Spilsbury, Jonathan (DNB00)
|←Spiller, James||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 53
SPILSBURY, JONATHAN (fl. 1760–1790), engraver, practised chiefly in mezzotint, and between 1759 and 1789 produced many excellent plates, mainly portraits, which included Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, after Sadler; Lord Camden, after Hoare; Miss Jacob and the Earl of Carlisle, after Reynolds; Inigo Jones, after Vandyck; John Wesley, after Romney; and George III and Queen Charlotte, from his own drawings. He also engraved some subject-pieces after Murillo, Rembrandt, Rubens, Metzu, A. Kauffman, &c. For his print of Miss Jacob, which is a very fine work, Spilsbury was awarded a premium by the Society of Arts in 1761, and for that of the Earl of Carlisle another in 1763. He exhibited original portraits and a few biblical compositions with the Society of Artists in 1763, 1770, and 1771, and at the academy from 1776 to 1784. He contributed a picture of ‘The Widow of Zarepta’ to the British Institution in 1807, and this is the last record of him.
He has been confused with his brother, John Spilsbury (1730?–1795?), also an engraver, in consequence of the similarity of christian names; some of the work executed by one or other of the brothers is also ascribed to a fictitious ‘Inigo’ Spilsbury. John Spilsbury, who is said to have been born in 1730, kept a print-shop in Russell Court, Covent Garden, where he published some of his brother's plates; but, according to a statement made by himself to the Rev. James Granger (Granger Correspondence, p. 403), his own work was confined to maps, ornaments, &c. He, however, executed a set of fifty etchings from antique gems, published by Boydell in 1785, and was probably the author of a set of twenty-four plates of heads etched in the manner of Rembrandt, and portraits of Queen Charlotte, J. W. Fletcher of Madeley, and Benjamin La Trobe, but these, being signed only ‘J. Spilsbury,’ may be the work of his brother. He was drawing-master at Harrow school, and died about 1795.
Maria Spilsbury, afterwards Mrs. Taylor (d. 1820?), daughter of Jonathan, was a clever painter of rural and domestic subjects, and exhibited largely at the Royal Academy and the British Institution from 1792 to 1813. Some of her works were well engraved and became popular; among them ‘The Drinking Well in Hyde Park,’ ‘The Stolen Child amid Gipsies,’ and ‘The Lost Child Found,’ ‘Reading’ and ‘Singing,’ and ‘Blessed are the Meek.’ Her portrait of the Rev. William Kingsbury was mezzotinted by H. Dawe. She also executed a few original etchings. In or about 1809 Miss Spilsbury married one John Taylor, with whom a few years later she went to Ireland; there she is said to have died about 1820.[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; J. Chaloner Smith's British Mezzotinto Portraits; Nägler's Künstler-Lexikon; Dodd's manuscript Hist. of Engravers in Brit. Mus. (Addit. MS. 33405); Cat. of Books on Art; Exhibition Catalogues.]