Information on portrait said to be by James Northcote of 'Mrs Smith'

Ellie Bennett made this Freedom of Information request to The National Portrait Gallery

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was partially successful.

Dear The National Portrait Gallery,

According to an article in the Financial Times published on March 31, 2017, Jacob Simon, in 2016 acting as a representative of the National Portrait Gallery, authenticated a portrait in private ownership as being 'Mrs Smith' by James Northcote dated 1803. Mr Simon also identified on the verso of the portrait a frame marking dated 1802 and a stamp for a 'William Legg'.

Can you please supply all information held by the NPG in relation to this portrait including the authentication report, images of the William Legg stamp and an image of the complete excise stamp including the full date. Also all correspondence between the NPG and outside individuals and organisations relating to this portrait, in particular the initial email from the owner to the NPG and any correspondence with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art who also claim to possess the James Northcote 1803 painting referred to in Northcote's account book as 'Mrs Smith'. Can you please also supply all investigations which the NPG carried out to establish the provenance of this portrait and any information held by the NPG relating to the previous owners of the portrait and any correspondence with Clevedon Salerooms in relation to this portrait.

I look forward to receiving your reply within the required 20 working days.

Yours faithfully,

Ellie Bennett

Archive Enquiry, The National Portrait Gallery

This is the e-mail address for enquiries about portraits and the collections and history of the National Portrait Gallery (including requests for information made under the Freedom of Information Act). The Gallery usually responds to portrait enquiries within 15-20 working days (except over the Easter and Christmas periods when there may be a delay). Freedom of Information requests are answered within 20 working days.

If you would like to make an appointment to visit the Heinz Archive & Library please contact: [email address]<mailto:[email address]>. The Public Study Room is closed from 24 December to 1 January inclusive.

For other types of enquiries please refer to the Gallery's website for contact details.

Note: we are not able to respond to enquiries about foreign portraits and non-portrait works of art, and neither are we able to provide advice on valuations. For subjects unrelated to British portraiture please contact a general art reference library and for valuations please contact a fine art auction house or dealer.

Images of portraits and correspondence sent to the Gallery may be kept for reference and research purposes.

Yours sincerely
Paul Cox
Associate Curator (Reference Collection)

FOI Request, The National Portrait Gallery

Dear Ms Bennett,

Thank you for your request under the FOIA, dated 27/06/2017 about James Northcote portrait.
I shall get back to you within 20 working days.

Kind regards,
Paulina

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Original Message-----
From: Ellie Bennett [mailto:[FOI #414714 email]]
Sent: 27 June 2017 23:19
To: Archive Enquiry <[The National Portrait Gallery request email]>
Subject: Freedom of Information request - Information on portrait said to be by James Northcote of 'Mrs Smith'

Dear The National Portrait Gallery,

According to an article in the Financial Times published on March 31, 2017, Jacob Simon, in 2016 acting as a representative of the National Portrait Gallery, authenticated a portrait in private ownership as being 'Mrs Smith' by James Northcote dated 1803. Mr Simon also identified on the verso of the portrait a frame marking dated 1802 and a stamp for a 'William Legg'.

Can you please supply all information held by the NPG in relation to this portrait including the authentication report, images of the William Legg stamp and an image of the complete excise stamp including the full date. Also all correspondence between the NPG and outside individuals and organisations relating to this portrait, in particular the initial email from the owner to the NPG and any correspondence with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art who also claim to possess the James Northcote 1803 painting referred to in Northcote's account book as 'Mrs Smith'. Can you please also supply all investigations which the NPG carried out to establish the provenance of this portrait and any information held by the NPG relating to the previous owners of the portrait and any correspondence with Clevedon Salerooms in relation to this portrait.

I look forward to receiving your reply within the required 20 working days.

Yours faithfully,

Ellie Bennett

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Please use this email address for all replies to this request:
[FOI #414714 email]

Is [The National Portrait Gallery request email] the wrong address for Freedom of Information requests to The National Portrait Gallery? If so, please contact us using this form:
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/change_re...

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For more detailed guidance on safely disclosing information, read the latest advice from the ICO:
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-------------------------------------------------------------------

FOI Request, The National Portrait Gallery

Dear Ms Bennett,

Thank you for your FOI request, dated 27/06/2017 about James Northcote's portrait.

Jacob Simon is the former chief curator of the National Portrait Gallery - and the leading Northcote expert. Now retired, he volunteers at the Gallery as a research fellow. In this capacity Mr Simon was approached directly by the portrait's owners. Mr Simon arranged to view the work and discussed its attributions + identification with its owners. In doing this, he was expressing his personal views as an expert in the field. He is welcome to express his opinions as an expert but those opinions are his own and not those of the Gallery.

Jacob Simon’s research into the work of James Northcote, including this portrait in summary, was published by the Walpole Society in 1996 in volume 58 (Jacob Simon: James Northcote's Account Book, 1776-1830).

Images of the William Legg stamp and the complete excise stamps: These are publicly available at http://www.npg.org.uk/assets/files/pdf/r...

There is a file held by the Heinz Archive and Library in the sitter sequence for Mrs Smith, as is standard practice, and information relating to the artist is filed in the artist sequence under Northcote. This file contains all available exchanges.

If you would like to visit the Heinz Archive and Library to review available materials in the archive related to James Northcote's portraits or William Legg's stamp, please arrange a visit between Tuesday and Thursday at http://www.npg.org.uk/research/archive/l....

Kind regards,
Paulina

After 3 months from the last meaningful correspondence this case will be closed. For an internal review request please contact us within a 3 month period, otherwise your request will be treated as a new enquiry.

Under the terms of the Act, we are required to inform you of our appeals procedure in case you are not satisfied with response. A copy of our public leaflet on Freedom of Information, which advises how to appeal to the Gallery and your right to appeal to the Information Commissioner, can be found on the Gallery website at: http://www.npg.org.uk/about/foi.php.

show quoted sections

Original Message-----
From: Ellie Bennett [mailto:[FOI #414714 email]]
Sent: 27 June 2017 23:19
To: Archive Enquiry <[The National Portrait Gallery request email]>
Subject: Freedom of Information request - Information on portrait said to be by James Northcote of 'Mrs Smith'

Dear The National Portrait Gallery,

According to an article in the Financial Times published on March 31, 2017, Jacob Simon, in 2016 acting as a representative of the National Portrait Gallery, authenticated a portrait in private ownership as being 'Mrs Smith' by James Northcote dated 1803. Mr Simon also identified on the verso of the portrait a frame marking dated 1802 and a stamp for a 'William Legg'.

Can you please supply all information held by the NPG in relation to this portrait including the authentication report, images of the William Legg stamp and an image of the complete excise stamp including the full date. Also all correspondence between the NPG and outside individuals and organisations relating to this portrait, in particular the initial email from the owner to the NPG and any correspondence with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art who also claim to possess the James Northcote 1803 painting referred to in Northcote's account book as 'Mrs Smith'. Can you please also supply all investigations which the NPG carried out to establish the provenance of this portrait and any information held by the NPG relating to the previous owners of the portrait and any correspondence with Clevedon Salerooms in relation to this portrait.

I look forward to receiving your reply within the required 20 working days.

Yours faithfully,

Ellie Bennett

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Please use this email address for all replies to this request:
[FOI #414714 email]

Is [The National Portrait Gallery request email] the wrong address for Freedom of Information requests to The National Portrait Gallery? If so, please contact us using this form:
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/change_re...

Disclaimer: This message and any reply that you make will be published on the internet. Our privacy and copyright policies:
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/help/offi...

For more detailed guidance on safely disclosing information, read the latest advice from the ICO:
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/help/ico-...

