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Old Master Painting by Charles Napier Kennedy

“The Mermaid” Oil on canvas dates 1888

Oil painting on canvas signed Charles Napier Kennedy from the Leeds Museum, depicting a young mermaid lying on the shore with a cliff behind her.

Period 19th CenturyHeight 62.99 without frame inWidth 49.21 without frame inDepth 9.85 in Categories , Tags , ,


The most striking aspect of this painting of uncommon intensity is the expression of the mermaid, at once tender, sweet, and seductive. This creature of ours, an archetype bearing so many deep meanings, is looking into the distance to the sea's horizon; what could she be thinking about? What sailor could not be dazzled by her irresistible song? This masterpiece's atmosphere (the painting is dated 1888) also fits fully with the symbolism trend originated just a few years earlier. All these elements contribute to work's charm, leaving us rapt and enamored gazing upon the face of the mermaid. Surrounded by the cliff, circled by birds calling to her, stones shining like pearls, the algae draped around her hips, this creature is a true tribute to Nature as a Mother. Our mermaid lets herself be caressed by the gentle, rhythmic waves of the sea on her tail and seems to ponder her fate. As you can see in the photo, on the back of the canvas is written The Mermaid Charles Napier Kennedy 38 Avenue Road A. W. The painting has been cleaned by an expert restorer of antique paintings, who managed to bring out details obscured by work done on it before. The painting features a gilded wood frame with gold leaf and stucco details. The frame is from the same period as painting and was in fact made specifically for the painting when it became part of the Leeds Temple Newsam House Museum. Incontrovertible evidence is in the inscriptions scratched directly onto the frame. One bears the words “PURCHASED 1891” from when it was bought from the museum (the painting is dated 1888); the other has the name of the artist Charles Napier Kennedy and the title of the work “THE MERMAID.” Considering that this impressive frame is original in every part, we can rightly say that this frame is a work of art in itself. The painting comes with a certificate of free export issued by the Fine Arts of Rome as required by current law. The real story behind this painting is as fascinating and wonderful as the mermaid, like something out of the imagination of a great novelist. Bought in 1891 by the Abbey House Museum of Leeds in England, it was sold in the 1930s (as often happens in English museums). It was sold in July 1967 at a public auction in Tunbridge Wells in Kent, then in the 1970s, it became part of a prestigious Italian private collection from which it was purchased by Egidi MadeinItaly srl. Happily, each step of this history is not based on blockchain but on original paper documents from the time that accompany the work and are available for consultation on request. Among them you will find here: correspondence between Mr. Woodall who asked for information about a painting called “The Mermaid” and the curator of the Temple Newsam House Museum in Leeds, dated August 7, 1967. Our painting was also mentioned in the legendary Benezit “Dictionary of Painters and Sculptors,” which before the advent of the Internet, for decades, was the “Bible” of all antiquarians in Europe and beyond. The following is a transcription and translation from English of the original letters in our possession which document the beautiful history of this painting and certify its provenance from the Abbey House Museum in Leeds.  
Dear Sir, I have acquired a large picture by Johnson entitled the ‘Mermaid ‘, I find that a picture of this name is in the Leeds Musem and wonder if you would be kind enough to let me know if it is still in your possession. If it is I would be grateful if you could send me a photograph- for which I would be happy to reimburse you. I look forward to the favour of your replay, Your faithfully
Thank you for you letter about the picture by Johnson called the Marmaid. I’m afraid we do not have such a work in the collection here, the only pictures by an artist with the surname Johnson being fairly recent acquisition: C.W. Johnson The Wye and Severn (watercolour) and J.W. Johnson The Royal Standard, Bradford. However, in 1891 we purchased a picture by C.N. Kennedy title the Marmaid which was sold during the 1930s. The measurements were 60 x 46 inches and the canvas showed a mermaid of the usual type reclining a rocky shore looking wistfully to sea word as if anxious to espy and allure some unwary mariner to her abode. I do not know if your work is signed but it occurs to me that a label bearing the name Johnson might refer to a previous owner. Yours sincerely

Technical Details

Materials Wood, canvasTecnica Oil on canvasPeriod 19th CenturyCreatore Charles Napier KennedyProduttore Charles Napier KennedyOrigin Private collectionConditions Very good
Height 62.99 without frame inWidth 49.21 without frame inDepth 9.85 in

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Alister Matthews’s mermeid

The sailor was young, he had been shipwrecked and his raft took him to a desert island, where he was enraptured by the beauty of a mermaid, with whom he had fallen desperately in love

The Mermaid Oil on canvas from Leeds Museum bt Charles Napier Kennedy

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