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Show me the Money, Coutts

Sent in by Hertfordshire's top jotter Robin Healey for which much thanks. The tradition of writing family histories appears to be alive and well.

I’ve always been mildly amused at why the heir to a banking fortune ends up with the name Money-Coutts. And I’m equally certain that my aunt, who wrote a history of the Coutts family, was also tickled by the name.

Anyway, here’s an attractive bookplate which an inscription in pencil on the reverse assures us was designed by the gifted painter and book illustrator, John D Batten (1860 – 1932), in 1889, at the age of 29. The design is eclectic, featuring a central circular panel that owes much to Burne-Jones, and spandrels that are crammed with writhing Art Nouveau-style  foliage.

We can be sure that the design was very much to the taste of Batten’s patron, Francis Money-Coutts, 5th Baron Latymer ( 1852 – 1923), who had studied Law at Cambridge but  was considered too unstable to join the family firm. Instead he practised as a solicitor in Surrey while pursuing under the pseudonym ‘ Mountjoy’ his preferred vocation as a poet and general man of letters, safe in the knowledge that he was not likely to end up in a garret. He also befriended the composer Isaac Albeniz, becoming his benefactor and contributing the lyrics to a series of operas.

John Batten had a similar background to Money-Coutts. He also read Law at Cambridge, though at a later period, and like his future patron, was called to the Bar. Again, like Money- Coutts, Batten abandoned Law for his true passion, which in his case was Art. In 1886 he exhibited for the first time at the Grosvenor Gallery, which was owned by a kinsman of Money-Coutts, Sir Lindsay Coutts. So, it is very likely that the artist and the banking heir met through their shared association with the Gallery.

It would be interesting to know how the relationship developed over time, and particularly whether Money-Coutts became a keen collector of Batten’s striking, Pre-Raphaelite-influenced paintings.

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One thought on “Show me the Money, Coutts

  1. Gordon Clarke

    Informative and well-researched. This may be one of Batten’s first plates. I wonder who engraved and printed them because Batten didn’t begin to cut any blocks until early 1894 and only then fairly crudely. Other Batten plates had this kind of personal connection. They seem to have been only occasional with a lot of his time being spent illustrating the fairy tale books for Jacobs.

    That first painting of Adonis at the Grosvenor never sold and remained in the family for many years until it went to Denver (I believe) so Money-Coutts may not have been interested in Batten’s work.

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