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Painting Returned To Manor House After 40 Years

A portrait attributed to a late-1700s English painter has been returned to its former home in the Wildwood Manor House after more than 40 years.

“Miss Derby,” also known as “Girl With Dog,” by John Raphael Smith, hangs above the fireplace in the Manor House Living Room, where photographs show that it hung when the house was known as Stranleigh, the family estate of Robert and Page Stranahan.

Deanne Douglas and Ed Hill, of the Manor House Interior Restoration Committee, hung the painting November 23 so it could be seen by an anticipated 20,000 people over the nine-day Holidays in the Manor House event December 7-15.

Following Mrs. Stranahan’s death in 1968, the painting was in the possession of the Stranhans’ son, Frank. Metroparks acquired the estate to establish Wildwood Preserve in 1975 after passage of a special tax levy the previous fall.

“Miss Derby” was among valuables in a storage unit that were sold at auction in 1984 in Toledo. The chandeliers that originally hung in the dining room and living room of the 32-room Georgian Colonial mansion were sold at the same auction to an antiques dealer, but were later purchased by the Manor House volunteers and returned to the house. They are among only a few items in the house today that belonged to the Stranahan family.

The painting was purchased by a Toledo man who displayed it in his home until recently, when he placed it in the care of the same auctioneer who sold it in 1984, John Whalen. Restoration Committee members purchased the painting with funds from the Manor House Volunteers and donated it to the Manor House.

"We are so excited to have some of the original artwork back in the Manor House,” Mrs. Douglas said. “I am sure there are other original pieces in the Toledo area, we would sure love to know about them."  

The painting is not signed, but a plaque on the frame attributes it to Smith, who was born in Derby, England, in 1752 and died in 1812. Smith was considered a master of mezzotint engraving and taught his technique in London. He also served as the engraver to the Prince of Wales.

While little is known about the painting, it was sold at auction in New York in 1916 for $5,000. According to an article in the New York Times, it commanded the highest price of the 500 paintings from a private collection that were auctioned at an estate sale. The Times article attributed the painting to Smith and described it as “a little girl sitting on a blue sofa, said to be the artist’s daughter.”

According to a biography, Smith had 11 children, including six daughters, but only six of the children survived beyond their first year.

Mrs. Douglas said that acquiring the painting helps to advance the committee’s goal of furnishing the Manor House with pieces from the Stranahan family. Many of the original furnishings were sold at auction in 1969.

In particular, the committee would like to locate original bedroom furniture and the barstools from the taproom in the Manor House’s lower level. The stools have cutouts on the back of a heart, a diamond, a club and spade.

“Photographs of the interior of the home from 1938 through 1968 would also be very helpful,” Mrs. Douglas said.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of other furnishings from the house can contact the committee at restoration@metroparkstoledo.com.