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Leighton, Mary, Lady, -1864

Mary Leighton collection, 1824-1860.

Physical Description:
2 linear feet
Rare Books and Manuscripts
MSS 16
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund
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Copyright Status:
Copyright Not Evaluated
Related Content:
View a description and listing of collection contents in the finding aid
Archives & Manuscripts
The collection is open without restriction.
Mary Leighton, née Parker, 1799-1864 was the third child of Thomas Netherton Parker (1771-1848) and his wife, Sarah. Her parents must have encouraged their children's creative pursuits, as Mary and her elder brother John both became accomplished amateur artists. Their family was close friends of the Ladies of Llangollen, Eleanor Charlotte Barker (1739-1829) and Sarah Ponsonby (1755-1832), two upper-class Irish women who fled their families and established a home together in North Wales, at Plas Newydd, only fifteen miles from the Parker family estate, Sweeney Hall. Correspondence between Sarah Parker and Sarah Ponsonby, currently in the Denbighshire Record Office archives, reveals that Mary occasionally sent the ladies her drawings, many of which record the grounds of Plas Newydd and the surrounding countryside. The subjects of Mary's drawings also include prominent Grand Tour sites, satirical treatments of contemporary fashions, and thoughtful portraits of friends and family. Notably, the only portrait from life of the Ladies of Llangollen is by Mary's hand. Mary remained an active amateur artist following her 1832 marriage to Baldwin Leighton, 7th Baronet (1805-1871), of Loton Hall. Together they had six children, who Mary actively encouraged in drawing and painting. The work of five of their children is represented in this archive.
The collection comprises ten original sketchbooks, albums, and scrapbooks compiled by Mary Leighton, née Parker (1799-1864) prior to her marriage, and then by her children. They cover the period 1824-1860, and were intended for private, family use. The materials provide a compelling example of the role of drawing and album-keeping in Victorian England. More than simple pastimes, these activities helped families such as the Leightons to locate themselves in the social order. The drawings contained in these ten sketchbooks and scrapbooks often portray the estates of acquaintances, picturesque landscapes, and portraits that--along with the maps, prints, and other materials in the volumes--track the family's circulation in society. Through the drawings and ephemera they created and preserved, Mary and her children placed themselves within a well-educated and well-traveled social network that spread far beyond the borders of their native Shropshire.
The volumes' construction of identity reflects a fascinating intersection of the public with the domestic, revealing the family's interests in, and relation to, the broader world through this personal and private medium. References to contemporary and historical political events jostle with tender or comic depictions of family and friends; illustrations from published books and periodicals are transformed into children's drawing exercises. Together these materials trace the boundary between the public and domestic realms in the first half of the nineteenth century, while at the same time conveying its permeability.
These materials sketch not only a social identity but also help construct a national one. Their depictions of the Welsh countryside, for example, may appear as pure paeans to the sublimity of the landscape, yet they also suggest the importance of Wales to a broader British identity. In his book The Passengers, Mary's brother John Parker laments Wales' long-lost independence while arguing that “the only fair prospect for Wales ... is a closer, more intimate union with England” (47). Mary's drawings of the Menai and Conway suspension bridges, which facilitated tourism and commerce in Wales, may be understood as promoting such a view. So may her sons' drawings of such historical figures as Llewellyn and William Wallace, who are perhaps included in the scrapbooks not so much as Celtic leaders, but as British heroes.
The collection is arranged chronologically.
Subject Terms:
Amusements -- Great Britain.
Battles -- Pictorial works.
Catholic emancipation -- Great Britain.
Clothing and dress -- Great Britain.
Cracherode, Clayton Mordaunt, 1730-1799 -- Art collections.
Decoration and ornament.
Drawing -- Study and teaching.
Fashion -- Great Britain.
Ireland -- Pictorial works.
Italy -- Pictorial works.
Knight, Richard Payne, 1751-1824 -- Art collections.
Leighton, Baldwyn, Sir, 1836-1897.
Leighton, Charlotte, d. 1928.
Leighton, Frances Christina, d. 1930.
Leighton, Isabella, d. 1911.
Leighton, Mary, Lady, -1864.
Leighton, Stanley, 1837-1901.
Oswestry (England)
Parker, John, 1798-1860.
Peasants -- Pictorial works.
Scotland -- Pictorial works.
Suspension bridges.
Switzerland -- Pictorial works.
Wales, North -- Pictorial works.
Children's art.
Graphite drawings.
Ink drawings.
Trade cards (advertising)
Leighton, Baldwyn, Sir, 1836-1897.
Leighton, Charlotte, -1928.
Leighton, Frances Christina, -1930.
Leighton, Isabella, -1911.
Leighton, Mary, Lady, -1864.
Leighton, Stanley, 1837-1901.
Parker, John, 1798-1860.

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