Monday, June 23, 2008

Are Your Ancestors Really Who You Think They Are?

For years we had a photo in our family of a known ancestor with three other young men in about 1890. Armed with the solid information that he had three brothers, we felt sure that this was a portrait of siblings.

And we couldn't have been more wrong!

After making contact with various relatives and obtaining photos from that era of the brothers, it was very clear that the three young men in the portrait were NOT siblings. We've come to learn that the ancestor was active in musical groups and clubs and it's very possible that the misidentified young men were friends involved in one of his many activities.

Top: "Bonnie Prince Charlie" by Maurice Quentin de la Tour;
Bottom: Henry Stuart, aka Cardinal York

But I am not the first to fall prey to incorrect assumptions. The Scottish National Portrait Gallery has found they too may have a misidentified portrait on their hands. The gallery's famous pastel portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie by Maurice Quentin de la Tour may not be Prince Charles Edward Stuart at all - but rather his brother younger brother, Henry Stuart, also known as Cardinal York.

The Gallery invested a bit more than I did in my ancestor's portrait: £22,000. An expensive mistake?

According to the BBC News, the key to unlocking the mystery came in February 2008 when a painting entitled simply "Portrait of a Cardinal" came up for auction and was purchased by London art dealers Philip Mould. Using computer technology London-based art dealer Bendor Grosvenor compared the different images and came to the conclusion that the picture was of Henry, NOT Charlie.

While many in the art world concur, the gallery has yet to jump on board with the new identity of one of Britain's most famous ancestors.

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