Thanks to generous grants from the Art Fund and the V&A Purchase Fund, and with the help of privately donated funds from Museum members, an informal portrait of 12-year-old Joanna Opie by her elder brother Edward, painted in 1831 when he was just 21, has been purchased for the Museum’s collection. The painting is especially poignant as Joanna died a year later, possibly of cholera which was ravaging St Agnes at the time. Edward went on to become a Royal Academician and a respected portrait painter, like his great uncle John Opie, “The Cornish Wonder”.
The Opie family was, at the time of the portrait, living comfortably in Churchtown in the heart of St Agnes where Edward and Joanna’s father, also named Edward, was a shopkeeper. There were seven children of the marriage.
The portrait was previously owned by Lady Sibell Rowley, daughter of William Lygon, 7th Earl of Beauchamp, and it was on the Lygon family that Evelyn Waugh based his book “Brideshead Revisited”.