Victorian Watercolor Portrait “Scandalous” Lady Painted by M King Signed Dated 1829
The hand-written notes on the back of this miniature watercolor tell what was at the time a scandalous story.
The portrait is of Hanah Tichbon. The inscription reads in part, “went to the races…, “ran away from Sheffets…” and later ran away in London.” Portraits in the Victorian period were done to present public identities. On the back of this portrait, we have a hand-written inscription that provides insight into the private life of the sitter. It is an intriguing and seemingly sad story of a young woman’s life which is literally hidden behind her portrait.
At this time in England, if a married woman was unhappy with her situation, there was, almost without exception, nothing she could do about it. Except in extremely rare cases, a woman could not obtain a divorce and, until 1891, if she ran away from an intolerable marriage, the police could capture and return her. All this was sanctioned by church, law, custom, history, and approved of by Victorian society in general. The story this portrait and inscription tell is a genuine piece of history.
In the portrait, Hanah wears white with a gold chain and cross around her neck. She holds a book, quite probably a Bible. The image infers that our sitter is a proper young lady.
In reality, her life story was not anything like it appeared. This pencil and watercolor portrait was done on card. Written on the back of the painted card is: “Hanah Tichbon Alias Hanah Honsett born Sept 22nd 1809 Married Thomas Matcham on the 6 of Oct’br 1829 left him at Bath in Aug’st 1831 for six week… On Aug’st 2nd 1835 went to Brighton races and stayt 6 weeks. Oct’br 22nd 1837 ran away from Sheffets 8 month away July 22 1841 ran away in London and was found” Signed “Painted by Mr. King” and dated “1829”.