The fine collection of paintings, displayed at present in the Assembly Rooms of Great Torrington Town Hall, are of both historic and artistic importance. Most of the paintings are from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and are portraits of dignitaries and aristocracy pertinent to local and national history. It is rare that a collection of this importance and size has not been dispersed over time and remains in situ in the town to which it has historical significance.
The Collection, which has become known as the Rolle/Clinton Collection, was housed in Great Torrington Town Hall for safe keeping almost a century ago. Recently, Lord Clinton has handed the Collection over to the town to be kept in the custodianship of the Great Torrington Almshouse, Town Lands and Poors Charities.
All the paintings are in need of restoration, ranging from simple cleaning to more major treatment. For their further care, provision is being made for their display in a refurbished Town Hall.
Whilst initial studies into the background of the subjects of the portraits have been made, it is hoped that further research will illuminate their history in greater detail. With the demise of the Rolle family line, there is indeed a large amount of research needed. The place of the Rolle family in the history of Great Torrington leads significantly onto international history, offering tantalising associations with early Australian government (Sir James Frederick Palmer) and the colonisation of Florida (Denys Rolle). There is also important work to be done on the wives and daughters featured in the portraits, about which little is known.
The gems of the collection are the two large and lustrous portraits of man and wife: John Rolle (1750–1842), Lord Rolle and Lady Louisa Barbara Rolle (1796–1885). Both portraits are by Thomas Lawrence, but the latter was unfinished at his death and is thought to have been completed by Christina Robertson. Other fine works are portraits of Anne Rolle and Christiana Maria Rolle by Thomas Hudson, whose many pupils included Joshua Reynolds and Joseph Wright.
The Collection once included a portrait of John Rolle Walter by the Italian painter Pompeo Batoni. Recently sold, this portrait happily remains in Devon and is now in the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter.
Other notable paintings are by Richard Cosway, Johann Kerseboom, the studios of Sir Peter Lely and the school of Godfrey Kneller.
The text of this foreword was adapted from the printed booklet ‘The Portrait Collection of Great Torrington’ by Mrs Cilla Bangay
Text source: PCF / Great Torrington Almshouse, Town Lands and Poors Charities
This description was originally written for a catalogue.
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