A portrait of Dame Jane Wilson for Wallington

Portrait of Jane Weller (1749-1818) aged sixteen, English School. ©Bellmans

Portrait of Jane Weller (1749-1818) aged sixteen, English School. ©Bellmans

We have just bought this portrait of Jane Weller (1749-1818) at auction at Bellmans, West Sussex. Jane’s daughter Maria married Sir John Trevelyan, 5th Bt. in 1791, and this picture will now join the collection at Wallington, the Trevelyan ancestral home.

The portrait is said to show Jane aged sixteen – and so would appear to have been painted in about 1765. She looks a bit younger than that to me, but this may be due to the relatively naive style of the unknown painter.

The white flowers on her pink dress are a nice touch, echoing the real flowers she holds in her hands – and which in turn may reflect an interest in natural history, which would become more evident later.

Portrait of Jane Weller, Lady Wilson (known as 'Dame Jane'), with Charlton House, Greenwich, in the background, by R.C. Saunders, after Giovanni Trossarelli. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Portrait of Jane Weller, Lady Wilson (known as ‘Dame Jane’), with Charlton House, Greenwich, in the background, by R.C. Saunders, after Giovanni Trossarelli. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Jane was an heiress, the beneficiary of several family fortunes. In 1767 she married Sir Thomas Spencer Wilson, 6th Bt., a soldier and politician. This picture shows her in later life, in front of Charlton House, Greenwich, which she had inherited from her great uncle, the Rev. John Maryon.

A recent photograph of Charlton House, Greenwich. ©Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust

A recent photograph of Charlton House, Greenwich. ©Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust

The Jacobean mansion of Charlton House still survives. One of Jane’s descendants, Sir Spencer Maryon Wilson, sold it to London County Council in 1925 and it is now in the care of the Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust. It has also lent its name to the local Charlton Park rugby club.

Group of stuffed birds in the Museum at Wallington. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Group of stuffed birds in the Museum at Wallington. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Jane was a pioneer beetle expert, or coleopterist. She enjoyed going on beetle and fossil hunting expeditions and assembled a collection of natural history specimens which formed the basis of the ‘museum’ still at Wallington.

6 Responses to “A portrait of Dame Jane Wilson for Wallington”

  1. trewinbBruce Trewin Says:

    Haven’t been to Wallington in years. A good reason to revisit!

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thanks, but don’t rush off just yet – although we have bought it, the portrait hasn’t actually arrived at Wallington yet 🙂 But hopefully it will be there in a few weeks’ time.

  3. Susan Walter Says:

    How interesting! I’ve never heard of her. I guess by her generation it was just about OK for a woman to be interested in arthropods (as opposed to the beginning of the 18th C when Eleanor Glanville’s son tried to contest her will on the grounds that anyone that interested in butterflies couldn’t be of sound mind…)

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Indeed. Would it have been Margaret, Duchess of Portland (1715-85), who blazed the trail for women natural history experts?

  5. Ruth Selman Says:

    I’m so pleased you were able to acquire the painting for Wallington. Jane Weller’s parents’ portrait, by Francis Hayman, was acquired in lieu of taxes a few years ago and is now at Temple Newsam. See http://www.thearttribune.com/spip.php?page=docbig&id_document=189

    Jane looks very like her father, John Badger Weller, who died when she was 8. Her mother, Margaretta Maria nee Peers, (looking unfeasibly thin!) was the heiress of John Maryon, who in turn passed on Charlton and the manor of Hampstead to Jane when she died in 1777.

  6. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Ruth, Thanks very much for your comment. What a charming double portrait by Hayman.

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