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Oil painting - Hill Denny, Son of Peter Denny of Spaldwick

Hill Denny, Son of Peter Denny of Spaldwick

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Date:

    (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Sir Edward Denny, Bt

  • Museum number:

    1513-1882

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This is a portrait of the Rev. Hill Denny as a boy who, as the painting’s inscription, top right, denotes, was the son of Peter Denny of Spaldwick. He was also the great-grandson of Sir Edward Denny, Knight Banneret (1547-1600), a Gentleman of the Privy chamber to Elizabeth I. The picture is probably a distant copy of a late-17th-century likeness of Hill Denny, possibly the portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller referred to in the memoir of Hill Denny’s son, Colonel William Denny, Lieutenant-Governor of Pennsylvania. This is one of five oil portraits of sitters from the 16th and 17th centuries that came to the museum from the Denny family in the late 19th century, all of which seem to be later copies. This is typical of the practice of making copies for successive generations of a family, as different branches of a family wished to own and display portraits of their forebears. The somewhat archaic use of the abbreviated ‘com’ in the painting’s inscription perhaps indicates an attempt to suggest the age and antiquity of the portrait.

Physical description

Half-length portrait of a boy turned slightly to his right. He has shoulder-length hair and a fringe and wears a greenish-suit with turned back sleeves showing a white shirt underneath. He holds a book in his right hand.

Date

(painted)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas

Marks and inscriptions

It is inscribed, top left, ‘Hill Denny Eldest son of Peter Denny / of Speldwick in Co̴m [with a wavy line or ‘~’ over the letter ‘m’] Huntingdon’.
It is inscribed, top left, ‘Hill Denny Eldest son of Peter Denny / of Speldwick in Co̴m [with a wavy line or ‘~’ over the letter ‘m’] Huntingdon’.

Dimensions

Height: 28.5 in estimate, Width: 24 in estimate, Height: 72.39 cm, Width: 60.96 cm

Object history note

This painting was gifted to the museum by Sir Edward Denny, Bart., in 1882, along with four other portraits of the Denny family (Nominal File MA/1/D907). The original cataloguing described the five portraits as:

1510-1882 - Sir Edward Denny, Knight Banneret (d. 1599), uncle of Edward Denny, Earl of Norwich.

1511-1882 - Margaret Edgcumbe, Wife of Sir Edward Denny, Kt. Bann.

1512-1882 - Edward Denny, Earl of Norwich (about 1565-1630)

1513-1882 - Hill Denny, Son of Peter Denny of Spaldwick.

53-1889 - Joan Champernoune, daughter of Sir Philip Champernoune, of Modbury, Devon, and widow of Sir Anthony Denny, who died in 1549

The correct descriptions are:

1510-1882: Sir Edward Denny (1547-1600), uncle of Edward Denny, first earl of Norwich (1569-1637).

1511-1882: Lady Margaret Denny, born Margaret Edgcumbe, wife of Sir Edward Denny

1512-1882: Edward Denny, first earl of Norwich (1569-1637)

1513-1882: Hill Denny, son of Peter Denny of Spaldwick; the Reverend Hill Denny was a great grandson of Sir Edward Denny (1547-1600).

53-1889: Joan Champernon, daughter of Sir Philip Champernon of Modbury, Devon, and wife of Sir Anthony Denny (d.1549).

In addition to the above portraits, Sir Edward Denny also gave to the museum the following textiles and documents which were originally catalogued as follows:

“TEXTILES
Pair of Gloves: English, early 17th century. (1506 & A-1882.)
Silver-gilt and silver thread with sequins, seed pearls, purl & silk in satin stitch and couched work on satin. Trimmed with silver-gilt and silver bobbin lace. Said to have belonged to Henry VIII, but crowned roses and thistles refer more to the period of James I (1603-25)

Pair of Gloves: Early 17th century. (1508 & A-1882)
Silver-gilt and silver thread in plaited braid stitch with bands of braid applied to satin. Trimmed with silver-gilt & silver fringe. Said to have been given by James I to Denny who, as Sheriff of Hertfordshire, received the King during his journey from Scotland.