If you find this service useful as an FOI officer, please ask your web manager to link to us from your organisation's FOI page.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Dear Paulina,

Thank you for your reply to my Freedom of Information Request.

In response I would like to make the following points:

1. According to the article published in the Financial Times, Ms Anjana Ahuja states that her husband 'suggested that we contact the gallery' about their recently acquired picture. She goes on to say 'Neither of us expected a response, let alone an email from the National Portrait Gallery within hours'. The article is clear that her request was to the National Portrait Gallery and that the response came from National Portrait Gallery NOT from Jacob Simon acting in a personal capacity. Indeed she implies that she was not aware of either Jacob Simon or his areas of expertise, for later in her article she writes: 'Enter Jacob Simon, the man at the National Portrait Gallery who replied to our email, and a canvas stamp expert. He turned up on our doorstep one evening last year, having accepted our invitation to inspect our acquisition.' If she did not know Jacob Simon in a personal capacity she must have contacted him through the NPG's email server.

I have specifically asked for the initial email which the owners of the Northcote portrait of Mrs Smith sent to the National Portrait Gallery which is mentioned in the article in the Financial Times. As you will be aware, under the Freedom of Information Act, you have a duty to tell me whether you hold this information and to provide this information. If you are refusing all or part of the request, you will normally still have to confirm whether you hold this information. You have not confirmed whether you hold this email exchange at the Gallery and if so, whether you are refusing to supply it.

I therefore expect as a minimum that there will be in the Gallery's email records, both the initial request from the owners and the reply from the National Portrait Gallery which is claimed was received 'within hours'. As he accepted the invitation to view the Northcote this would suggest that there would then ensue further correspondence before Jacob Simon made his visit and I would expect this to also be in the file.

2. You state that images of the William Legg stamp and the complete excise stamp are available on the NPG research pages and provide a link, however the William Legg stamp displayed here is of poor quality and of no value for analysis. I am requesting a HIGH RESOLUTION image of the William Legg stamp. With regard to the excise stamp, I asked for an image of the COMPLETE stamp as the images available online do not show the date which almost completely concealed under the stretcher bar. Can you please supply an image of the COMPLETE date stamp as requested for my visit. This is crucial evidence and if true, Jacob Simon must have viewed and would have taken an image of the complete date stamp before authenticating this picture. I am very concerned that despite two requests to the Gallery this date stamp has not been forthcoming. If this image is not in the files when I come to view them I must assume it does not exist.

3. I will be making an appointment to visit the Heinz Archive and at that visit I would like to view all files held by the National Portrait Gallery which relate to both the painting identified as 'Mrs Smith' by Northcote dated 1803 belonging to Ms Anjana Ahuja and the files on the painting of 'Mrs Smith' by Nothcote dating 1803 held by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I would also like to view all files held in the artist sequence under 'Northcote'. I also would like to view in image of the full date stamp on the back of the former portrait, as noted above.

I will be making an appointment to visit the Heinz Archive and Library in the very near future.

Yours sincerely,

Ellie Bennett

FOI Request, The National Portrait Gallery

Dear Ms Bennett,

Thank you for your response.
We look forward to seeing you on Tuesday at the Heinz Archive and Library.

Just to clarify the portrait owners did contact Jacob Simon directly in October after finding his details on the database of British artists' suppliers, 1650-1950 http://www.npg.org.uk/research/programme... , the sequence can be seen in the email correspondence held in the file. There was no other correspondence between the owners of the portrait and staff at Gallery, until the FT journalist contacted the press office in March 2017 to inform the Gallery of the article. This is standard practise and this correspondence hasn’t been added to the archive as it doesn’t add value to the Collection.

Regarding your request for a high resolution photo, as the painting it is not in the Gallery collection, we do not have images available other than what already has been published online. However, we are happy to ask Jacob Simon if he has a high resolution image, and whether he’d be willing to share it. I will let you know once I have had a response. Alternatively, you could ask the portrait owner for the high resolution images.

I will ensure the files on Northcote and Mrs Smith will be available for you on Tuesday morning.

Kind regards,
Paulina

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Original Message-----
From: Ellie Bennett [mailto:[FOI #414714 email]]
Sent: 20 July 2017 08:19
To: FOI Request <[email address]>
Subject: RE: Freedom of Information request - Information on portrait said to be by James Northcote of 'Mrs Smith'

Dear Paulina,

Thank you for your reply to my Freedom of Information Request.

In response I would like to make the following points:

1. According to the article published in the Financial Times, Ms Anjana Ahuja states that her husband 'suggested that we contact the gallery' about their recently acquired picture. She goes on to say 'Neither of us expected a response, let alone an email from the National Portrait Gallery within hours'. The article is clear that her request was to the National Portrait Gallery and that the response came from National Portrait Gallery NOT from Jacob Simon acting in a personal capacity. Indeed she implies that she was not aware of either Jacob Simon or his areas of expertise, for later in her article she writes: 'Enter Jacob Simon, the man at the National Portrait Gallery who replied to our email, and a canvas stamp expert. He turned up on our doorstep one evening last year, having accepted our invitation to inspect our acquisition.' If she did not know Jacob Simon in a personal capacity she must have contacted him through the NPG's email server.

I have specifically asked for the initial email which the owners of the Northcote portrait of Mrs Smith sent to the National Portrait Gallery which is mentioned in the article in the Financial Times. As you will be aware, under the Freedom of Information Act, you have a duty to tell me whether you hold this information and to provide this information. If you are refusing all or part of the request, you will normally still have to confirm whether you hold this information. You have not confirmed whether you hold this email exchange at the Gallery and if so, whether you are refusing to supply it.

I therefore expect as a minimum that there will be in the Gallery's email records, both the initial request from the owners and the reply from the National Portrait Gallery which is claimed was received 'within hours'. As he accepted the invitation to view the Northcote this would suggest that there would then ensue further correspondence before Jacob Simon made his visit and I would expect this to also be in the file.

2. You state that images of the William Legg stamp and the complete excise stamp are available on the NPG research pages and provide a link, however the William Legg stamp displayed here is of poor quality and of no value for analysis. I am requesting a HIGH RESOLUTION image of the William Legg stamp. With regard to the excise stamp, I asked for an image of the COMPLETE stamp as the images available online do not show the date which almost completely concealed under the stretcher bar. Can you please supply an image of the COMPLETE date stamp as requested for my visit. This is crucial evidence and if true, Jacob Simon must have viewed and would have taken an image of the complete date stamp before authenticating this picture. I am very concerned that despite two requests to the Gallery this date stamp has not been forthcoming. If this image is not in the files when I come to view them I must assume it does not exist.

3. I will be making an appointment to visit the Heinz Archive and at that visit I would like to view all files held by the National Portrait Gallery which relate to both the painting identified as 'Mrs Smith' by Northcote dated 1803 belonging to Ms Anjana Ahuja and the files on the painting of 'Mrs Smith' by Nothcote dating 1803 held by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I would also like to view all files held in the artist sequence under 'Northcote'. I also would like to view in image of the full date stamp on the back of the former portrait, as noted above.

I will be making an appointment to visit the Heinz Archive and Library in the very near future.

Yours sincerely,

Ellie Bennett

show quoted sections

Dear Dr Cullinan,
Director of the National Portrait Gallery

I am writing to request an internal review of The National Portrait Gallery's handling of my FOIA request 'Information on portrait said to be by James Northcote of 'Mrs Smith''.

