Wonderful Hand Painted Amorial of The Hadwen Family by James Robertson


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THE STORY - Oh my goodness have I been on a wonderful journey with this amazing Amorial which I was thrilled to win at my local Auction House. I found the painting of the Coat of Arms at the front for the Hadwen Family so beautiful combining the strength of the Eagle and the Two Lions with the finely painted flora and swags and then of course I turned it over and there on the back are two documents, one written by hand with the story of the Hadwen Family and the second the Advertisement of the gentleman James Robertson who one has to assume painted this beautiful Amorial. The painting of the Amorial is quite large measuring approx 43cm in height by 28cm in width and it is painted on paper with watercolour, although I have to say I do wonder if the gold could be gold leaf because when the sun hits the gold it shines so beautifully. And there is something I find so beautiful about the colours I am certain they must have faded with age but the softness of the colours is so beautiful and the painting of the flowers reminds me of a beautiful old Chintz. The writing states it is 'The Amorial Ensign of the Name of Hadwen' and their motto appears to be the word 'Suffer'. I confess to being taken somewhat aback by this as I could only associate the word with pain, but I was wrong as apparent during King James era 1603-1625 'Suffer' was often used to mean 'Allow or Permit' which does make an awful lot more sense.
Then we have the two documents on the reverse, the hand written script is quite hard to read although it does refer to the motto and that the Hadwen Family have several large Estates in Scotland after their Ancestors came from the North of England.
The advertisement I found both completely charming and fascinating stating that 'Stone, Steel and all Manner of Seals Engraved likewise Coat of Arms beautifully painted from 2s 8dh to 1l. 2s. 9d. each byJames Robertson, at his Shop Fleet Alley, the foot-passage from the New Bridge to Fleet Street'. I immediately googled James Robertson and did come up with quite a famous engraver/photographer who found his fame photographing in the Mediterranean but I am convinced this is not my Gentleman, as I think he was too young. I then wanted to find where James Robertson's shop was but found it extremely difficult to find a Fleet Alley which seems to have been lost to time but in an extract from Samual Pepys diaries 1660-1669 there is a reference to such an Alley off Fleet Street. I then pondered about the reference to the New Bridge and if I am correct in assuming James Robertson is referring to London then I think the new Bridge must be that of Black Friars Bridge with its closeness to Fleet Street which was opened in 1769 and I have to say this date also feels right with the style o the font used in the advertisement with the use of long 'S' as opposed to the short 's' we are used to seeing today.
The Amorial and the Documents sit in a double sided frame which is made from wood and painted with a gold coloured painted and I would imagine would date to possibly the beginning of this century.

AGE - The Painting and Documents - Circa 1770. The frame Circa 2000.

CONDITION - The painting is I think in very good condition, the paper has clearly darkened with age and as I have mentioned the colours of the paint faded and softened but I have to say for me this brings its own beauty. The two documents are segments and this is particularly true of the hand written history, like the Amorial the paper has darkened and it has made it particularly difficult (I found it impossible) to read the top of the script but the rest with patience one can make out the majority.
The frame too is in good condition and is still sturdy. I do think it had been hanging for a long time over a fire as when I cleaned the glass it was black there are a couple of spots of loss to the gold coloured painted one to the back and one to the front. The wire hanger seems strong, but I would recommend testing before hanging.

DIMENSIONS (Approx) - Framed - Height 19" / 49cm, Width 13&1/2" / 34cm, Depth 1" / 2.5cm. Image Size - Height 17" / 43cm, Width 11&1/4" / 28.5cm

For me I find the the beauty of the painting of the Amorial special enough but having that advertisement, contextualising the piece to a certain time and place and giving the artist an identity and reading how he perceived himself and his trade is just wonderful and elevates for me this piece even more. How I would have loved to have strolled around the Alley's and Streets surrounding Fleet Street taking in all life and commerce and in some ways it is not at all surprising that this Engraver had his shop in Fleet Alley off Fleet Street as Fleet Street became just few years later the heart of the English Newspaper Industry. And if your name is Hadwen then this would make the piece even more special, although I really do find that hard to imagine.

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