Pair of Mittens: English, late 16th century (1507 & A-1882)
Silver-gilt and silver thread with silk in long and short and satin stitches, and couched work, on velvet and satin. Said to have been presented by Queen Elizabeth I to Margaret Edgcumbe, wife of Denny.

Military Scarf: English (?) Second quarter of 17th century. (1509-1882)
Silver-gilt & silver thread with silk in long and short stitch couched work on silk. Said to have been worn by Charles I at Edghill and given by him after the battle to Mr. Adam Hill of Spaldwick who saved the King’s life.”

“DOCUMENTS
1. An account of the gloves, mittens & scarf, given to Sir Anthony Denny and his family, by different Kings and Queens of Great Britain. London, 1792. Printed on vellum with manuscript notes added.
2. Certaine epistles addressed to the Lord Denny of Waltham and the members of his family by Joseph Hall, D.D. Bishop of Norwich. Manuscript on vellum.
3. The will of Anthony Denny, of Chesthunt, in the countie of Hartford, knight, temp. Edw. VI. Manuscript on parchment.
4. A copy, in manuscript, of this will, made in 1745, bound, with a portrait of Sir Anthony Denny inserted.
5. A volume containing manuscript and printed notes relating to the Royal Gifts, and to the Denny family, with original letters.”

In 2014 an email from Nicholas Smith (Archivist, V&A Archive) to Thomas Denny (representative of the Denny Family Trust) describes Document 1. in more detail as follows:

“Original manuscript of “An account of the gloves, mittens, and scarf, given to Sir A. Denny and his family’, relating to objects presented to the Denny family by various sovereigns, probably written ca. 1710 by H. Denny, with annotations by Sir E. Denny, bart., 1 leaf, parchment. With camera lucida drawing by John Varley of monument to Sir Edward Denny, Waltham Abbey, 1821; and with press-cuttings from the Kerry Magazine, [after 1850], and notes by Sir Edward Denny, bart., who presented the Denny manuscripts and relics to the South Kensington Museum in 1883. Bound with: Diary kept by Sir Edward (d. 1646), Sir Arthur (d. 1673) and Sir Thomas (d. 1761) Denny, mainly concerned with family matters. Pressmark: 86.FF.53”

A memoir of Hill Denny’s son, Colonel William Denny, Lieutenant-Governor of Pennsylvania notes that William Denny left in his will, dated May 25, 1765, “fifty guineas and all the portraits of the family”. Footnote 20 reads, “These Denny portraits, or some of them, were pictures by Sir Godfrey Kneller of Peter and Anne Denny and their son Hill. The picture of Hill Denny was presented to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, by the late Sir Edward Denny, Bt., in 1882.” (The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol.XLIV, 1920, no.2, pp. 105-6, accessed on the internet January 2015; see also the Denny family tree in papers from the Denny Family Trust on the Departmental File).

There are further papers concerning the Denny Family Trust on the Departmental files for the 5 paintings. This includes an annotated family tree tracing the versions of these portraits.

Historical context note

This is a portrait of Hill Denny; it is inscribed ‘Hill Denny Eldest son of Peter Denny / of Speldwick in Co̴m [with a wavy line or ‘~’ over the letter ‘m’] Huntingdon’. The word ‘Com’ is an abbreviation of ‘comitatus’, medieval Latin for ‘county’. The horizontal mark over the ‘m’ is called a 'tilde', and lets the reader know to fill in the gaps – in this case ‘…itatus’. This abbreviation mark was often used in English as well as Latin medieval documents, but is unusual in painted inscriptions. Interestingly the abbreviation ‘Com’ for ‘county’ is found in the late 17th century, more usually on metalwork objects.

