(Cats and batteries not included.)
This oil on canvas is by Scottish painter, John Pettie (1839-1893). Pettie was fascinated by the styles of 17th century, particularly Franz Hals, and this painting appears to be a study in the Dutch Baroque style of Hals focusing on cavaliers. We have another work in this style and have learned of two others, suggesting that Pettie must have done a series of such paintings. Since the painting was done after Pettie was admitted to the Royal Academy, we're estimating the date at around 1880. From the proper viewing distance the work has a strong personality, in this case a raffish, slightly dissipated, but content look.
We have studied several examples of Pettie's signature, which does seem to have varied quite a bit, and we were able to match all the key elements. The only thing we didn't find was another example that had the RA at the end for Royal Academy. (The biography by Pettie's nephew, Matthew Hardie, has created some serious misunderstandings, not because of what the book says but because of what people think was said. While the room full of props was destroyed upon Pettie's death, that did not include paintings. Also, while Hardie found a list of paintings among his uncle's papers, it is not a complete list of works.
The list had no heading to indicate just what it was, but a close reading strongly suggests that these were paintings done for specific competitions or for (or of) the most notable buyers. The book also notes that Pettie had a fast painting technique that he loved to demonstrate, and such a man certainly produced more paintings than the rather few that appear on the list. Unfortunately, the list has too often been thought of as "complete" even though Hardie never suggested such. For too many people, gossip has replaced research.)
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