‘Cittadina di Roma’
signed, inscribed and dated ‘1791’
pen, brush and ink
11 x 6 ½ in. (28 x 16.5 cm.)
John Thomas Serres (1759-1825) was the eldest son of the Gascon marine painter, Dominic Serres, RA. Like his father, he made his name as a marine painter, with his maritime works accepted by the Royal Academy for the first time in 1776. His ambitions, as well as curiosity, took him to Italy in 1790, not the best of years to travel via France. His father’s connections, as a founder member of the Royal Academy, secured him letters of introduction to Lady Knight (wife of the future governor of Gibraltar), and Consul John Udney in Leghorn, once Joseph ‘Consul ‘ Smith’s junior partner. He travelled extensively, both by road and by sea, happy to record scenes, on land and sea, as well as of ‘friendly natives’, and completed a number of sketches as well as some more highly finished works which bear his signature. The impact of his travels was demonstrated by his exhibiting a series of Italian scenes in 1792 and 1793 at the Royal Academy. Furthermore his ambitions were realised shortly afterwards when, following his father’s death, he succeeded to the position of Marine Painter to the King, having been appointed previously Master of Drawing at the Royal Naval College. Alas, his promising career was blighted by his wife’s strange insistence that she was the illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Cumberland which led to Serres’ gradual loss of patronage and, ultimately, to death in a debtors’ prison.