As you will be aware, under the Freedom Of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) there is a presumption in favour of disclosure of information. Under Section 1 (1) of FOIA, any person making a request for information to a public authority is entitled:
(a) to be informed in writing by the public authority whether it holds information of the description specified in the request, and
(b) if that is the case, to have that information communicated to him.

In my Freedom of Information request submitted on 27 June 2017, I requested that you provide all information held by the NPG in relation to the portrait authenticated by Jacob Simon of the National Portrait Gallery as being'Mrs Smith' by James Northcote dated 1803.

I specifically requested a copy of the authentication report, images of the William Legg stamp and an image of the complete excise stamp including the full date. I also requested all correspondence between the NPG and outside individuals in relation to this picture.

In your response dated 17 July 2017 the NPG stated that Jacob Simon 'was expressing his personal views as an expert in the field'. You claimed that Jacob Simon was acting on his own account and not as a representative of the National Portrait Gallery. With regard to the Legg stamp, you stated that the stamp was publicly available online on your website however this does not show the stamp in situ on the portrait and is of such poor quality it is of little use. You state in your response that a complete excise stamp is available at http://www.npg.org.uk/assets/files/pdf/r...
There is no image of the COMPLETE excise stamp available on this report or anywhere else online.

I was invited to view the files held at the Heinz archive. I did so on Tuesday 25 July and discovered that there was very little in the files except an incomplete email exchange and a report on the portrait of Mrs Smith held in Los Angeles, compiled in July 2017. All these documents were added to the file in July 2017 accord to notes on the documents. No specific date was given and I was informed by your archivist that you do not generally record the date that items are added to the files.

As I explained to you in my letter dated 20 July 2017, the owner of the Northcote portrait has clearly stated that she contacted 'the gallery' and that she received a reply from the National Portrait Gallery 'within hours'. Later in the same article, published in the Financial Times, she wrote 'Enter Jacob Simon, the man at the National Portrait Gallery who replied to our email and a canvas-stamp expert.' It is clear from this account that the owner did NOT contact Jacob Simon as an individual, she contacted the National Portrait Gallery and he attended as a representative of the Gallery.

The National Portrait Gallery's own research pages on British artist suppliers includes the following statement under the entry for William Legg: 'Legg’s canvas stamp, “Wm. LEGG,/ High-Holborn,/ LINEN.” is found on James Northcote’s Mrs Smith, 1803, with duty stamp dated 1802 (Private coll., London)'. The NPG website also includes a research paper which includes an image which purports to be of the Legg stamp on the back of the Northcote portrait and an image of the excise stamp with the date obscured. This research is written by Jacob Simon but is produced in his capacity as a research fellow at the National Portrait Gallery and it is held on the National Portrait Gallery research pages.

Moreover the email dated 24 March 2017 from Jacob Simon to the owner of the portrait is signed Jacob Simon, Research Fellow, National Portrait Gallery and is also sent from the National Portrait Gallery email server.

Nor has the National Portrait Gallery made any public statement that it does not endorse the authentication of the portrait known as 'Mrs Smith' by James Northcote by Jacob Simon.

Nor, as far as I am aware, has the National Portrait Gallery contacted the Financial Times to point out any inaccuracies in that newspaper's article titled 'Me, Mrs Smith and the mysterious Jane Austen' published in print on Saturday 01 April 2017.

It is therefore clear that the information in relation to this portrait is not private to Jacob Simon and in fact is the official business of the National Portrait Gallery and as such is subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

Furthermore, under Section 3 (2) of FOIA, information is held by a public authority if—
(a) it is held by the authority, otherwise than on behalf of another person, or
(b) it is held by another person on behalf of the authority.

The Commissioner has held that information held in private email accounts may be subject to the provisions of FOIA if it relates to the official business of the public authority.

I would also remind you that where information that is covered by a request is knowingly treated as not held because it is held in a private email account, this may count as concealment, with the person concealing the information being liable to prosecution.

Having read the email exchanges which are contained in the James Northcote artist file held at the Heinz Archive for the NPG, it is clear that these email exchanges are incomplete, and indeed the owner of the portrait, in an email dated 39 March 2017 which is present in the Northcote artist file at the NPG thanks Jacob Simon for his 'patience in attending to my endless queries' very few of which are evident in the file. I also note Jacob Simon's reply: 'Hurrah: almost out. All in a good cause'

I am therefore asking once more for the following information to be supplied, as I am entitled to receive under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

1. ALL correspondence, including all electronic correspondence, held by the National Portrait Gallery and including all information held on the National Portrait Gallery's email server in relation to the portrait known as 'Mrs Smith'by James Northcote and authenticated by Jacob Simon. Please also supply the metadata for all electronic communications.
Please confirm whether you hold information of the description specified above.

2. The authentication report compiled by Jacob Simon in relation to this painting of 'Mrs Smith'.
Please confirm whether you hold information of the description specified above.

3. An image of the Legg Stamp in situ on the back of the portrait of 'Mrs Smith'. The owner's husband stated in an email to Jacob Simon dated 14 October 2016 and held in the James Northcote file that he was intending to send 'two photos of the back of Mrs Smith's canvas' and wrote that he would be sending these in two separate emails 'as the images are very large (about 9MB each).' These images are not present in the file. Can you please supply these two images.
Please confirm whether you hold information of the description specified above.

4. An UNOBSCURED image of the excise stamp on the back of the portrait showing the date which Jacob Simon claims to be 1802 but which is not visible in any of the photographs thus far supplied. Please supply a HIGH RESOLUTION image as must have been taken at or around the time of authentication.
Please confirm whether you hold information of the description specified above.

5. All correspondence with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in relation to the portrait they hold and describe as 'Mrs Smith' by Northcote dated 1803.
Please confirm whether you hold information of the description specified above.

6. All correspondence and all enquiries relating to the provenance of the portrait known as 'Mrs Smith' as authenticated by Jacob Simon.
Please confirm whether you hold information of the description specified above.

7. All correspondence with any previous owners of the portrait known as 'Mrs Smith' as authenticated by Jacob Simon.
Please confirm whether you hold information of the description specified above.

As I have already travelled a considerable distance to view your files at the Heinz Archive, I am requesting that you supply this information to me in electronic format.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/i...

Yours faithfully,

Ellie Bennett

Archive Enquiry, The National Portrait Gallery

This is the e-mail address for enquiries about portraits and the collections and history of the National Portrait Gallery (including requests for information made under the Freedom of Information Act). The Gallery usually responds to portrait enquiries within 15-20 working days (except over the Easter and Christmas periods when there may be a delay). Freedom of Information requests are answered within 20 working days.

If you would like to make an appointment to visit the Heinz Archive & Library please contact: [email address]<mailto:[email address]>. The Public Study Room is closed from 24 December to 1 January inclusive.

For other types of enquiries please refer to the Gallery's website for contact details.

Note: we are not able to respond to enquiries about foreign portraits and non-portrait works of art, and neither are we able to provide advice on valuations. For subjects unrelated to British portraiture please contact a general art reference library and for valuations please contact a fine art auction house or dealer.

Images of portraits and correspondence sent to the Gallery may be kept for reference and research purposes.

Yours sincerely
Paul Cox
Associate Curator (Reference Collection)

Paul Cox, The National Portrait Gallery

Dear Ms Bennett,

Thank you for your email. The Gallery confirm we received your request for internal review and the Director of HR will be in charge of the investigation. She is working part time and is in the Gallery 3 days a week, therefore this may take longer than 20 working days, if this will be the case, the Gallery will inform you about it, and advise any potential delay.

