Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue: Bath

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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William Pulteney, 1st Earl of Bath (1684-1764)
Statesman; celebrated orator; MP for Middlesex; ally of Bolingbroke from 1725 and opponent of Walpole whom he had served, 1714-7; with Wyndham formed the 'Patriots', a group of moderate Whigs and Jacobites opposed to the government's Hanoverian policy; helped defeat Walpole's excise scheme, 1733, forcing him into war with Spain (the war of Jenkins' Ear); refused to succeed Walpole; accepted peerage 1742.

3194 By Sir Godfrey Kneller, 1717. See Piper, 1963, p.21 and pl.25b.

35 After a portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds of c.1755-7
Oil on canvas, 50 x 40 in. (1270 x 1016 mm), dark brown eyes, grey eyebrows, double chin, grey wig; earl's parliamentary robes over brown velvet suit, white neck-cloth inside the collar of his robes, white lace wrist ruffles, a signet ring with crest in dark grey stone on the fifth finger of his left hand; red-backed chair with carved arm rests; plain brown background; lit from top right.

Catalogued as a Reynolds of 1757, [1] an x-ray taken in 1963 confirmed NPG 35 as a copy after the type engraved by McArdell and lettered Reynolds P. 1757…. Another head was revealed under the present one, slightly above and to the right, with a hair style in fashion c.1810. Reynolds' first portrait of the sitter probably relates to sittings of 25 and 28 August 1755. [2] The sitter book for 1756 is missing; no sittings are recorded in 1757. Despite the poor handling, NPG 35 shows a certain resemblance to the artist's style after his return from Italy.

Condition: lightly cleaned and varnished, 1950.

Collections: bought, 1858, from T. Moore, a London dealer; earlier history uncertain. Moore stated that the painting had belonged to Mr Tolcher of Plymouth but in 1898 the Rev. G.L. Woollcombe had a painting bought by his great-uncle H. Woollcombe at Tolcher's sale. It is also claimed that it belonged in 1845 to Lord Northwick. [3]

Engraved: the type engraved by James McArdell, 1758, lettered (in the second state) Reynolds P. 1757 McArdell F. 1758 . . . From an original painting in the possession of Henry Tolcher Esquire. [4]

337 By Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1761 Oil on canvas, 61 x 58 in. (1549 x 1473 mm); dark brown eyes, arched grey eyebrows, double chin, white wig; earl's parliamentary robes over grey velvet coat, deep cuffs with two bands of gold lace, lace wrist ruffles; in his right hand a white quill, his left forearm resting on the carved arm of a green-backed chair; a silver inkstand, papers and books, one lettered Ld: LYTTELTON'S / LIFE OF / HENRY 2d, [5] on a table, left, covered with a dark green cloth; matching drapery behind chair; pillar and pilaster on left; lit from the right.

Painted for Mrs Elizabeth Montagu in 1761 and given to her by the sitter, NPG 337 is a documented example of the use of the drapery painter. There are appointments in the sitter book for 28 and 31 August, 17 September, 16 October and 30 December, and progress may be followed in seven letters to and from Mrs Montagu. In early September, the painting is noted as due back from the drapery painter on 15 October and presumably despatched after the sitting of the next day. It then meets with criticism and goes back to Reynolds to be altered on 30 December, after which no more sittings are recorded. Relevant sections of correspondence include Mrs Montagu writing to Elizabeth Carter, 6 September: 'I have not told you that my Lord Bath has sat twice for his picture, it will be very like him but not so handsome, as long as he lives I shall look on it with pleasure, always with reverence'. [6]

Bath himself writes to Mrs Montagu after 2 September [7] : 'I shall be in town again in a few days, but not till after the Queen's arrival, [8] for I have had the opportunity of making my excuses, in the proper place, for not attending the marriage ceremony. You will judge of the likeness of the Picture best, when I am not present, if it could speak, it would tell you, what I can scarce venture to do. How much I love and am, etc'; and again, 21 September: 'Does the Picture answer? Would it could! . . . the eyes which you found fault with, would when you look intensely on them, express more than I dare venture'. [9]

Bath's letter of 15 October touches on the drapery painter: ‘. . . I was yesterday with Mr. Reynolds, & have fixed Fryday next at twelve, to finish the Picture. I have discovered a secret by being often at Mr. Reynolds, that I fancy, he is sorry I should know. I find that none of these great Painters finish any of their Pictures themselves. The same Person, (but who he is, I know not) works for Ramsay, Reynolds, & another, calld Hudson, my Picture will not come from that Person till Thursday night, and on Fryday it will be totally finished, and ready to send home . . .'. [10]

