Portrait miniature of Lady Parkes, wife of Sir Henry Parkes, photo by Batchelder’s, painted by Botterill, c. 1870

$2,950.00 AUD

Rare portrait miniature of Lady Eleanor Parkes, ne-Dixon, as a young girl, a painted miniature by John Botterill over a carte-de-visite by the Batchelder Studio, Melbourne;

showing the young girl with long hair down , a lace-edged dress with a large pink flower, a gold locket around her neck;

set in original Victorian gold mount & elaborate frame, inscribed to the back:


a lower fragmentary inscription which originally read: ‘THE NEGATIVE IS RESERVED DUPLICATE COPIES CAN BE HAD AT ANY TIME’,

signed over the top in pencil ‘Botterill / Artist’,

with later inscription to the original backing paper reading ‘LADY PARKES AS young girl’.

Circa 1870

Condition: miniature is in very good condition, mount is good with minor signs of age to the gold, the frame edges have had some small areas of repair; re-backed with panel to show original back inscription to image & overlaying signature.


This very engaging image is actually an albumen silver carte-de-visite, the traditional way of providing images for family & friends; however, while most would be placed into specially made albums with spaces the exact size of the image, this example is intact in it’s original Victorian frame, and behind glass. This is essential, as the fine painted surface, applied over the photographic image, is very vulnerable. The effect is superb, to the degree that when this was sold as a portrait of an unknown girl, it was also described as a ‘portrait miniature’ rather than a hand-coloured photograph.

The work is produced in the Batchelder studio, 41 Collins Street East, Melbourne. This was established by the well-known American brothers, who had come to The Australian goldfields directly from the Californian goldfields with the sole purpose of setting up a photographic business. While they had left by the stage this photo was taken, the studio name remained for several decades, at the same address.

The pencil signature ‘Botterill / Artist’ is very rare. John Botterill came to Melbourne during the 1850’s, and set himself up as an artist. In 1859, he is working as a ‘visiting master’ at  Woodford House, a school for Young Ladies in Park Street. Soon after he finds a job with the Batchelder brothers in their studio – probably as a photograph-tinter, but he also gained knowledge of photography somewhere as well, so probably ‘on the job’ in the busy studio.

Batcheldor’s was regarded as a premium establishment, and many of the images of notable members of Melbourne society of the period were the product of the studio. In 1867, an advert reminds the public that Batchelder’s has now been going for 11 years – ie since 1856 – and has stored over 25,000 negatives in case you would like a re-print!

John Botterill is rarely encountered. According to the ‘Design & Art Australia Online‘ website, “Few extant works are known. The Mitchell Library holds an undated oval watercolour Portrait of His Excellency Sir John Young signed ‘J. Botterill, Artist’; an undated oil portrait of Sir Redmond Barry (c.1875-80), and an elegant hand-coloured photograph of Captain William Lonsdale are in the La Trobe Library; and the National Library of Australia owns a watercolour bridal portrait of the botanical artist Ellis Rowan , painted over a photograph in October 1873.”

He was probably trained as a miniature painter before leaving England (a signed miniature of a gent on ivory, dated 1851, was on the market in England a few years ago, probably done before he left for Australia) and was employed at the studio as an artist – or more accurately perhaps a photograph-painter. In 1867, the firm won a medal at the Intercolonial Exhibition for their tinted photographs. This was the work of Botterill, as the advertising from that year emphasises ‘the PORTRAITS… painted by Mr J. Botterill, artist…. on view in the Fine Art Department , Exhibition, and to state that Mr Botterill is still at Batchelder and Co’s, 41 Collins St East..’  The use of ‘still at‘ is curious, and perhaps reveals problems in the company. In his 1869 adverts, Botterill declares:
“J. BOTTERILL. Portrait
Painter and Photographer, REMOVED from
Batchelder’s to 19 Collins Street East”
He continues at this address for several years, before opening in Elizabeth Street after 1875 for his final years. He died in 1881.

The subject of this photo would be hard to place if it didn’t have the inscription, added to the backing of the original. Sir William Parkes had 3 wives; we can identify this one by the dating of the photography studio in Melbourne. His first, Clarinda, was born in 1813 and far too old when they migrated to Sydney in 1839. The third, Julia was born in 1872 – probably after this photo was taken – so she’s not possible. The  second, Eleanor, was born in 1857, so is the right age for a Melbourne photograph in the late 1860’s, early 70’s.

John Botterill signed this piece, on a Batchelder-branded photograph. This would suggest it belongs to a transitional period – the photograph taken at 41 Collins Street East, the painting done by Botterill a few doors down at his studio, 19 Collins Street East.

The final dating evidence is the arrival of Eleanor Dixon, the future Lady Parkes, in Melbourne as a migrant. She was from Wooler, Northumberland, one of five children, her father listed as a ‘Master Shoemaker’. He died in 1869, and several months later, Eleanor’s elder brother was married and promptly left for Australia. Eleanor and three siblings followed in 1870, accompanied by their mother.

1870 becomes the most probable date for the portrait. Eleanor would have been 12 or 13, an appropriate age for the girl in the photo, who still has her hair ‘out’, indicating she was not yet considered an adult. Around her neck is a black ribbon with large gold locket: this is typical Victorian mourning jewellery, and no doubt had a portrait of her late father in it.

Read more about this rarity & a curious plaque of Sir Henry Parkes here >>

Sir Henry Parkes & Lady Eleanor Parkes
Sir Henry Parkes & Lady Eleanor Parkes



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