Yours sincerely

show quoted sections

Original Message-----
From: Ellie Bennett [mailto:[FOI #414714 email]]
Sent: 30 July 2017 21:47
To: Archive Enquiry <[The National Portrait Gallery request email]>
Subject: Internal review of Freedom of Information request - Information on portrait said to be by James Northcote of 'Mrs Smith'

Dear Dr Cullinan,
Director of the National Portrait Gallery

I am writing to request an internal review of The National Portrait Gallery's handling of my FOIA request 'Information on portrait said to be by James Northcote of 'Mrs Smith''.

As you will be aware, under the Freedom Of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) there is a presumption in favour of disclosure of information. Under Section 1 (1) of FOIA, any person making a request for information to a public authority is entitled:
(a) to be informed in writing by the public authority whether it holds information of the description specified in the request, and
(b) if that is the case, to have that information communicated to him.

In my Freedom of Information request submitted on 27 June 2017, I requested that you provide all information held by the NPG in relation to the portrait authenticated by Jacob Simon of the National Portrait Gallery as being'Mrs Smith' by James Northcote dated 1803.

I specifically requested a copy of the authentication report, images of the William Legg stamp and an image of the complete excise stamp including the full date. I also requested all correspondence between the NPG and outside individuals in relation to this picture.

In your response dated 17 July 2017 the NPG stated that Jacob Simon 'was expressing his personal views as an expert in the field'. You claimed that Jacob Simon was acting on his own account and not as a representative of the National Portrait Gallery. With regard to the Legg stamp, you stated that the stamp was publicly available online on your website however this does not show the stamp in situ on the portrait and is of such poor quality it is of little use. You state in your response that a complete excise stamp is available at http://www.npg.org.uk/assets/files/pdf/r...
There is no image of the COMPLETE excise stamp available on this report or anywhere else online.

I was invited to view the files held at the Heinz archive. I did so on Tuesday 25 July and discovered that there was very little in the files except an incomplete email exchange and a report on the portrait of Mrs Smith held in Los Angeles, compiled in July 2017. All these documents were added to the file in July 2017 accord to notes on the documents. No specific date was given and I was informed by your archivist that you do not generally record the date that items are added to the files.

As I explained to you in my letter dated 20 July 2017, the owner of the Northcote portrait has clearly stated that she contacted 'the gallery' and that she received a reply from the National Portrait Gallery 'within hours'. Later in the same article, published in the Financial Times, she wrote 'Enter Jacob Simon, the man at the National Portrait Gallery who replied to our email and a canvas-stamp expert.' It is clear from this account that the owner did NOT contact Jacob Simon as an individual, she contacted the National Portrait Gallery and he attended as a representative of the Gallery.

The National Portrait Gallery's own research pages on British artist suppliers includes the following statement under the entry for William Legg: 'Legg’s canvas stamp, “Wm. LEGG,/ High-Holborn,/ LINEN.” is found on James Northcote’s Mrs Smith, 1803, with duty stamp dated 1802 (Private coll., London)'. The NPG website also includes a research paper which includes an image which purports to be of the Legg stamp on the back of the Northcote portrait and an image of the excise stamp with the date obscured. This research is written by Jacob Simon but is produced in his capacity as a research fellow at the National Portrait Gallery and it is held on the National Portrait Gallery research pages.

Moreover the email dated 24 March 2017 from Jacob Simon to the owner of the portrait is signed Jacob Simon, Research Fellow, National Portrait Gallery and is also sent from the National Portrait Gallery email server.

Nor has the National Portrait Gallery made any public statement that it does not endorse the authentication of the portrait known as 'Mrs Smith' by James Northcote by Jacob Simon.

Nor, as far as I am aware, has the National Portrait Gallery contacted the Financial Times to point out any inaccuracies in that newspaper's article titled 'Me, Mrs Smith and the mysterious Jane Austen' published in print on Saturday 01 April 2017.

It is therefore clear that the information in relation to this portrait is not private to Jacob Simon and in fact is the official business of the National Portrait Gallery and as such is subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

Furthermore, under Section 3 (2) of FOIA, information is held by a public authority if—
(a) it is held by the authority, otherwise than on behalf of another person, or
(b) it is held by another person on behalf of the authority.

The Commissioner has held that information held in private email accounts may be subject to the provisions of FOIA if it relates to the official business of the public authority.

I would also remind you that where information that is covered by a request is knowingly treated as not held because it is held in a private email account, this may count as concealment, with the person concealing the information being liable to prosecution.

Having read the email exchanges which are contained in the James Northcote artist file held at the Heinz Archive for the NPG, it is clear that these email exchanges are incomplete, and indeed the owner of the portrait, in an email dated 39 March 2017 which is present in the Northcote artist file at the NPG thanks Jacob Simon for his 'patience in attending to my endless queries' very few of which are evident in the file. I also note Jacob Simon's reply: 'Hurrah: almost out. All in a good cause'

I am therefore asking once more for the following information to be supplied, as I am entitled to receive under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

1. ALL correspondence, including all electronic correspondence, held by the National Portrait Gallery and including all information held on the National Portrait Gallery's email server in relation to the portrait known as 'Mrs Smith'by James Northcote and authenticated by Jacob Simon. Please also supply the metadata for all electronic communications.
Please confirm whether you hold information of the description specified above.

2. The authentication report compiled by Jacob Simon in relation to this painting of 'Mrs Smith'.
Please confirm whether you hold information of the description specified above.

3. An image of the Legg Stamp in situ on the back of the portrait of 'Mrs Smith'. The owner's husband stated in an email to Jacob Simon dated 14 October 2016 and held in the James Northcote file that he was intending to send 'two photos of the back of Mrs Smith's canvas' and wrote that he would be sending these in two separate emails 'as the images are very large (about 9MB each).' These images are not present in the file. Can you please supply these two images.
Please confirm whether you hold information of the description specified above.

4. An UNOBSCURED image of the excise stamp on the back of the portrait showing the date which Jacob Simon claims to be 1802 but which is not visible in any of the photographs thus far supplied. Please supply a HIGH RESOLUTION image as must have been taken at or around the time of authentication.
Please confirm whether you hold information of the description specified above.

5. All correspondence with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in relation to the portrait they hold and describe as 'Mrs Smith' by Northcote dated 1803.
Please confirm whether you hold information of the description specified above.

6. All correspondence and all enquiries relating to the provenance of the portrait known as 'Mrs Smith' as authenticated by Jacob Simon.
Please confirm whether you hold information of the description specified above.

7. All correspondence with any previous owners of the portrait known as 'Mrs Smith' as authenticated by Jacob Simon.
Please confirm whether you hold information of the description specified above.

As I have already travelled a considerable distance to view your files at the Heinz Archive, I am requesting that you supply this information to me in electronic format.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/i...

Yours faithfully,

Ellie Bennett

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Dear Mr Cox,

Further to your reply dated 31 July 2017, it is clear from your response that the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) is not taking its responsibilities under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) seriously.

Your response to my initial request under FOIA was inadequate. You failed to confirm whether you do hold the information I requested as you are required to do under Section 1 (1) (a) of FOIA and you failed also to supply the information I requested. Section 10 of FOIA requires you to supply this information promptly and in any event not later than the twentieth working day following the date of receipt. Moreover in your response you incorrectly suggested that the information was held by a private individual, namely Jacob Simon, on his own account when he was in fact acting in his capacity as a representative of the NPG. Nor have you sent a written refusal notice.

The information I am requesting is not onerous or time consuming and should be quickly and easily accessed. For your information I have been asking for information about this portrait and the alleged Legg stamp on the back since 22 December 2016 when I initially asked the Director in an email for images of the stamp. Since then the only images which has been available are via the internet and of such poor quality that I have been advised by a photographic expert that these images are wholly inadequate.