The 'Person' could be Alexander Vanhaecken mentioned in 1752-3 in the accounts of Thomas Hudson, Coutts Bank archives, perhaps the younger brother of Joseph Vanhaecken, who is known to have worked as drapery painter for the artists named by Bath. [11] Joseph's death in 1749 is recorded by Vertue [12] and there are references to payments, 1751, in the accounts of Ramsay, his executor, also at Coutts. Bath does not appear in Reynolds' sitter book under Wednesday 14 October 1761, but he is entered at noon on the 16th. The remaining letters concern corrections:

'Madam, I will sitt to Mr. Reynolds either Wenesday or Saturday next, whichever is most convenient to him, and shall be glad to meet Mr. Tristram Shandy (as you call him) or Mr. Sterne (as I must call him) there, but where it is to be you do not mention. If the alteration can be made in a quarter of an hour, it is scarce worth taking the Picture out of your house, but if it is to be altered at Mr. Reynolds' I will be there on either of the days mentioned . . .’, Dec 26 1761. [13]

Bath had remarkably penetrating and brilliant eyes, noted Mrs Montagu, and one of the faults found with the painting was in the representation of this feature. On Wednesday, 30th December, there is an appointment in Reynolds' sitter book for 1.30 pm and it is to this presumably that the following extract refers: '. . .

On Wenesday about one of the Clock, I will most certainly be at Mr. Reynolds' to mend my sickly looks, and to sitt down in my chair, as I should do; instead of being half standing, which criticism of Mr. Sterne's I think perfectly right; as for my looks, I fear they will not be much mended by any Physick of Mr. Reynolds. He has made an old man look as if he was in pain, which an old man generally is, and so far he is right'. [14]

The final letter, from Mrs Montagu to Mrs Vesey, has been placed in 1762, [15] but it was more likely written in the last days of 1761:

'Will you my dear Mrs. Vesey go with me tomorrow at half an hour after one to Mr. Reynolds, where my Lord Bath is to sit for his picture? Where ye facetious author of Tristram Shandy is to make him smile? and where you may see the historical picture in which the Muse of Tragedy and Comedy are disputing for Mr. Garrick?. . .'.

Condition: unlined, the canvas now very frail [Editorial note, 2012: relined in 1975]; x-rays taken in 1968 show little sign of the alterations indicated by Mrs Montagu except perhaps in the narrow passage down the inner side of the wig and along the left cheek; the position of the hands may have been slightly moved.

Collections: bought, 1872, from Henry, 6th Baron Rokeby; presumably by descent from Mrs Montagu whose property, at her death in 1800, was left to her nephew and adopted son Matthew Montagu; he succeeded as 4th Baron Rokeby in 1829. [16]

Literature: Elizabeth Montagu . . . Correspondence from 1720 to 1761, ed. E.J. Climenson, 1906; Mrs. Montagu . . . Letters . . .1762-1800, ed. R. Blunt, 1923.

Iconography
Portraits are not uncommon, but there is no published account. Bath was painted by Kneller 1717 when Mr Pulteney (Kit-cat portrait, NPG 3194), and by Jervas, whole length, probably in the 1720s; formerly at Northwick Park, [17] it was engraved three-quarter length by W.H. Mote, 1835. A head and shoulders by an unknown artist, inscribed and dated 1741, was sketched by Scharf in the Betts sale, Christie's, 30 May 1868, lot 28. [18] Another, with volumes of Cicero, has been at Raby Castle since c.1750. [19]

Two portraits of 1757, described in letters from the sitter to Zachary Pearce, Bishop of Rochester and Dean of Westminster, are referred to as by Howard, but since he writes from Bath, the painter is possibly Hoare. The first is dated 14 December 1757:

'I design to sit for my picture to a most excellent Painter [who] is here. He has drawn one Picture of mine already for Lady Gertrude Hotham, and has done it so admirably well, and so exceedingly like me, that I am sure you would be pleased with it, and I dare answer for it on a second tryal he will outdo what he has already so successfully done. He has drawn two of the finest Portraits I ever saw for the late Mr Pelham and Mr Secretary Pit, and a whole length of my Lord Lincoln [all were painted by Hoare] beyond what any Painter in England can do. So that if you please I will get my picture for you finished before I leave this place.'

Ten days later, 24 December, he wrote:

‘The day after I had your leave for doing it, I satt to Mr Howard for my Picture, and I can assure you that it will be a better, as well as more like one than the first, which everybody here commended most extreamly. I hope it may be finished to send up to London soon after me, but as he is resolved to do every stroke of the Drapery himself, it will take a little longer time because he has a vast deal of business.

‘All Portraits should be placed in some likely attitude, which gives Vivacity and Expression to the Countenance, and the Action I have chosen is this. I am sitting in my Robes in my Library, with a table before me, as if I was just come in, and your Edition of Cicero was then brought me, in a present from your Lordship; when the Picture is placed in your Library, it will seem as if I was speaking to you, and thanking you for your kind Present, which I am putting on a shelf in my own. The Posture is extreamly easy, and the Picture extreamly like, which pleases me much because I cannot give it to any one I esteem more.'

