Support our Opie appeal to ‘Help bring Betty home’

Elizabeth Opie by John Opie RA
Elizabeth Opie by John Opie RA

St Agnes Museum has launched an appeal “Help Bring Betty Home” to purchase this beautiful tender portrait of Elizabeth (Betty) Opie by her brother John Opie RA, “The Cornish Wonder”. The portrait has been kindly loaned to the Museum and is on view alongside our self-portrait of her brother until we close at the end of October.

The Museum is so lucky to have the chance to purchase this painting at a very generously reduced price of £9500. We would love to have it on permanent display in the Parish where Elizabeth spent her whole life.

Elizabeth was born at Harmony Cot, Trevellas in 1749, 12 years before John and this portrait is dated 1790.

She was a domestic servant to the Nankivells of Mithian and was very supportive of John’s artistic ambitions. She encouraged him by buying him painting materials when he was a child.

When John moved to London Elizabeth occasionally travelled to visit him. When, aged just 46, he became gravely ill, she went to London to be with him until his death.

She was a good friend to John’s wife, Amelia, supporting her through his illness and helping to arrange his grand funeral and burial in a crypt at St Paul’s Cathedral, alongside his fellow artist, Joshua Reynolds.

The Museum already owns two very delicate receipts given to Elizabeth. One is dated August 14th 1776, while the other appears to be dated a day later.

She was clearly a very trusted employee as she delivered silverware from Mrs Elizabeth Nankivell of Mithian House to her son Thomas Nankivell of nearby Rose in Vale. The following day Elizabeth delivered 12 pounds and 12 shillings (12 guineas), likely payment for the silver from Thomas Nankivell to his mother.  In today’s values, this would be approximately £1800.

If you would like to make a donation towards buying this portrait of Elizabeth, please visit the Shop.