L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

John Jennings with his brother and his sister-in-law, by Alexander Roslin, 1769

John Jennings (at right) with his brother Francis (or Frans) and Francis' wife Jeanne, née Trembley.

John Jennings (3 December 1729, Stockholm - 14 December 1773, Forsmark), Swedish merchant and politician. The son of an Anglo/Irish iron merchant who had settled in Sweden, he continued in his father's trade, amassing wealth and great political influence. He had large reversals toward the end of the 1760s, though, and his business did not long survive his death at the age of forty-four.

I don't know the genesis of this group portrait; Jennings was married and had at least one child - his son inherited the business at Jennings' death - so why is he not posed with his wife and child (or children)? Roslin was a very fashionable painter - in other words, expensive - and it seems rather odd that a sitter would pose with his brother and sister-in-law for such an important commission. Jennings gestures toward Jeanne, Francis' wife, making her the apparent focus of the painting. I don't know what year the couple married; could this painting have been commissioned to mark that occasion? If so, the well-fed John Jennings would certainly seem a little de trop, plopped down in front, taking up more than a third of the canvas.

John Jennings, portrayed in what one would call a "speaking likeness".
As with all Roslin's work, the details are exquisite.
The truly extraordinary rendering of the lace and satin, especially the passages of the reflected red of Jennings' velvet breeches... perfection.


There is also a vignette of Jennings copied from the group portrait.
Almost certainly not by the hand of Roslin, the painting seems rather crude when compared with the original.


  1. Good heavens what a glorious, if rather odd portrait. You can practically feel those textiles, and hear that satin as Jeanne shifts position. And those skin tones? Wow.