Naval surgeon Maurice Felton (1803-42) gained considerable acclaim from his secondary pursuit, painting landscapes and society portraits. Unfortunately his Australian career was short lived, due to his untimely death from unrecorded causes less than four years after his arrival in Sydney.
This portrait is one of the artist’s finest. Its subject, Frances Maria Spark, was the wife of successful merchant and art patron Alexander Brodie Spark, who commissioned this portrait shortly after their marriage. Mrs Spark was a woman of substance in colonial society, residing with her husband at Tempe House, the John Verge (1782-1861) designed house on the Cooks River, south of Sydney.
This original frame was commissioned by Mr Sparks from Solomon Lewis in 1840, and was restored in 2008. The gilded surface is mostly original.
Mrs Alexander Sparke
oil on canvas
142.5 x 114.0 cm stretcher; 177.5 x 150.5 x 13.0 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed l.r. on upper spine of book, yellow oil "M FELTON". Dated l.r. on lower spine of book, yellow oil "1840".
Shown in 3 exhibitions
The artist and the patron: Aspects of colonial art in New South Wales., Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 02 Mar 1988–01 May 1988
Lost gardens of Sydney, Museum of Sydney, Sydney, 09 Aug 2008–30 Nov 2008
A fine possession: jewellery and identity, Powerhouse Museum, Australia, 24 Sep 2014–20 Jun 2016
Referenced in 8 publications
Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian Collection: Painting and Sculpture', pg. 102-181, Sydney, 1999, 105 (colour illus.).
Alexandra Joel, Parade: The story of fashion in Australia, 'The Colonial Years', pg. 1-17, Pymble, 1998, 16 (colour illus.), 17.
Joan Kerr, The artist and the patron - aspects of Colonial art in New South Wales, 'Views, visages, invisibility', pg. 15-24, Sydney, 1988, 64, 65 (colour illus.), 66. cat.no. 43
David Lawton, Siglo, Tasmania, 1995, 20 (illus.).
Mark Matheson, Reflections: the National Trust Quarterly, 'Tempe House. Buried alive?', pg. 8-9, Sydney, Feb 2001-Apr 2001, 8 (colour illus.).
Mark Matheson, Heritage, 'Art in Arcadia', pg. 9-16, 40., Sydney, 1998, inside front cover (colour illus.), 13 (illus.).
Margaret Maynard, Fashioned from Penury Dress as Cultural Practice in Colonial Australia, 55 (illus.). cat.no. 11
Colleen Morris, Lost gardens of Sydney, 'Allusions to the picturesques', pg. 557-72, Sydney, 2008, 70 (colour illus.).