You now inform me that the internal enquiry I have requested regarding your non-compliance with FOIA 'may take longer than 20 days'. As you are already non-compliant, I now request that you supply the information I have requested promptly and within the next twenty days at the very latest, although I accept that your internal investigation into why my initial request was not complied with may take longer. For the avoidance of any doubt I am again listing here the information I am requesting from the NPG and which I expect to be supplied promptly as required under Section 1 of the FOIA:

1. ALL correspondence, including all electronic correspondence, held by the National Portrait Gallery and including all information held on the National Portrait Gallery's email server in relation to the portrait known as 'Mrs Smith'by James Northcote and authenticated by Jacob Simon. Please also supply the metadata for all electronic communications.
Please confirm whether you hold information of the description specified above.

2. The authentication report compiled by Jacob Simon in relation to this painting of 'Mrs Smith'.
Please confirm whether you hold information of the description specified above.

3. A digital image of the Legg Stamp in situ on the back of the portrait of 'Mrs Smith'. The owner's husband stated in an email to Jacob Simon dated 14 October 2016 and held in the James Northcote file that he was intending to send 'two photos of the back of Mrs Smith's canvas' and wrote that he would be sending these in two separate emails 'as the images are very large (about 9MB each).' These images are not present in the file. Can you please supply these two images of 9MB each.
Please confirm whether you hold information of the description specified above.

4. An UNOBSCURED image of the excise stamp on the back of the portrait showing the date which Jacob Simon claims to be 1802 but which is not visible in any of the photographs thus far supplied. Please supply a HIGH RESOLUTION image as must have been taken at or around the time of authentication.
Please confirm whether you hold information of the description specified above.

5. All correspondence with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in relation to the portrait they hold and describe as 'Mrs Smith' by Northcote dated 1803.
Please confirm whether you hold information of the description specified above.

6. All correspondence and all enquiries relating to the provenance of the portrait known as 'Mrs Smith' as authenticated by Jacob Simon.
Please confirm whether you hold information of the description specified above.

7. All correspondence with any previous owners of the portrait known as 'Mrs Smith' as authenticated by Jacob Simon.
Please confirm whether you hold information of the description specified above.

Please now fulfil your obligations under the law and either supply this information promptly or provide a written refusal notice. I am requesting that you supply this information to me in electronic format. If this information is not supplied promptly then I will be making a complaint to the Information Commissioner's Office.

My request relates to a potentially serious matter. The fact that no documentary evidence for this alleged portrait by James Northcote has been forthcoming from the NPG leads me to suspect that there has been serious wrongdoing at the National Portrait Gallery, suspicions which the NPG's obstructive approach to my Freedom of Information request is doing nothing to dispel.

I look forward to your prompt reply to my request.

Yours sincerely,

Ellie Bennett

Lornette Pemberton, The National Portrait Gallery

Dear Ms Bennett

 

I am writing to provide an update on your request for an internal review
of the National Portrait Gallery’s handling of your Freedom of Information
(FOI) request of 27^th June 2017, to notify you that the internal review
will not be completed within 20 working days and provide an explanation
for this.

 

As I have no prior knowledge of or involvement with this matter, I have
been asked to undertake this review. In reviewing your email of 1^st
August 2017 to Paul Cox, I note you identify seven areas where you feel
that your original FOI request was not complied with. I believe that I
need to undertake a thorough investigation into whether any of the
additional information you refer to in your email of 1^st August is indeed
available and whether, as a result , your original FOI request was
complied with.

 

This investigation includes conducting interviews, for example with
Paulina and Jacob, and arranging for our IT team to undertake a search of
our IT systems, which will take some time to run. Once done I will then
need to review all documents highlighted through the search containing the
terms used as the basis for the search i.e. ‘James Northcote’, ’Mrs
Smith’, to identify any documents that are relevant to your FOI request,
including the areas set out in your email of 1^st August.

 

The ability to undertake this level of investigation is compounded by my
availability, as you will be aware that I work three days per week for the
Gallery. As such, I am aiming to be in a position to confirm the outcome
of my internal review by Monday 18^th September. I understand that you may
be frustrated with the additional time needed for me to complete the
review, particularly given the time that has already lapsed since your
original FOI request. However, I hope that you will recognise my desire to
undertake a full and thorough review in relation to this matter.

 

Please do not hesitate to contact me in the meantime should you have any
queries in relation to this matter.

 

Kind regards

 

Lornette

 

References

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Dear Lornette,

Thank you for your letter dated 23 August 2017.

While I appreciate that you personally have no prior knowledge of this matter, as I indicated in my letter of 01 August 2017, I have been asking the National Portrait Gallery for information relating to the James Northcote portrait of Mrs Smith for many months now.

The information I requested should all be easily accessible to you. As I said in my last letter, while I appreciate that your internal review of what went wrong may take some time, there is no reason why the information I requested should be supplied immediately, as was originally requested in my first request dated 27 JUNE 2017. If you do not hold the information then you should supply confirmation that this is the case.

This information should have been supplied within 20 working days of my original request, which was by 25 July 2017, as you are required by law to do. The reply I received to my request was entirely inadequate. I asked again on 01 August 2017 for the information to be supplied within the next 20 working days. The deadline to this sescond request is therefore 29 August 2017. I am not prepared to wait a further 14 days for this information, given the excessive amount of time that has passed since my initial request.

I understand that you personally are not working full-time and so if you are unable to fulfill this time scale which the law requres then I suggest that you ask the Director to allocate more resources to this matter.

It is not acceptable for the NPG to claim that this information is privately held by Jacob Simon. He is working at the NPG, using the facilities of the NPG and his research into James Northcote is marked on the NPG website as copyright of the NPG. The article by Ms Ahuja in the Financial Times also states that she contacted the NPG, not that she contacted Jacob Simon in a private capacity, indeed she refers to 'Jacob Simon, the man at the National Portrait Gallery who replied to our email'.

If I do not receive as a minimum, the information I requested in points 2, 3 and 4 of my letter of 01 August 2017 by the 20th working day following my second request which I calculate to be 29 August 2017, then I will be making an immediate complaint to the Information Commissioner regarding the NPG's handling of my FOIA request and to the Charities Commission regarding the concerns I have about potential wrongdoing at the NPG in relation to this Northcote Portrait, the so-called Rice Portrait of Jane Austen and other matters.

I appreciate that the other information I have requested may take longer to supply and I expect to receive this by 18 September 2017 as promised.

For the sake of clarity, I am repeating here the information I requested in paragraphs 2,3 and 4 of my letter of 01 August 2017 which I would like to be supplied immediately. This should all be in your files and easily accessible.

2. The authentication report compiled by Jacob Simon in relation to the Northcote painting of 'Mrs Smith'.
Please confirm whether you hold information of the description specified above.

3. An image of the Legg Stamp in situ on the back of the portrait of 'Mrs Smith'. The owner's husband stated in an email to Jacob Simon dated 14 October 2016 and held in the James Northcote file that he was intending to send 'two photos of the back of Mrs Smith's canvas' and wrote that he would be sending these in two separate emails 'as the images are very large (about 9MB each).' These images are not present in the file. Can you please supply these two images.
Please confirm whether you hold information of the description specified above.

NOTE: I have been asking the NPG for an image of this stamp since 22 DECEMBER 2016.

4. An UNOBSCURED image of the excise stamp on the back of the portrait showing the date which Jacob Simon claims to be 1802 but which is not visible in any of the photographs thus far supplied. Please supply a HIGH RESOLUTION image as must have been taken at or around the time of authentication.
Please confirm whether you hold information of the description specified above.

