The Jury (oil on canvas) was painted by John Morgan in 1861 at the Assizes held at County Hall, Market Square, Aylesbury. This expressive and witty painting depicts 12 local figures sitting as a jury, all listed in a plaque beneath the painting giving their surname and occupation. Many of the names, such as Ivatts and Horwood, are long standing local names and information about sitters can be found in the census, newspapers and trade directories of the time. The painting is signed and dated in the lower right corner ‘J Morgan/ 1861’.
The picture was first displayed in the spring of 1862 in an exhibition held at the British Institution, London. On 15 February 1862 The Bucks Advertiser recorded that The Jury in the exhibition ‘has been placed in the most advantageous situation, and is noticed in the most laudatory terms by all the daily journals. All who saw the work will congratulate our townsman on a success which has been earned by none of the tricks or vulgarities of art, but the keen eye for and strict fidelity to nature, of which the picture bears such evident marks’.
The importance of The Jury in Morgan’s body of work was clearly shown by a later reviewer writing in the Illustrated London News in 1867. Speaking of another of Morgan’s paintings the reviewer noted ‘he has proved himself specially endowed; and we trust he may well still redeem the great promise of his picture The Jury exhibited at the British Institution a few years ago’.
The popular appeal of the painting was soon realised and in 1863 a mezzotint engraving of the painting by W Joseph Edwards was published by Henry Graves and Co. It was the first of Morgan’s paintings to be engraved as a print and because of his habit of signing his works J Morgan it earned him the title of ‘Jury’ Morgan. (image: Art – Jury page – print.jpg)
It isn’t possible to trace the whole history of the painting’s ownership. At the time the mezzotint engraving was made The Jury was owned by Thomas Ball JP of Bramcote, Nottingham. It later passed into the collection of Sir Stafford Cripps, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer 1947-50.
The painting was sold at Mallams Auction House, Oxford in 2005 and acquired by Buckinghamshire County Museum from Johnathan Coulborn with generous assistance from the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund (38%), the Heritage Lottery Fund (31%), the Art Fund (19%), the Patrons of Buckinghamshire County Museum (6%), Aylesbury Town Council (3%), Bucks Archaeological Society (2%) and by many local donors to our fundraising appeal. The painting is always on display in the Victorian Aylesbury section of the Museum’s Touch of Bucks Gallery.
The read about the artist click here
To see the jurors and hear their stories click here