Finucania: the enigmatic Matthias Finucane
This overview of the artist Matthias Finucane consists of a biography researched by his descendant, the late Julia von Bertele, and a catalogue, created by Dinah Bott of the Priaulx Library, that aims to illustrate and provide information on all of his known works. It is intended that the catalogue grow organically to reflect further information that comes to light about both his life and his artistic output; he resided for most of his working life in the Channel islands and produced here both portrait miniatures and prints. The Priaulx Library is pleased to host this unique project of great local interest. Contact a Librarian if you have any material to add or can help with any of the many questions that remain unsolved about Matthias' life. The images here reproduced are believed to be in the public domain unless expressly credited.
DB/PM 1A Lady with a rose. 1793. Private collection. Signed on front with monogram 'MF 1793'.
DB/PM 1B Victoria and Albert Museum. Museum number P.31-1931. Portrait of an unknown lady, signed on the front Finucane and dated 1794. On ivory. Gilt metal frame with lock of hair attached to the back. 54 mm x 38mm. Bought in 1931 from Miss Hannah Falcke. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. DB/PM 1A Same as above. Identification confirmed by Katherine Coombs, Curator, Paintings, V&A. Portrait of a young woman. 55 mm x 31 mm. On ivory. Signed on the front Finucane and dated 1794.
DB/PM 2. Candie Museum, Guernsey. Young girl. Signed and dated on obverse 1794. Watercolour on ivory. 60 mm. Verso plaited hair on cobalt blue background.
Possibly the same as DB/PM 3 below.
DB/PM 3 Young girl in white dress and bonnet, both trimmed with blue ribbon. Verso plaited hair on cobalt blue background. Watercolour on ivory. Signed and dated 1794 to the obverse. Sold Biddle & Webb, Birmingham, 2014.
DB/PM 4 Gerard Gosselin. Signed. 76.2 mm. Sold Phillips 1999. 'Portrait of Gerard Gosselin wearing scarlet uniform with blue facings, silver lace epaulettes and white cross belt with silver buckle.'
Born in Guernsey 4 February 1769, the son of the eminent artist and historian Joshua Gosselin (1739-1813). In 34th Regiment of Dragoons until 1791 when he became a Lieutenant in the Lifeguards; Captain 1794; Major in 130th Regiment of Infantry 1794 (disbanded 1795; he remained reduced on full pay); Lieutenant-Colonel 1800; Colonel in the Army 1810; Major-General 1813. [Berry p. 347.]
Currently for sale again with Claudia Hill.
DB/PM 30 Peter de Havilland (1747-1821), facing left. Father of DB/PM 29. Portrait miniature in private possession. Unsigned. The sitter states in a letter that this was the first miniature painted in Guernsey by Finucane, in 1798. Similar in style, clothing &c to DB/PM 15 and in pose to DB/PM A2. See Hocart, R., Peter de Havilland, Bailiff of Guernsey, Guernsey: La Société Guernesiaise, 1997, facing page 82, and the Guernsey Press, 22 December 1989, 'Mysterious miniatures.' It (or possibly a copy) was reproduced in b/w in Cecil de Saumarez' article 'The story of William Le Marchant, Bailiff of Guernsey, 1770-1800,' in The Report and Transactions of the Société Guernesiaise, XVII (6), 1965, facing p. 721.
DB/PM 5 Victoria and Albert Museum. Museum number Evans 115. Portrait said to be of Mrs Frances Mary Fanshaw, née Dalrymple, signed and dated 1798 on the reverse. On ivory. 58mm x 46.5 mm. Evans Collection 115. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
DB/PM 6 Cincinnati Art Museum. British Army Major, 1798. Watercolour on ivory. 83 mm x 54 mm. Gift of Mr and Mrs Charles Fleischmann in memory of Julius Fleischmann, 1990.1471. Image © Cincinnati Art Museum. Signed and dated on left edge 'Matthias Finucane/ Guernsey May 1798.' Probably a major in the 81st Foot (in Guernsey 1797-98). The 81st was Finucane's own regiment at the time. Watercolour copy, formerly known as Le Chevalier d'Eon, in Scottish National Portrait Gallery, by Thomas Barber-Beaumont. See Aronson, J, and Wieseman, M E, Perfect Likeness: European and American Portrait Miniatures in the Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati Art Museum, Yale University Press, 2006, No, 77, p. 178 (available in the Library). Thanks to Dominic Butler, Assistant Curator, Lancashire Infantry Museum, and to David Read of the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum, and Alistair Massie, of the National Army Museum, for help with uniform identification.
A second copy may be found here. Its overall tone is golden brown, reminiscent of Barber-Beaumont's colour palette.
DB/PM 7 Portrait of a boy, standing. Dated 1798. 76.2 mm. Plait of hair verso. Sold Bearne's 2004.
DB/PM 7A Portrait of a boy, standing. Dated 1798. Plaited hair reverse, glazed, with gold filigree initials 'LH'. Lot 323 in Sotheby's Auction of 23 September 2021, described as coming from the collection of the late Timothy Clowes. This strongly resembles DB/PM 7. It is to be noted that the measurements of 7A are given by Sotheby's as 68 x 54 mm.
