|Title||John Freeth and his Circle|
|Alternative Title||Birmingham Men of the Last Century|
|Collection||Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery|
|Artist||Eckstein, John (German painter, active 1787-1838)|
|Description||This painting shows the publican-poet, John Freeth, (seated, second from left), with members of the radical Birmingham Jacobin Club, who met at Freeth's tavern, the Leicester Arms, in Bell Street, from 1768 to 1808. The group, members of the rising middle class in the late eighteenth century, were local merchants and manufacturers who were involved with various projects for the improvement of Birmingham, ranging from educational initiatives to canal building. The man wearing the tall hat, on the right, is James Bisset, who published the Magnificent Dictionary of Birmingham, which listed the principal manufacturers and social leaders of the town. He also established one of Birmingham's first museums, which was visited by Nelson in 1802. To the right of Freeth, holding a clay pipe, is the only known portrait of Jeremia Vaux, one of the first surgeons at Birmingham's General Hospital.
The picture was paid for on the tontine principle, the last survivor of the twelve, who proved to be James Bisset, becoming its possessor. A contemporary inscription on the back of the canvas states that, 'This picture is the common property of the twelve following gentlemen represented on the reverse, to be disposed of at all times as a majority of them will think proper, and to be the sole property of the survivor.' Then follows a list of names and 'This picture painted by John Eckstein, 1792'.
|Current Accession Number||1909P6|
|Former Accession Number||P.6´09|
|Subject||portrait (Freeth, John; Bisset, John; Vaux, Jeremia; Jacobin Club)|
|Measurements||11.2 x 16.6 cm cm (estimate)|
|Material||oil on canvas|
|Acquisition Details||Given by James Bisset 1909.|
|Provenance||Commissioned by tontine which included James Bisset, John Freeth, and other members of the Jacobin Club.|
|Publications||Timmins, S., The Buildings of Birmingham Past and Present, 1866; Catalogue of Paintings in Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery, 1930; Catalogue of Paintings in Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery; Gill, C., History of Birmingham, 1952, I, p. 138; Foreign Paintings in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, A Summary Catalogue, 1983, p. 36.|
|Notes||The Ecksteins belonged to a German clan of painters working in England. There were two sculptor brothers, Johann and George Paul, both born in Mecklenburg. Johann's son of the same name (b. 1765 Prussia?) painted a series of portraits and genre pieces in oils exhibited between 1787 and 1802. He lived in Birmingham between 1787 and 1792. There is some confusion over which Eckstein this painting should be attributed to.
The following inscription is on back of the painting [?],
These Worthies were highly esteemed for the political opinions peculiar to their body. They were strongly opposed to the views advocated by the numerous and wealthy Tory party of the day.This passage is also included in Timmins description of the picture.
|Rights Owner||Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery|
|Author||Dr Patricia Smyth|