I look forward to receiving this information by 29 August 2017.

Yours sincerely,

Ellie Bennett

Lornette Pemberton, The National Portrait Gallery

Thank you for your email.

I work part time and will not be available until Wednesday 30 August. If you have an urgent query in my absence, please contact Lyndsay Devonshire ([email address])

Your message has not been forwarded.

Regards

Lornette Pemberton

Dear The National Portrait Gallery,

I have just received an automated reply to my letter sent to you today regarding my ongoing FOIA request.

In the absence of Lornette Pemberton who apparently is away until 30 August can you please confirm that my letter will be dealt with in the next seven days.

Yours faithfully,

Ellie Bennett

Archive Enquiry, The National Portrait Gallery

This is the e-mail address for enquiries about portraits and the collections and history of the National Portrait Gallery (including requests for information made under the Freedom of Information Act). The Gallery usually responds to portrait enquiries within 15-20 working days (except over the Easter and Christmas periods when there may be a delay). Freedom of Information requests are answered within 20 working days.

If you would like to make an appointment to visit the Heinz Archive & Library please contact: [email address]<mailto:[email address]>. The Public Study Room is closed from 24 December to 1 January inclusive.

For other types of enquiries please refer to the Gallery's website for contact details.

Note: we are not able to respond to enquiries about foreign portraits and non-portrait works of art, and neither are we able to provide advice on valuations. For subjects unrelated to British portraiture please contact a general art reference library and for valuations please contact a fine art auction house or dealer.

Images of portraits and correspondence sent to the Gallery may be kept for reference and research purposes.

Yours sincerely
Paul Cox
Associate Curator (Reference Collection)

Lornette Pemberton, The National Portrait Gallery

Dear Mrs Bennett

I confirm receipt of your email, the contents of which are noted. I will endeavour to respond on those three points on Tuesday and have changed my working days next week accordingly. In any event I will provide you with an update by then.

Thank you for your agreement to extend the timescale for me to respond to the other points. I will of course respond before then if I am able to.

Regards

Lornette

Dear Lornette,

Thank you very much for confirming that this will be dealt with within the timescales I have requested.

Unfortunately the recurrent delays on the part of the NPG in dealing with this have not been acceptable. As I mentioned in my last letter, this has been going on for months now and the information I have asked for should not have been difficult to provide, had it been present in the relevant files as one would have expected.

I understand that the delays are not your personal fault and I very much appreciate you changing your working arrangements to facilitate my request. I am also sorry for the inconvenience this causes you.

I look forward to hearing from you on Tuesday.

Yours sincerely,

Ellie Bennett

Lornette Pemberton, The National Portrait Gallery

Thank you for your email.

I work part time and will not be available until Tuesday 29th August. If you have an urgent query in my absence, please contact Lyndsay Devonshire ([email address])

Your message has not been forwarded.

Regards

Lornette Pemberton

Lornette Pemberton, The National Portrait Gallery

Dear Ms Bennett

Further to my email of 23rd August and your subsequent emails, I am writing to respond to your request for the information requested in paragraphs 2,3 and 4 of your letter of 01 August 2017. My response to each point in turn is as follows:

2. The authentication report compiled by Jacob Simon in relation to the Northcote painting of 'Mrs Smith'.

We do not hold information of the description specified above. My understanding is that no written report of Jacob's Simon's visit was made and Jacob's opinion on the painting was provided verbally to the owner on the day of the visit.

3. An image of the Legg Stamp in situ on the back of the portrait of 'Mrs Smith'. The owner's husband stated in an email to Jacob Simon dated 14 October 2016 and held in the James Northcote file that he was intending to send 'two photos of the back of Mrs Smith's canvas' and wrote that he would be sending these in two separate emails 'as the images are very large (about 9MB each).' These images are not present in the file. Can you please supply these two images.

We do not hold any images other that the image that you viewed when you viewed on 25th July. My understanding is that the a 1MB image was produced from one of the pictures received. This is the picture you viewed. The 9MB images were not retained due to the size of the files and our electronic storage capacity.

4. An UNOBSCURED image of the excise stamp on the back of the portrait showing the date which Jacob Simon claims to be 1802 but which is not visible in any of the photographs thus far supplied. Please supply a HIGH RESOLUTION image as must have been taken at or around the time of authentication.

We do not hold information of the description specified above. The excise stamp was viewed by Jacob and the owner on the day of Jacob's visit and photograph of the stamp was not taken.

This responds to the three points it was agreed that I would respond to by today. I will respond to the remaining points from your letter of 1st August by 18th September as agreed.

Yours sincerely

Lornette

Original Message-----
From: Ellie Bennett [mailto:[FOI #414714 email]]
Sent: 24 August 2017 14:13
To: Lornette Pemberton <[email address]>
Subject: Re: Internal Review of Freedom of Information Request - Information on portrait said to be by James Northcote of 'Mrs Smith'

Dear Lornette,

Thank you for your letter dated 23 August 2017.

While I appreciate that you personally have no prior knowledge of this matter, as I indicated in my letter of 01 August 2017, I have been asking the National Portrait Gallery for information relating to the James Northcote portrait of Mrs Smith for many months now.

The information I requested should all be easily accessible to you. As I said in my last letter, while I appreciate that your internal review of what went wrong may take some time, there is no reason why the information I requested should be supplied immediately, as was originally requested in my first request dated 27 JUNE 2017. If you do not hold the information then you should supply confirmation that this is the case.

This information should have been supplied within 20 working days of my original request, which was by 25 July 2017, as you are required by law to do. The reply I received to my request was entirely inadequate. I asked again on 01 August 2017 for the information to be supplied within the next 20 working days. The deadline to this sescond request is therefore 29 August 2017. I am not prepared to wait a further 14 days for this information, given the excessive amount of time that has passed since my initial request.

I understand that you personally are not working full-time and so if you are unable to fulfill this time scale which the law requres then I suggest that you ask the Director to allocate more resources to this matter.

It is not acceptable for the NPG to claim that this information is privately held by Jacob Simon. He is working at the NPG, using the facilities of the NPG and his research into James Northcote is marked on the NPG website as copyright of the NPG. The article by Ms Ahuja in the Financial Times also states that she contacted the NPG, not that she contacted Jacob Simon in a private capacity, indeed she refers to 'Jacob Simon, the man at the National Portrait Gallery who replied to our email'.

If I do not receive as a minimum, the information I requested in points 2, 3 and 4 of my letter of 01 August 2017 by the 20th working day following my second request which I calculate to be 29 August 2017, then I will be making an immediate complaint to the Information Commissioner regarding the NPG's handling of my FOIA request and to the Charities Commission regarding the concerns I have about potential wrongdoing at the NPG in relation to this Northcote Portrait, the so-called Rice Portrait of Jane Austen and other matters.

I appreciate that the other information I have requested may take longer to supply and I expect to receive this by 18 September 2017 as promised.

For the sake of clarity, I am repeating here the information I requested in paragraphs 2,3 and 4 of my letter of 01 August 2017 which I would like to be supplied immediately. This should all be in your files and easily accessible.

2. The authentication report compiled by Jacob Simon in relation to the Northcote painting of 'Mrs Smith'.
Please confirm whether you hold information of the description specified above.

3. An image of the Legg Stamp in situ on the back of the portrait of 'Mrs Smith'. The owner's husband stated in an email to Jacob Simon dated 14 October 2016 and held in the James Northcote file that he was intending to send 'two photos of the back of Mrs Smith's canvas' and wrote that he would be sending these in two separate emails 'as the images are very large (about 9MB each).' These images are not present in the file. Can you please supply these two images.
Please confirm whether you hold information of the description specified above.