DB/PM 8 Portrait of a boy. Dated 1800(?). 76.2mm. Sold Bonhams 2001.
DB/PM 9 Charlotte Le Patourel née Hinch. [Daughter of John Hinch, b. Jersey, January 18, 1784, died Guernsey, 1816. Married Paul Le Patourel (1784-1849) in St Peter Port in 1804]. Watercolour on ivory. 71 mm. Inscribed on frame, 'Painted in 1804.' Sold Bonham's 2009.
DB/PM 10 Naval officer with short grey hair. Dated Guernsey, 1805. Sold Sotheby's, Portrait Miniatures & Objects of Vertu 1984. '£1,000-1,500 218 An Officer by Matthias Finucane, circa 1805, with short grey hair, wearing a blue uniform with red collar and lapels and gold epaulettes, cloud and sky background, oval 7cm., gold frame, the reverse with woven hair ...'
DB/PM 11 Captain in the 39th Regiment of Foot. Watercolor on ivory. Ebonized frame with gilt bezel and acorn hanger. Sight: 2 3/4" x 2 1/8 (= 70 x 55 mm.) Signed and dated 1805. Sold Case Antiques 2016. (Image courtesy of Case Antiques. Vendor's link features excellent photographs.) 2nd Battalion 39th East Middlesex Regiment of Foot in Guernsey from December 1804 until February 1806, when majority left for Cork. It was formed at Bexhill in July 1803, and the majority of its Captains in 1805 had joined it at its inception [Army List, in the Library].
DB/PM 12 A Gentleman, facing left in black coat, white waistcoat and cravat signed and dated `Finucane 1807.' 63 mm. Sold Christie's 1997.
II Portrait minatures, undated
DB/PM 13 Thomas Saumarez in uniform of Regimental Captain. Monogram, MF. Perhaps the example sold Lawrence's 2008, (possibly as part of a collection belonging to the descendants of Jane de Saumarez née Barlow.)
DB/PM 15A Unknown man, facing right. Gold frame, the reverse glazed to reveal initials JJ in split seed pearls on black silk. 66 mm. Sold Bonhams 2006. Possibly a portrait of Guernsey advocate Jean Jeremie. Probably dates circa 1798.
Unknown man, facing right. Gold frame. Signed but undated. Similar to DB/PM 15A above. Its lack of fine detail might point to its being a copy of an original, but background is well executed and typical. Finucane's personal addictions meant his work could be patchy in quality, but he is known to have made copies of miniatures to order for distribution around a sitter's family, which were perhaps not as carefully executed as the main work (although there is no attested evidence that this was so). There seems to have been some damage on or retouching to the sitter's face and neckband.
Many thanks to Victoria & Albert Antiques, Sydney, for the notification of this miniature and for the photographs.
Reverse of the miniature: dark plaited hair inside concave glass.
Detail of signature:
This signature is reminiscent of that of DB/PM 1B, V & A, dated 1794, but Finucane's signature and monograms differ throughout the chronology without any obvious pattern. The colour of the background and the style of the sitter point to Guernsey (i.e., post 1798).
DB/PM 16 Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Hosmer, RA. 58 mm. Signed MF-e. Gold fausse-montre frame, the reverse glazed to reveal plaited hair. Sold Bonhams 2011.
DB/PM 17 Naval officer. 70 mm.
DB/PM 19 Child with a red gun. 50.8 mm. Bonham's 2001.
DB/PM 20 Mr Silverman in brown coat and white waistcoat. 76.2 mm. Sold Bonham's 1999.
DB/PM 21 Lady wearing white dress and matching bandeau. 50.8 mm. Plaited hair. Sold Bonham's 1997. From Charles E Lees Collection of Miniatures (Sale No 27496). See DB/PM 27 below.
DB/PM 22 Naval officer in blue coat piped with gold and epaulettes. 76.2 mm. Sold Bonham's 1994.
DB/PM 23 James Boaden, half length holding a book, in white dress, landscape background. 70 mm. Sold Christie's 1989.
DB/PM 24 A young girl, facing right in low-cut white dress, brown hair gold frame oval, wash. 35 mm. Sold Christie's 2002. If this is the same as DB/PM25 below, it was previously attributed to the 'circle of Matthias Finucane.'
[Compare with this:
Portrait miniature of a young girl in monochrome. Original gold plated bracelet frame with a later added hanging loop. Attributed to Charles Robertson. Dated c.1770, watercolour on natural wafer. Robertson was born in 1760, however, so if he is the artist the date must be later. Oval. 35mm. Sold Ebay 2015.
Charles Robertson (1760-1821) was an Irish miniaturist whose work bears a resemblance to Finucane's. Robinson moved to London from Dublin in 1785. Could he have been Finucane's tutor? In Treasures to Hold, Paul McCaffrey comments on the style of Charles Robertson in the following terms; 'Charles Robertson deployed a distinctive use of colour in his miniature portraits, using a particular slate grey-blue in the flesh tones' and 'The background is painted in parallel lines of blue and grey. Subtle variations of colour and pale tones blend into each other and his outlines are slightly fuzzy.' Like Finucane, Robertson only infrequently signed his portraits.]