The last letter is endorsed ‘Jany, 1758'. [20] : 'My Picture will be sent up soon after me, and I dare say you will like it, for everybody here says it is most excessively like, as well as a good Portrait.'

Both portraits are now lost unless the Raby three-quarter length be one of them. In style it is not far from Hoare, though more wooden, and the only type known with the volumes of Cicero. On the other hand Bath is not wearing robes as he apparently was in the second 1757 portrait. There remain three portraits all in earl's parliamentary robes, two by Reynolds, of 1755-7 and 1761, discussed above, and a head and shoulders type by Ramsay, engraved by D. Martin in 1763. [21] Versions are at Hagley, then Lord Lyttelton's seat, and elsewhere. The portrait was probably painted for Lord Lyttelton who, like Bath, was a friend and admirer of Mrs Montagu; she may well have led him to go to Ramsay to whom she herself sat in 1762. [22]

In a letter dated 13 May that year, she writes to Bath concerning a portrait that was to be retouched: 'Mr Ramsay would he glad if your Lordship would sit to him tomorrow morning for the retouching Yr picture any hour after one. He is to bestow some of the morning upon my picture after yours is done if I am able to sit, but as I doubt of that, wish yr Lordship wd send him word this afternoon if you can not go to him, that he may not be totally disappointed. My venerable perfections have received great addition since your Lordship saw the picture. If Mr Ramsays pencil did not rather attempt the amiable than the solemn I should be afraid that in the present disposition you should be guilty of image worship.' Also Bath to Mrs Montagu, undated: 'Are you to be at Ramsays this morning, dark and gloomy as it is, or do you and Mrs Carter propose to drink Tea with me this afternoon . . .'. [23]

Bath also appears (fourth from the left) in Charles Philips' `Tea-Party at Lord Harrington's House', 1739, Mellon collection (219) [24] and in a portrait at Lathom House, Lancashire, in 1819. [25] A painting depicting him with Sir W. Stanhope was in the Stowe sale catalogue, 1848-9, 21st day, lot 22. A medallion by Joseph Wilton is in Westminster Abbey, and medals by Dassier in [the National Portrait Gallery and] the British Museum. [26]

Notes
1. Scharf, pp.41-2.
2. Waterhouse, 1968, p.134.
3. Graves and Cronin, p.63.
4. G. Goodwin, James McArdell, 1903 (70).
5. Not completely published until 1767 (Johnson said 1764), but partly out by 1761—'My Lord Bath greatly approves and admires that part of my Lord Lyttelton's history which is already printed'—Mrs Montagu to Thomas Lyttelton, 28 (July?) 1761, quoted Climenson, p.256.
6. Huntington Library and Art Gallery, MO 3054. I am indebted to Miss Jean Preston of the Dept of MS for this letter and that of Lord Bath to Mrs Montagu, 21 September 1761 (cited below).
7. So placed by Climenson, II, p.258.
8. Charlotte landed in England 7 September, and married George III the following day.
9. Huntington Library and Art Gallery, MO 4238.
10. Letter partly published by D. Hudson, Reynolds, 1958, pp.53-4, presented to NPG, July 1872 by Lord Rokeby.
11. Smart, pp.40-2.
12. Vertue, III, pp.150-1.
13. Climenson, II, pp.268-9.
14. Climenson, II, p.269, gives it as the 'next letter' from Lord Bath, undated, after that of 26 December; also given by Blunt, I, p.14, wrongly as 1762; he reads 'look' for 'looks'.
15. By Blunt, I, p.14.
16. DNB, XIII, 1909, p.690; see also Climenson, I, p.vii.
17. Catalogue of the Collection of Pictures at Northwick Park (T. Borenius), 1921, p.124; not recorded before Mote's engraving. The portrait includes a bust of Cicero over a volume of Plutarch.
18. His copy of the sale catalogue, NPG archives.
19. SSB LXXXIV, p.37; Scharf compares a picture offered to the NPG by Mr Douglas of Lansdown House, Bath, February 1880.
20. Correspondence (Westminster Abbey Muniments, 64697) communicated by L. Tanner, 1961; neither the portrait for Lady Hotham (wife of Sir Charles Hotham, 5th Bart) nor that painted for Zachary Pearce is recorded at the NPG.
21. O'D mis-dates as 1753.
22. Smart, p.127.
23. Huntington Library and Art Gallery, Montagu MS, M0 5418, 4251.
24. Mellon collection, 1963 catalogue, p.116.
25. Neale, II, 1819.
26. Medallic Illustrations, II, p.586; pl.clxiii (7).