Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue: Boscawen

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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Edward Boscawen (1711-61)
Admiral; third son of Hugh, 1st Viscount Falmouth; distinguished himself at Finisterre, 1747; promoted rear-admiral; commanded a squadron in North America, 1756; victor of Louisbourg, with Amherst, 1758, and of Lagos, 1759; lord commissioner of the admiralty, 1751-61; admiral of the blue, 1758; privy councillor, 1759; died of a fever shortly before completion of his seat at Hatchlands Park, Surrey. [1]

44 After a portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds of c.1755 Oil on canvas, 29 1/2 x 24 1/2 in. (749 x 622 mm); pale grey eyes, long nose, short upper lip, grey wig tied behind; light blue uniform with grey [2] facings and gold frogging (flag officer's undress, 1748-67), white shirt ruffle; brown background, dark shadow down right side; lit from top left.

NPG 44 is an early copy after the whole length at Tregothnan, Falmouth collection, for which Boscawen sat in 1755. [3] The waistcoat collar, shown as if it were a continuation of the coat collar, is apparently a misunderstanding of Reynolds' original, and is repeated in such derivatives as the engraving by C. Bestland, 1801. An x-ray of NPG 44 shows widespread underpainting in the area of the head but no clear alternative pattern emerges. It is possible that there was another, though unconnected, head at right angles to the present painting.

Condition: surface cleaned and varnished, 1895. Collections: presented, 1858, by Viscount Falmouth.

Exhibited: British Institution, 1846 (18); 'Royal Naval Exhibition', 1891 (315).

Engraved: the type engraved by J. McArdell, whole length, as ‘Vice-Admiral of the Red Squadron' 1757, second state 1758, as 'Admiral of the Blue'.

'He habitually carried his head cocked on one side' . . . and was thus sometimes spoken of as 'Wry-necked Dick'. [4]

Portraits are at Tregothnan, home of the Viscounts Falmouth, to which the sitter's youngest son, George Evelyn, succeeded on the death of his uncle in 1782. A lost painting by Allan Ramsay is known by the three-quarter length engraving by J. Faber junior, published when the sitter was rear-admiral of the white in 1751 (CS 36). The portrait shows him in civil dress and was conceivably painted earlier, perhaps before the first uniform regulations of 1748. A variant engraving by R. Purcell (CS 7) substitutes, inter alia, a telescope and cannon for the scroll and ledge. A later Ramsay, whole length, the original at Tregothnan with repetitions at Shugborough due to Boscawen's having distinguished himself under Anson's command at Finisterre in 1747, and at Badminton, Duke of Beaufort, shows him with a French flag and maritime fortifications in the background, right. Musgrave recorded the latter as by Ramsay, painted 'soon after the taking of Louisbourg. Aug.19. 1758'. [5] Another portrait at Badminton in 1796 was described: 'Admiral Boscawen 3 qr. by Ramsay'. It seems to have disappeared. The whole length at Shugborough has been wrongly called Anson and attributed both to Reynolds [6] and to Romney but, despite some similarity of features, the distribution of versions points clearly to Boscawen and the style to Ramsay. [7]

Boscawen's first recorded sitting to Reynolds is 4 March 1755. In January 1757 the artist noted: 'Send home Admiral Boscawen'. [8] The whole length at Tregothnan of which NPG 44 is a copy was therefore probably finished in 1756. That in the National Maritime Museum, [9] 92 x 60 inches, is a copy painted for Greenwich Hospital and presented by Lord Falmouth in 1825. Head and shoulder portraits by Reynolds of the sitter and his son-in-law, Admiral John Leveson Gower, were lent to the 'Royal House of Guelph' exhibition 1891 (100, 102), by John Leveson Gower. Boscawen also sat to Reynolds in December 1760 with the portrait apparently paid for (no price given) by Timothy Brett. [10] It is not known which portrait is associated with these sittings.

For crude portrait medals struck after Louisbourg, see Medallic Illustrations . . ., II, pp.685, 688-90, 692; pl.clxxviii (5-10).

1. Epitaph by his wife, quoted in the guidebook; Hatchlands Park later sold to William Brightwell Sumner.
2. White, in shadow; grey facings not contemporary.
3. The Tregothnan portrait has not been reproduced, and is not mentioned by Waterhouse.
4. DNB, II, p.880, citing Naval Chronicle, XI, p.100.
5. BM Add MS 6391, f.55r, listed 1796. Boscawen's younger daughter Elizabeth married the 5th Duke of Beaufort, 2 April 1766.
6. e.g. by Graves and Cronin, III, p.98.
7. cf John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, Bute collection, 1758, exh. 'Paintings and Drawings by Allan Ramsay', Kenwood, 1958 (18).
8. Waterhouse, 1968, pp.119, 143.
9. NMM Catalogue, 1961, p.14.
10. Graves and Cronin, III, p.98; Leslie and Taylor, p.189; Cormack, p.111. For Captain Timothy Brett, see DNB, p.1190, sub John Brett (d.1785). A memorandum in Reynolds' notebook opposite 20 February 1761 says, 'Send to Mr. Hayman/ Mr. Boscowen.'