NOTE: I have been asking the NPG for an image of this stamp since 22 DECEMBER 2016.

4. An UNOBSCURED image of the excise stamp on the back of the portrait showing the date which Jacob Simon claims to be 1802 but which is not visible in any of the photographs thus far supplied. Please supply a HIGH RESOLUTION image as must have been taken at or around the time of authentication.
Please confirm whether you hold information of the description specified above.

I look forward to receiving this information by 29 August 2017.

Yours sincerely,

Ellie Bennett

Dear Lornette,

Thank you for your letter, however I am sure you are aware that this response is woefully inadequate.

You state that there is no written authentication report for the Northcote painting. I find this utterly preposterous. Jacob Simon knew how important this Northcote painting is for the Rice Portrait, a picture which he has campaigned against for decades. Yet he made no notes and recorded no information?

You state that the 9MB files which were sent in of the back the portrait were not retained. Can you confirm whether you have asked your IT department whether these files can be retrieved? If not then I suggest that you ask your IT department to do so immediately. In any event it should be possible to arrange for the owner of the Northcote portrait to resend the files so please can you arrange this as a matter of urgency. It is clear from the email exchanges that Jacob Simon has a friendly relationship with the owner.

You state that Jacob Simon did not take a photograph of the date on the back of the canvas when he authenticated the portrait. Given the importance of this stamp for not only the authentication of this portrait but also the reputation of both Jacob Simon and Anjana Ahuja the owner of the Northcote portrait, she should have no objection to supplying an image of the date stamp. I suggest you arrange this as a matter of urgency. I find it utterly incomprehensible that Jacob Simon would not take an image of the date stamp at the time of his visit.

I also find it extremely unlikely that he would have verified a portrait on the same night, verbally, with no research, no provenance and no independent verification, when he knew very well the implications of this portrait for the Rice Portrait.

In the light of your reply I will now be proceeding with my complaint to both the Information Commissioner and to the Charities Commission. I will also be informing the Trustees of the National Portrait Gallery that I am registering these complaints.

Yours sincerely,

Ellie Bennett

Lornette Pemberton, The National Portrait Gallery

Thank you for your email.

I work part time and will not be available until Thursday 31 August. If you have an urgent query in my absence, please contact Lyndsay Devonshire ([email address])

Your message has not been forwarded.

Regards

Lornette Pemberton

Lornette Pemberton, The National Portrait Gallery

Dear Ms Bennett

I write to acknowledge receipt of your email.

You will be aware from my previous correspondence that as part of my review a search of our IT system will be undertaken. Any information retrieved through this that is relevant to your FOI request will be provided to you.

I note your suggestion that I approach the owner to obtain an image of the date stamp at the back of the canvas. Such action is outside the scope of our obligations in relation to your FOI request. If you would like me to pass on your request and your contact details on to the owner so that they can decide whether they wish to respond to you directly on that matter, please let me know. I will not otherwise be corresponding any further on this matter until I am in a position to provide my response to your request for an internal review.

Your sincerely

Lornette

Original Message-----
From: Ellie Bennett [mailto:[FOI #414714 email]]
Sent: 29 August 2017 21:19
To: Lornette Pemberton <[email address]>
Subject: RE: Internal Review of Freedom of Information Request - Information on portrait said to be by James Northcote of 'Mrs Smith'

Dear Lornette,

Thank you for your letter, however I am sure you are aware that this response is woefully inadequate.

You state that there is no written authentication report for the Northcote painting. I find this utterly preposterous. Jacob Simon knew how important this Northcote painting is for the Rice Portrait, a picture which he has campaigned against for decades. Yet he made no notes and recorded no information?

You state that the 9MB files which were sent in of the back the portrait were not retained. Can you confirm whether you have asked your IT department whether these files can be retrieved? If not then I suggest that you ask your IT department to do so immediately. In any event it should be possible to arrange for the owner of the Northcote portrait to resend the files so please can you arrange this as a matter of urgency. It is clear from the email exchanges that Jacob Simon has a friendly relationship with the owner.

You state that Jacob Simon did not take a photograph of the date on the back of the canvas when he authenticated the portrait. Given the importance of this stamp for not only the authentication of this portrait but also the reputation of both Jacob Simon and Anjana Ahuja the owner of the Northcote portrait, she should have no objection to supplying an image of the date stamp. I suggest you arrange this as a matter of urgency. I find it utterly incomprehensible that Jacob Simon would not take an image of the date stamp at the time of his visit.

I also find it extremely unlikely that he would have verified a portrait on the same night, verbally, with no research, no provenance and no independent verification, when he knew very well the implications of this portrait for the Rice Portrait.

In the light of your reply I will now be proceeding with my complaint to both the Information Commissioner and to the Charities Commission. I will also be informing the Trustees of the National Portrait Gallery that I am registering these complaints.

Yours sincerely,

Ellie Bennett

Dear Lornette,

I look forward to receiving all the remaining information I requested in my Freedom of Information Request or your confirmation that you do not hold the information I have requested.

I would be very grateful if you would pass on my request and my email address to the owner of the Northcote portrait, Anjana Ahuja. However please note that I do NOT give permission for my other contact details to be passed on to her. However as she has already refused a request from the owner of the Rice portrait to see the evidence which supports her claims for this portrait, I am not optimistic, which is why I hoped you would have more success. She also did not reply to my attempt to contact her via the auction house.

I look forward to receiving your response by 18 September as originally promised.

Yours sincerely,

Ellie Bennett

Lornette Pemberton, The National Portrait Gallery

Thank you for your email.

I work part time and will not be available until Tuesday 5 Septmber. If you have an urgent query in my absence, please contact Lyndsay Devonshire ([email address])

Your message has not been forwarded.

Regards

Lornette Pemberton

Dear The National Portrait Gallery,

Further to our previous correspondence, I requested as part of my Freedom of Information Request the following:

An UNOBSCURED image of the excise stamp on the back of the portrait showing the date which Jacob Simon claims to be 1802 but which is not visible in any of the photographs thus far supplied. Please supply a HIGH RESOLUTION image as must have been taken at or around the time of authentication.

In your reply dated 29 August 2017 you stated:

"We do not hold information of the description specified above. The excise stamp was viewed by Jacob and the owner on the day of Jacob's visit and photograph of the stamp was not taken."

I now see that an image which purports to be of the complete date stamp on the back of the Northcote painting under discussion has appeared on your website. It can be found here: http://www.npg.org.uk/assets/files/pdf/r...

Can you explain why you told me there was no image of the date stamp when it is now on your website? Can you also confirm that this is definitively an image of the excise stamp on the back of the portrait described as 'Mrs Smith' by James Northcote?

Yours faithfully,

Ellie Bennett

Archive Enquiry, The National Portrait Gallery

This is the e-mail address for enquiries about portraits and the collections and history of the National Portrait Gallery (including requests for information made under the Freedom of Information Act). The Gallery usually responds to portrait enquiries within 15-20 working days (except over the Easter and Christmas periods when there may be a delay). Freedom of Information requests are answered within 20 working days.

If you would like to make an appointment to visit the Heinz Archive & Library please contact: [email address]<mailto:[email address]>. The Public Study Room is closed from 24 December to 1 January inclusive.

For other types of enquiries please refer to the Gallery's website for contact details.

Note: we are not able to respond to enquiries about foreign portraits and non-portrait works of art, and neither are we able to provide advice on valuations. For subjects unrelated to British portraiture please contact a general art reference library and for valuations please contact a fine art auction house or dealer.

Images of portraits and correspondence sent to the Gallery may be kept for reference and research purposes.