DN/PM 25 Circle of Matthias Finucane. Sale 7022. Christie's. The F Joachim Collection of Portrait Miniatures, Part 3. 1 November 1995. A young girl, facing right in white dress en grisaille, gilt metal frame. 38mm. Possibly DB/PM 24.
DB/PM 26 A member of the Tupper family in the Bombay Marine (Country Life, 2006). 'With history. Matthias Finucane c. 1805. A superb portrait of a young officer of the H. eJ.C, a Bombay Marine. The sitter was a member of the Tupper family of Guernsey, where the artist had his studio. It is accompanied by the Tupper Family Tree.'
DB/PM29. Young lady in white dress. Signed MF. No description or information as to size available. Similar in style and presentation to DB/PM 5 above, which is dated 1798. One of a set of eleven photographs of portraits 'from Sir Henry Le Marchant' in Priaulx Library Collection, which were taken by or on behalf of Edith Carey about January 12, 1912.
On the back is written in another hand: 'Miss F Tupper has a miniature rather like this, I believe wife of Henry Le Merchant. "Miss Carey noted, 'Could this be Anna Maria Le Marchant, daughter of John Gaspard Le Marchant, and wife of Daniel Tupper?"' [NOTE DAB: Dates make this identification impossible.]
Note: the monogram is on the left.
DB/PM 27 Miniature portrait (pl. 9 fig. 5) in Donough O'Brien, Miniatures of the XVIIIth and XIXth centuries, Batsford, 1951. Dated by O'Brien as c. 1785. No details of the miniature or its provenance given. Possibly the same as DB/PM 21 above, Lady in white dress and matching bandeau.
DB/PM 28 Unknown woman in white dress and bandeau. Watercolour on ivory. Signed with monogram. 67 mm. Reverse plaited hair and blue glass mount. For sale 2017 at Ellison Fine Art no. 4725. Chiswick Auctions 25 March 2020, Lot 59: 'MATHIAS FINUCANE (BRITISH 1738-1814) Portrait miniature of Lady wearing a white dress with frilled collar, a white bandeau entwined in her long curling hair. Signed with the monogram MF on the obverse. Watercolour on ivory Gold frame, the reverse glazed to reveal plaited hair within gold mount and blue glass border, old label erroneously inscribed portrait by / Maria Flaxman / unknown / sitter Oval, 65mm (2 1/2in) high. Exhibited: Comerford Collection at the Irish Architectural Archives, Dublin, 2009. Literature: The Comerford Collection: Portrait Miniatures, (privately published, Dublin, 2009) pp 11, 54 (#234). [Picture from Chiswick Auctions.]
DB/PM A1 Matthias Finucane, believed to be self-portrait. Private collection, by descent. c. 75 mm.
DB/PM A2 Thomas Fiott de Havilland (1775-1866), (?)as Lieutenant in the Madras Pioneers. Photograph Priaulx Library collection (c. 1920). Whereabouts of miniature unknown. Date probably 1802 or 1810. De Havilland appointed ensign in the East India Company 3 May 1793, and lieutenant in the Madras Engineers 1796. Despite its similarity in style to DB/PM 14 (note esp. the epaulettes) the letters D G have been added in the manner of a monogram on the right; the style of lettering resembles Finucane's own in his signature. (Nicolas de Garis was also a local painter of miniatures around this time: he finished some of Finucane's work after his death in 1810: see below.) De Havilland paid two visits to Guernsey while serving in India; 'I had, in the interim, twice visited my native land, namely, in 1802-3, and in 1810.' [From Autobiography of Thomas Fiott de Havilland.']
Gazette de Guernesey, 5 May 1810
Nicholas de Garis, informs his friends and the public in general, that he is now selling his whole stock of Goods, consisting of Gold, Silver, Plated and Japan’d articles, besides many other too numerous to mention, at reduced prices, at his shop no 209, Carrefour.
N.B. Likenesses, taken by the above, in miniature, and oil painting, after a number of years’ practice under one of the finest Artists in London, at his house, No. 205, Pollet-Street.
He takes this opportunity of informing those who may have some of the late Mr. Finucane’s Works unfinished, that he will complete them in such as manner as to merit their approbation; and also to return his most sincere thanks to those Ladies and Gentlemen who have already favoured him in this branch.
All persons having demands on the late Mr Finucane, are requested to bring in their accompts to Mr. Peter Astie, 199, Pollet-Street, in the course of the following week.
DB/PM A3 & A4 A pair of miniature portraits, sold 19 March 1991 at Christie's (Sale 2412), attributed to Matthias Finucane. Oval, 61 mm:DB/PM 31 John Dewick, facing right, in black coat, white shirt, and stock.
DB/PM A4 Mary Dewick, facing left, in décolleté white dress, a jewelled aigrette in her curly black hair.
DB/PM A5 Private collection, Guernsey. Oval frame, verso plaited hair with gold filigree lettering '[L?]LM.' Size 81mm (including significant curvature of glass.) With thanks to Alan Howell for photography.