William Hogarth, English, 1697-1764
Title: Portrait of the Mackinen Children
Date: 1747
Medium: Oil on canvas
180 x 143 cm
Credit Line: Bequeathed, Sir Hugh Lane, 1918
Object Number: NGI.791
DescriptionElizabeth (1730–1780) and William Mackinen (1733–1809) were the children of a Scottish sugar plantation owner living on Antigua in the West Indies. Elizabeth later married a doctor and died on Antigua, while her brother served on the Island Council until 1798, when he settled in Berkshire with his wife. When Hogarth painted this portrait the children may have been in England to complete their education. During the 1740s, in an attempt to be taken seriously as an artist, Hogarth carried out a series of large-scale portraits. For this picture he is likely to have completed only the heads from life, before adding the ancillary detail after his sitters had left London. The ensemble forms an elegiac tribute to the ending of childhood. Dressed like adults, the children are absorbed by the butterfly on the sunflower rather than the shells and the book: the transient is thus set against the permanent. The sunflower is also a reminder of the enclosed world of Eden. The imaginary setting on a terrace, and the elegant poses (even of the protective spaniel) combine to give a French air to the picture, whose delicate colouring has been affected by bleaching in tropical sunlight.

March 2016
ProvenancePresumed commissioned by William Mackinen (c.1697-1767) for his home on the Island of Antigua; returned to England, 1798; by family descent at Binfield, Berkshire, to the widow of Major-General Daniel Henry Mackinnon; purchased, Sir Hugh Lane, c. 1900; bequeathed, Sir Hugh Lane, 1918
Exhibition HistoryPictures of Old Masters given and bequeathed to the National Gallery of Ireland by the late Sir Hugh Lane, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 1918

The Conversation Piece in Georgian England, Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood, 1965

English Portraits from Francis Bacon the philosopher to Francis Bacon the painter, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 1975

1700-tal, Konst och kultur under Rokokon, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, 1979-1980

William Hogarth: Dipinti disegni incisioni, Fondazione Giorgie Cini, Venice, 1989

Master European Paintings from the National Gallery of Ireland, Art Institute of Chicago, 6 June 1992 - 9 August 1992; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 19 Septembre 1992 - 6 Decembre 1992; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 13 January 1993 - 28 March 1993; IBM Gallery, New York 27 April - 26 June 1993

Hogarth, Musée du Louvre, Paris, 18 October 2006 - 7 January 2007; Tate Britain,
London, 7 February - 29 April 2007; Caxia Forum, Barcelona, 26 May - 26 August 2007
Label TextElizabeth (1730-1780) and William (1733 -1809) were the children of a Scottish owner of a sugar plantation in Antigua in the West Indies. The children are depicted on the edge of adulthood and were probably painted by Hogarth while on a visit to London. Transfixed by a butterfly fluttering on a sunflower they have forgotten their studies, represented by the book and shells. The children’s elegant poses and the architectural backdrop give a French sophistication to this double portrait. The painting hung in tropical sunlight for many years which has caused some of the colours to fade.

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