A note on the Departmental file for museum number 1513-1882 comments ‘Hill Denny of Spaldwick was presumably related to Adam Hill of Spaldwick who saved Charles I’s life at the Battle of Edgehill, 1642. After the battle, Charles I is said to have given a scarf to Adam Hill, as a memento. This scarf was preserved in the Denny family, and was presented to the Museum by Sir Edward Denny, Bart. in 1882 (museum no. 1509-1882).’ Rev. Hill Denny was a great-grandson of Sir Edward Denny, Knight Banneret (1547-1600), a Gentleman of the Privy chamber to Elizabeth I (see 1510-1882 above under Object History Note).

An online search of the Denny genealogy suggests that Hill Denny was born October 1678. A memoir of Hill Denny’s son, Colonel William Denny, Lieutenant-Governor of Pennsylvania provides a brief history of the Rev. Hill Denny ‘whose portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller shows him as a “pretty boy” of some sixteen summers, which age he would have attained in 1694. Hill Denny was educated at Sidney College, Cambridge, graduating B.A. in 1698 and M.A. in 1707. He became Rector of Gilston and of Eastwick, Hertfordshire, in 1705, and also of Little Parndon, Essex, in 1710, which livings he held up to the time of his death. He was buried at Little Parndon, March 31, 1719. Hill Denny married, at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, October 29, 1702, Abigail Berners, then aged nineteen, daughter of James Berners, Esq. (died 1692) and Mary, his wife, of Much Hadham, Hertfordshire.’ (The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol.XLIV, 1920, no.2, accessed on the internet January 2015).

The picture is poorly painted and is presumably a copy of a 17th century likeness of Hill Denny, and probably a copy of a copy, as it is far removed from an authentic likeness of the late-seventeenth. The memoir of Denny’s son refers to a painting by Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723) which shows Hill Denny as a ‘pretty boy’ of sixteen. This portrait is plausibly a copy of that picture, despite a footnote in the memoir (published 1920) claiming that the original Kneller was given to the V&A. The relationship to Kneller can be seen in a portrait of James Vernon (c.1680-1756) by Kneller in the Government Art Collection which shows a boy of a similar age.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/james-vernon-d-1756-28606
The portrait of Vernon is dated to around 1690-97 when Vernon was aged 10 to 17, and Hill Denny could similarly be shown aged 10 to 16. Like Vernon, Hill Denny’s hair is natural rather than a wig such as his older male contemporaries would have worn. Nonetheless, with his fringe covering his forehead, he is unlike other Kneller portraits which tend to show the face as an unobscured oval. However, as the detail of the costume is poorly understood in this copy, the Hill Denny’s hair does not necessarily mean that the original was not by Kneller – as a possible copy of a copy, its distance from the original is likely to be marked.

This is one of five oil portraits of sitters from the 16th and 17th centuries that came to the museum from the Denny family in the late 19th century, all of which seem to be later copies. This is typical of the practice of making copies for successive generations of a family, as different branches of a family wished to own and display portraits of their forebears. When the painting was acquired in 1882 it was described as ‘Late 17th century’. However, a later note on the Departmental file comments, ‘Manner of 17th Cent.’ The somewhat archaic use of the abbreviated ‘com’ in the inscription perhaps indicates an attempt to suggest the age and antiquity of the portrait.

Descriptive line

Oil painting, Hill Denny, son of Peter Denny of Spaldwick; the Reverend Hill Denny was a great grandson of Sir Edward Denny (1547-1600), British school, manner of 17th century, possibly 19th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Rev. H. L. L. Denny, M.A., F.S.G., Memoir of His Excellency Colonel William Denny, Lieutenant-Governor of Pennsylvania, etc., The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol.XLIV, 1920, no.2, pp. 105-6, accessed on the internet January 2015.

Materials

Oil paint; Canvas

Techniques

Oil painting

Categories

Paintings; Portraits

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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