cm, Width 8&1/2" / 21.5cm

I think it is possible to tell from the painting that both Margaret and Frances had quite a privileged upbringing and although portrayed outside in a Forest, it is completely non-threatening, we can see what maybe their home in to the near distance. And of course they have their darling Dog to keep them safe and protect them and to guard that rather wonderful straw hat that lays behind him. And I am so grateful to that piece from The Guardian as it shows at least 15years after this painting the Sisters were still close and I really hope their bond continued until their deaths, with Frances sadly dying first in 1867, and Margaret shortly afterwards in 1871. And my goodness I hope Frances loved her 4 foot Wedding Cake, Bravo Margaret for getting that organised.

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