Manx National Heritage secures important 18th century Quayle family portraits

Manx National Heritage, the charity responsible for the conservation, protection and promotion of the Isle of Man’s heritage, has secured an important new acquisition for the national collections.

A suite of four miniature portraits depicting members of the Quayle family of Castletown, each painted on ivory and encased in a gold frame, have returned to the Isle of Man to be held in the Manx National Art Collection.  This important acquisition of the four miniatures, secured at an auction in the South West of England, was made possible thanks to the support of the Friends of Manx National Heritage.

The Quayle family played a key role in the administration and economy of the Isle of Man during a time of constitutional change, following the Act of Revestment. Four generations held the office of Clerk of the Rolls at Castle Rushen. The family were heavily involved in high politics as well as the military, economic and social life of the Island.

The star item among the four portraits is undoubtedly an image of Captain George Quayle, a member of the House of Keys and prominent banker, famous as the owner of the Peggy, the world’s oldest yacht and one of the most important surviving historic vessels globally. The other miniatures depict George’s maternal grandfather Sir George Moore, Speaker of the House of Keys and noted Peel merchant, George’s father John Quayle, and his paternal grandfather, John Quayle for whom no other image is known.

Curator of Art & Social History, Matthew Richardson, commented:

“This portrait is the only known colour depiction of George Quayle. We knew that it must have been in existence on the Island in the 1930s, because we have a poor quality black and white line drawing of it. However, as it had not been seen since then it was assumed to have been lost or destroyed. To find this item again, and to bring it back to the Isle of Man, has got to be one of the highlights of my twenty plus years working with Manx National Heritage.  

Not only is this portrait important it its own right, but George sits resplendent in his uniform as a Captain in the Manx Fencible Regiment of 1779. There had been speculation previously that this is what he was wearing in the line drawing, but to see the scarlet tunic in all its glory is quite breath-taking. We also see that he had blue eyes, which adds to the description we have of him, which states that he had ginger hair and skin which burned easily in the sun”.