First of all, let me introduce myself. My name is Peter Sanders, and I live in Saffron Walden in Essex. My son and his wife, Philip and Jeza, live in Santiago. I visited them there last month. Before going I saw six water-colour paintings which were advertised as coming from Chile in an antiques centre in Lewes, in Sussex. I bought them, and the person selling them, Alison Shipley, gave me some information about them.
Alisonís great-grandmother was Jeannie Duncan, whose maiden name was Sproat. She lived in Scotland. Jeannieís brother went to Chile, stopping in the Falklands on the way and marrying the Governorís daughter. Their daughter was Mary Anne Sproat, who married Walter Mueller, who became Chilean Ambassador in Washington. Walter and Mary Ann had four children, the youngest of whom, Tomas Mueller-Sproat, is the present Chilean ambassador in London.
The Scottish and Chilean branches of the family kept in touch, and in the 1950s Alisonís mother visited her relatives in Chile and came back with the six pictures.
When I took the pictures to Santiago my son and his wife thought that they were not from Chile at all, but from Peru. This was partly because of the clothes the people were wearing, partly because two of them were black, and partly (and most convincingly!) because they could just read the words spelt out in faded ink on one of the pictures Ė Travelling in the Interior of Peru.
So we looked up Peru and Sproat on the internet and found the fascinating correspondence between yourself, William Compton and John Marsh. This makes it clear that there was a branch of the Sproats in Peru as well as in Santiago, and that the two branches were in touch with each other. Their voyages to Liverpool show that they also kept in touch with their relatives in Scotland. (I wonder, since the families were in the shipping line, whether it was relatively cheap for them to sail to and fro across the Atlantic.)
My concern is to find out who painted the pictures. There are six of them, as I say, and they are of people who might be met on the road in Peru Ė a water-seller, a woman who appears to be ladling out oil from a large pot, a woman taking fish to market, a priest, etc. There are captions in faded ink on them, in English, which suggests that the painter was English-speaking. I am no expert on style, but the framing and the writing suggest to me a date early in the last century. Alison can provide no information about them other than that her mother brought them back from Chile in the 1950s.
My interest is in trying to identify the artist. Do you have any information which might help? A family tradition about an artistic great-aunt? Itís a long shot, I know.
But there is also the interest on the family history side. Do you have any information that might demonstrate the link between the Chilean Sproats and the Peruvian Sproats? Alison is going to ask Tomas Mueller-Sproat if he has any information that might help. Alisonís mother was Ann Williamson, another name that comes up frequently in the story.
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