Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue: Aislabie

The following text is from the National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Kerslake, Early Georgian Portraits, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1977 (now out of print). For the most up to date research on the Collection, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text. This can be accessed by following the link with each portrait’s title.

In consulting the following, please note that apart from the reformatting which allows the printed catalogue to be made available on-line the text is as published in 1977. Footnotes in the original edition are given within square brackets.

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John Aislabie (1670-1742)
Politician; treasurer of the navy, 1714; chancellor of the exchequer, 1718-21; MP for Ripon; supported the South Sea Company scheme (the South Sea bubble) for paying off the national debt; when it failed he was expelled the House and succeeded by Walpole.

1754 Called John Aislabie by an unknown artist, c.1720
Oil on canvas, 16 ¾ x 15 ¼ in. (425 x 387 mm), pale grey eyes, strong nose, full lips, grey wig to shoulders; white neck-tie, coat laid in in brown; brown background.

NPG 1754 does not appear to represent the same person as the only certain portrait of the sitter. The previous attribution to Charles Jervas is not altogether convincing and is here abandoned. The artist would seem to be working more in the Kneller tradition but it is not possible to be more precise. The sitter looks about thirty and the wig suggests a date c.1720.

Condition: varnish somewhat discoloured; five small repaints, three in the wig and two smaller ones in his right cheek and tip of chin; pin holes in corners; unfinished, and conceivably cut.

Collections: bought, 1915, from Newman, Oldham and Co, to whom it was sent for sale by a lawyer and wrongly named Arthur Onslow (1691-1768).

Literature: E. Hailstone, Portraits of Yorkshire Worthies, 1869.

Iconography
The one certain portrait is the whole length as chancellor of the exchequer by Kneller lent to the 'NPE', 1867 (223), by the Earl de Gray and Ripon. [1] His father, following the death of the sitter's grand-daughter Elizabeth Sophia Lawrence, had inherited the old Aislabie home at Studley Royal in 1854. [2] The portrait, formerly owned by C.G. Vyner, was lost when the house, then in use as a school, was destroyed by fire c.1944.

Two three-quarter lengths at Christie's, 7 July 1900, lot 26 (as by Richardson) and lot 19, were catalogued as John Aislabie, formerly in the collection of his grand-daughter and bequeathed by her to H.E. Waller. [3] Lot 26 was bought for Ripon Corporation in 1935, by which time an inscription identifying it as John Aislabie had been added, top right. The two portraits perhaps represent different persons.

Notes
1. Repr. Hailstone, II (132).
2. Burke, Landed Gentry, 1952, p.510, under Compton.
3. Both seen at the NPG, 1932, then without inscriptions.