Yours sincerely
Paul Cox
Associate Curator (Reference Collection)

Lornette Pemberton, The National Portrait Gallery

7 Attachments

Dear Ms Bennet

I write further to our previous correspondence below. I have now completed my internal review of your FOI request. This has involved:

Meeting with Paulina Jedwabska, Records and Freedom of Information Manager
Meeting with Lucy Peltz, Curator, 18th Century Collection
Meeting with Jacob Simon, (Volunteer) Senior Research Fellow
Reviewing the original FOI request and the response to this
Reviewing the 'Mrs Smith' file held by the Gallery
Requesting our IT department undertake a search of the Gallery's IT system with reference to 'Mrs Smith' and 'James Northcote'.

From the IT search I have been able to retrieve some documents in addition to those that you have already received or been provided with access to. The additional documents are attached. Personal Data has been redacted in accordance with Data Protection Act and Freedom of Information Act s.40.

These are all the relevant documents that we have been able to retrieve. I do not have any reason to believe that any of this information was intentionally withheld and I believe that our IT department have been able to retrieve these for me based on the specific search criteria used.

I am aware that you recently sent an enquiry to the Gallery FOI mailbox regarding the picture of date stamp on the back of the canvas of the Mrs Smith portrait, which now appears on the NPG website. It was my intention to alert you in my response to the fact that since our previous correspondence, we have been able to obtain an image from the owner, which we have made available on the NPG website.

I believe that this now concludes the internal review and specifically, your request for information as set out in points 1 to 7 of your email of 1st August 2017. As such, there is no further internal recourse in relation to this matter.

Yours sincerely

Lornette

Original Message-----
From: Ellie Bennett [mailto:[FOI #414714 email]]
Sent: 03 September 2017 18:50
To: Lornette Pemberton <[email address]>
Subject: RE: Internal Review of Freedom of Information Request - Information on portrait said to be by James Northcote of 'Mrs Smith'

Dear Lornette,

I look forward to receiving all the remaining information I requested in my Freedom of Information Request or your confirmation that you do not hold the information I have requested.

I would be very grateful if you would pass on my request and my email address to the owner of the Northcote portrait, Anjana Ahuja. However please note that I do NOT give permission for my other contact details to be passed on to her. However as she has already refused a request from the owner of the Rice portrait to see the evidence which supports her claims for this portrait, I am not optimistic, which is why I hoped you would have more success. She also did not reply to my attempt to contact her via the auction house.

I look forward to receiving your response by 18 September as originally promised.

Yours sincerely,

Ellie Bennett

Dear Lornette,

Thank you for your letter of 18 September 2017 and the information you have supplied. I would also like to thank you for the time you have taken in dealing with my request.

With regard to the new image which appears on the NPG website, I note you state you 'have been able to obtain an image from the owner'. As you have not sent me any correspondence between the owner and the NPG, how was this image requested and how was it supplied? Are you able to confirm whether you hold any correspondence from the owner, Ms Anjana Ahuja or from her husband Mr Tom Parker, relating to this latest image?

It is in any event not what I requested, which was a high resolution image of both the Legg stamp and the date stamp on the back of the picture, neither of which you have been able to provide. The image on your website is not high resolution and it is therefore not possible to check whether it has been tampered with in any way and as such it is insufficient as proof of the date on the back of the 'Northcote'.

I note that you have also been unable to supply either a verification report from Jacob Simon or any research into the provenance of the painting which Jacob Simon verified as being Mrs Smith by James Northcote dated 1803.

The National Portrait Gallery has been unable to supply evidence that this picture is as claimed and I therefore do not believe the painting to be a portrait of Mrs Smith by James Northcote dated 1803.

I am extremely concerned that the National Portrait Gallery is supporting this alleged Northcote portrait by including information and images on your website in favour of this picture. I also note that Senior Curator Dr Lucy Peltz cites this Northcote portrait in the 'Timeline of the Rice Portrait' which you supplied to me as part of this request. It is evident, therefore, that the NPG is endorsing this picture, a position which raises very serious questions regarding the probity of the National Portrait Gallery.

I will now be reporting my serious concerns regarding the National Portrait Gallery to the Charity Commission.

Yours sincerely,

Ellie Bennett

Lornette Pemberton, The National Portrait Gallery

Thank you for your email.

I work part time and will not be available until the afternoon of Monday 25 September. If you have an urgent query in my absence, please contact Tracy Barker. ([email address]).

Your message has not been forwarded.

Regards

Lornette Pemberton

Becky Bbear left an annotation ()

Ms Bennett:

The Charity Commission will not be able to assist you with this matter, as it relates to issues falling outside the scope and range of its powers/role.

The issue does not involve charity law and could be considered to be a 'private' disagreement of facts relating to the artwork in question. As such this is neither a matter of the administration/governance of the NPG as a charity, nor a matter of charity law requiring the involvement of the Commission.

While by no means an expert in determining the provenance or authenticity of artworks, it seems that the dispute could be resolved via non-destructive carbon dating analysis of the pigments/varnish/canvas, possibly supplemented by x-ray scanning to identify any discrepancies such as palimpsest under-images if a 'period authentic' canvas has been re-used to create a copy of the other known 'version' of the Mrs Smith artwork.

As you will be aware it is not entirely unknown however for an artist to produce more than a single copy or version of an artwork, for a number of reasons, therefore it is always a possibility even tests such as those suggested above may not be fully conclusive.

In any event, the matter is unlikely to be resolved until such time as either 'copy' again comes up for sale, when the doubts already raised will almost certainly lead to more detailed testing/analysis.

Becky

Ellie Bennett left an annotation ()

Thank you BeckyBbear for your interest and I appreciate your comments which are no doubt intended to be helpful. However I am surprised that you state the Charity Commission would not be interested in this issue as you do not know the details of my complaint and nor do you know what evidence I am planning to submit. I can say that the issues are wider than this individual FOIA request.

I will be proceeding with my complaint. If the Charity Commission decide it is not within their remit then they will no doubt inform me accordingly.
Thanks again for your interest in my complaint against the National Portrait Gallery.

Becky Bbear left an annotation ()

Ms Bennett:

May I suggest you read the Commission's guidance publication on complaints against charities -

https://www.gov.uk/government/publicatio....

Unless you have evidence that the charity's trustee body have in some way acted outside/beyond their powers as the charity's decision-making body, or acted contrary to charity law, the Commission will not become involved.

It is of course entirely your decision whether or not to make a complaint to the Commission, but if you do, in 20 days expect them to simply direct you to the same guidance as above.

May also be worth noting that the Freedom of Information Act 2000 does not require Authorities/Public Bodies subject to it to gather or collate new information they do not already hold, simply in order to respond to a request.

Meaning for example if the NPG did not currently have a HD image of the complete date stamp, they would not be required by the Act to create/obtain one just to respond to that part of your request to them.

In any event good luck with your request(s) it certainly is an interesting issue/mystery.

Becky

Lornette Pemberton, The National Portrait Gallery

Dear Ms Bennett

I write to acknowledge receipt of your email and to confirm that the internal review of your FOI request is now complete. I have endeavoured to identify and provide all of the available information relating to your original FOI request and as such, if you are unhappy with the outcome of the internal review you have the right to raise your concerns with the ICO.

If you would like further information outside of the scope of timescale of your original FOI request, this should be submitted to the NPG FOI inbox ([email address]).

Please note that as the internal review is complete, I will not be corresponding any further on this matter and any further correspondence received will be forwarded to the FOI inbox.

Regards

Lornette

Ellie Bennett left an annotation ()

BeckyBbear. I am already familiar with the guidance but thank you.

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