Historic enamel portrait by Henry Bone recovered and sold at auction

Portrait of Lt.-Col. Hon. Francis Wheler Hood
Henry Bone R.A. (Truro 1755-1834 London)


30 January 2019

An enamel work by Henry Bone has been recovered by the ALR and sold at a UK auction house towards the end of last year. The portrait of Lieutenant-Colonel the Hon. Francis Wheler Hood is after an original by Thomas Stewardson, now at Loders Hall in Dorset. A pencil drawing by Bone of the same subject and dimensions is also at the National Portrait Gallery, London (see: NPG D17676).

Lt.-Col. Hood, who is portrayed in this painting, belonged to the 3rd Foot Guards and died in the Napoleonic Wars at the Affair of Aire on 2nd March 1814.

The Bone painting was stolen during a burglary from a private residence in Hampshire in 2008. The theft bulletin – including several high value artworks and antiques worth more than £50,000 – was circulated by Hampshire Constabulary to UK law enforcement and so registered on the ALR database.

In April 2016 the painting was brought to the ALR office by a local dealer from Hatton Garden in order to be searched against the ALR database. The painting was still in its original frame, and it appeared that the thieves had only removed the plaque with the artist’s name.

The searcher was unable to prove he had good title to this work, while he had acquired the painting less than a year prior to his search for a low value. After he agreed to sign a letter of release, the ALR arranged for the painting to be offered for sale in an upcoming auction on behalf of the insurers of the original loss. It was sold successfully in October 2018 for the benefit of the insurers. 


Historical Background: Affair of Aire, March 2nd 1814

Lt.-Col. Hood was killed during one of the lesser-known later episodes of the Napoleonic Wars. Aire-sur-L’adour is a commune in the Landes department in Nouvelle-Aquitaine in southwestern France. On 2 March 1814, the English and Portuguese troupes of Wellington, arriving from Spain, won a battle against those of Marshal Soult to the southwest of the city, with a record of several hundred deaths.

Wellington’s victorious army was too tired to give immediate chase to the defeated French after the battle of Orthez, but Wellington did dispatch General Hill with two divisions of infantry, a cavalry brigade and horse artillery to deny the French time to regroup. Hill caught up with General Clausel’s rear guard at Aire. Marshall Soult ordered Clausel, with two divisions, to hold Aire long enough to allow soult’s artillery stores and ammunition to be moved out of harms way. After two attempts,  Portuguese and the British reinforcements stormed up the ridge and hurled the French back. Aire was captured, and the French stores became Hill’s prize.