“Excuse the admiration of a connoisseur” [HOUN]
One of the unexpected duties (evidently) of the inhabitant of Baskerville Hall was the recitation of his forbears who were represented in portraits in the main hall.
When Sherlock Holmes first joins Sir Henry and Dr. Watson, his expression indicates some interest in the artwork:
“Watson won’t allow that I know anything of art, but that is mere jealousy, because our views upon the subject differ. Now, these are a really very fine series of portraits.”
While Sir Henry professes not to know much about art, he has studied up on his ancestors.
“I don’t pretend to know much about these things, and I’d be a better judge of a horse or a steer than of a picture. I didn’t know that you found time for such things.”“I know what is good when I see it, and I see it now. That’s a Kneller, I’ll swear, that lady in the blue silk over yonder, and the stout gentleman with the wig ought to be a Reynolds. They are all family portraits, I presume?”“Every one.”
“Do you know the names?”
“Barrymore has been coaching me in them, and I think I can say my lessons fairly well.”
The names of the artists indicate that the Baskerville family must have been particularly wealthy. Kneller was Sir Godfrey Kneller, Baronet (1646–1723), who was the leading Baroque portraitist in England during the late 17th and early 18th centuries.
Kneller did portraits of many British admirals, and it is tempting to think he may have been the artist behind the painting of “Rear-Admiral Baskerville, who served under Rodney in the West Indies.” However, Admiral George Brydges Rodney didn't take command in the West Indies until the mid-18th century.
Reynolds was Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792), one of the major European painters of the 18th century known particularly for his portraits. He promoted the "Grand Style" in painting which depended on idealization of the imperfect. With the Baskervilles, he may have had quite a bit to work with.
That's a lot for Sir Henry, who spent most of his time in the States and Canada, to take in. But he must have been a diligent student, as he knew this would be his life's work.
Unlike one particular attendee of Baker Street Elementary...
Baker Street Elementary follows the original adventures of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, as they and their friends work through the issues of elementary school in Victorian London. An archive of all previous episodes can be viewed at www.bakerstreetelementary.org.