John Downman A.R.A 1750-1824
Watercolour, Chalk and Stump Drawing. Portrait of The Honourable Diana Walpole Née Grosset. 16 by 20 cms. To mounted image. 31.1 by 34.9 cms. Overall in frame. Some age discoloration as to be expected with Downman, his technique often means that there is some fragility to his surviving works. The frame is original, this has some damage and repair.
Diana Walpole, neé Grosset, was married to Robert Walpole, nephew of Robert Walpole 1st Earl of Orford. Diana was the daughter of Walter Grosset, a Lisbon-based merchant. It is believed that it was at Lisbon where she spent her early years and first met her husband.
Robert Walpole, following in his father’s and his uncle’s footsteps, held a position in the House of Commons as a clerk in the Privy Council. After which he served as Secretary of the British Embassy in Paris and later as Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Portugal. He was based in Lisbon between 1771 to 1800.
Unfortunately, only four years into her marriage, Diana died aged 20 on 26th July 1784. The shadow behind the sitter in this work is very unusual in Downman's oeuvre, a conceit often seen in memorial pieces of the period, combined with the black feather in her hair it may perhaps be a reference to her passing.