John Thomas Smith

It's an interesting moment when a book dealer brings in something that neither the dealer nor you yourself quite know what it could possibly be. The item in question was an eight-page manuscript in ink, entitled Catalogue of an exhibition of paintings now exhibiting at the Lyceum Strand the whole painted by Mr Keyse. It looks like a maquette for a printed catalog, as the manuscript hand imitates typography. And it has “Kemish printer Borough” on its cover. Intriguingly, there is a date of 1827, crossed out in pencil and Nov 1797 inserted. There are 72 paintings of which seven are starred as for sale, mainly works not by Keyse. Painting No. 51 is described as “lately painted by Mr Keyse at the age of 78 years." Keyse may have been born in 1721, which would give an approximate date of 1799 and probably before Keyse died on 8 February 1800; otherwise it would have said “painted by the late Mr Keyse.” Many of the paintings were auctioned by Peter Coxe, Burrell & Foster on Thursday, 4 August 1803, which would make a date of 1827 unlikely.