Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue: Chesterfield

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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Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield (1694-1773)
Politician and author; ambassador to the Hague, 1728-32 and 1745; KG, 1730; married the Countess of Walsingham, illegitimate daughter of George I, and dismissed from court, 1733; lord lieutenant of Ireland, 1746; opponent of Walpole; introduced the calendar reform of 1751; his collection of literary por­traits from Chesterfield House, South Audley Street (rebuilt for him by Isaac Ware, 1748-9) is now in the University of London library; the well-known letters to his natural son published, 1774, by the latter's widow.

158 After William Hoare, c.1742
Oil on canvas, 361 x 271 in. (921 x 692 mm); dark blue eyes, bushy black eyebrows, fresh complexion, grey wig; plum-red velvet coat with ribbon and star of the Garter, white neck-cloth and white lace cuffs; green chair, dark green background.

Inscribed, bottom left, Lord Chesterfield.

On style NPG 158 is probably a fairly early copy, rather than a studio version, of a type represented by the oil at Chevening, [1] presumably from lot 18, 'Philip Earl of Chesterfield; and John Earl Grenville', bought by Viscount Mahon at the Stowe sale, Christie's, 12 September 1848. There is a similar pastel in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Chesterfield received the Garter in 1730 but the date for the type is inferred from the mezzotint by J. Simon, who is not known to have worked after 1742, the year inscribed on the version at Chevening. Numerous repetitions exist, including one still at Beningbrough. [2]

A standing whole length in peer's robes, but with the same head, was engraved by J. Brooks (CS10) when the sitter was lord lieutenant of Ireland, 1745-6. [3] Another of this type by Hoare, mentioned by Harding, [4] is at Trinity College, Cambridge. The dimensions of NPG 158 suggest that the standard portrait was enlarged to Kit-cat size.

Condition: dark; bituminous craquelure in the background, slight losses along the edges; pin holes at the corners; surface cleaned twice and varnished, 1892 and 1895.

Collections: bought, 1863, from Colnaghi's who, according to G. Barker, [5] bought it from an old lady to whom twenty-two portraits including Bishop Burnet (NPG 159), Sir Richard Steele (NPG 160), Samuel Richardson (NPG 161) and Charles Churchill (NPG 162) had been given as security by the publisher Sir Richard Phillips (1767-1840).

Exhibited: 'Exhibition of Arts, Industries and Manufactures', Dublin, 1872 (139).

Engraved: the type was mezzotinted by J. Simon (CS 38). For later engravings, see O'Donoghue.

533 By Allan Ramsay, 1765
Oil on canvas, 29 1/2 x 24 3/4 in. (749 x 603 mm); greyish-blue eyes in heavy shadow, light grey wig nearly touching shoulders; light red jacket, pale blue Garter sash, black hat under his left arm; dark brown background; lit from left.

Inscribed on the base of the twin grey pilasters, left: Ph. E. of Chesterfield/ Aetatis 70./ A.Ramsay. P./ 1765.

Painted in pastel-like tones. No sitting is documented but a passage in Lady Hervey's correspondence [6] suggests that Chesterfield and Ramsay were both at Ickworth in December 1765. Ramsay's portrait is very close, however, in both pose and appearance to the Hoare. The sitter looks young for seventy, especially when compared with the Gainsborough painted only six years later, and an un­typical emptiness suggests that Ramsay may have worked from the Hoare rather than from sittings. A version, apparently a repetition, is owned by the Shirley family, collection Earl Ferrers, the Stanhopes and Shirleys being distantly related through marriage.

Condition: small retouchings in the face, lower chest and background left are visible under ultra-violet light; cleaned twice, varnished and restored between 1879 and 1895.

Collections: transferred 1879, from the British Museum to whom presented, 1777, by Sir Thomas Robinson, 'Long Sir Thomas', the sitter's correspondent for over fifty years; he also gave the Museum the bust by Wilton (see Iconography, below).

Literature: H.A. Tipping, English Homes Period IV, II, 1928. Some Materials Towards Memoirs of the Reign of King George II by John, Lord Hervey, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1931; The Letters of Philip Dormer Stanhope 4th Earl of Chesterfield, ed. B. Dobrée, 1932.

Appearance
'He was very short, disproportioned, thick, and clumsily made; had a broad, rough-featured, ugly face, with black teeth, and a head big enough for a Polyphemus,’ according to Harvey who relates that one Ben Ashurst told Chesterfield he looked, 'like a stunted giant'. [7]

Iconography
A portrait by Jean Baptiste Van Loo over a door of the Tapestry Room at Hagley [8] dates presumably from the artist's English period 1737-42; a medal by J.A. Dassier is of 1743 [9] and there are sittings to Louis François Roubiliac, c.1745. A plaster was among fifteen items bought at the sculp­tor's posthumous sale, 12-14 May 1762, and presented by Dr Matthew Maty, then librarian, to the British Museum; [10] it corresponds apparently with a marble signed and dated 1745, formerly in the collection of Sir E.A. Brotherton. [11] A somewhat slight oil by Benjamin Wilson, signed and dated 1752, is at Temple Newsam.

The fine naturalistic marble head by Joseph Wilton incised: I. WILTON: fecit: ad Vivum. 1757. [12] is in the British Museum; another version is in the Rosebery collection, Dalmeny. Following the portrait by Ramsay (NPG 533, above), there is the Gainsborough oil at Chevening [13] inscribed age 76/1769, show­ing the sitter with his hand on Cicero's de Senectute. Chesterfield presented this portrait to the 2nd Countess Stanhope, having sat to the artist in Bath at her request. Gosset's wax medallion, at Clumber in 1923, is undated; it is not known whether this is the one exhibited at the Society of Artists, 1775 (87).

A number of portraits are now lost. Prince Hoare completed a bust by 1741. [14] Two versions are mentioned by Chesterfield in a letter to Richard Chevenix, Bishop of Waterford, dated London, 22 May 1752: 'Lady Chesterfield . . . has sent you from Bristol a busto of your humble servant, cast from a marble one done by Mr. Hoare, at Bath, for Mr. Adderly: it is generally thought very like.' [15] Another bust, among those at Stowe, in the Temple of Friendship, [16] was lot 772, Christie's, 21 August 1848, later sold from the Peel collection, Robinson and Fisher, 10 May 1900, lot 130. A letter from Chesterfield to Madame du Boccage, 7 November 1751, suggests there was then a bust in her house in Paris in the rue de la Sourdière; no sculptor is named. [17] In 1776 John Kirk exhibited a medal of the sitter at the Society of Artists (222). Musgrave records, 1797, a portrait by Hudson at Duff House, collection Earl Fife, adding 'From this the bust below his letters is taken'. [18] There is also recorded a bust by John van Nost the younger. [19] On 2 January 1773 the sitter, by then too ill to hold a pen, replied to a request for a portrait: 'Since Lord Hardwicke commands it, there shall be a picture of Lord Chesterfield: otherways it could not be imagined that there would have been one of him drawn at seventy-eight years of age, and in the manifest decline of his health.' [20]

Early portraits are lacking. A portrait of an unknown knight of the Garter sold as Chesterfield at Christie's, 9 February 1951, lot 115 (near Richardson), cannot represent him since the sitter is shown in the parliamentary robes of a duke. A pastel at Knole (172) attributed to Hoare shows the sitter wearing a wig with looped ends. The features are rather different, however, from Hoare's better known type of c.1742, represented by NPG 158. The eyebrows, for example, are thin and untypical. An interesting group by Hayman, with a self-portrait, in the Mellon collection, [21] has persistently been called 'Lord Chesterfield and his Friends' but none of the sitters wears the Garter and though Chesterfield is said to be the fourth figure from the right, there is no known basis for this identifica­tion. The picture first appeared at Colnaghi's in 1897, with the sitters unnamed. [22]

Notes
1. List of Paintings at Chevening, 1931, p.24 (52), as painted for Stowe, 1742.
2. An oil the same size as NPG 158; from the Chesterfield collection, probably once at Holme Lacey, apparently a copy, Tipping p.337.
3. A different whole length, seated to right, with Garter, is at Beningbrough, ascribed to Richardson but of the 1740s and conceivably from the Van Loo studio, Tipping, pl.346.
4. MS, III, p.127.
5. A restorer employed by the Gallery; letter dated 28 March 1863, NPG archives.
6. Smart, p.133.
7. Some Materials . . ., I, p.72.
8. Hagley catalogue, 1798, p.16 (47).
9. Medallic Illustrations, II, p.582.
10. British Museum,Department of Antiquities & Coins, Donations, 28 May 1762.
11. Exh. 'Eighteenth Century Portrait Busts', Kenwood, 1959 (22); also Esdaile, 1928, pp.103-4, 106.
12. Exh. 'British Portraits', RA, 1956 (331); bequeathed by Sir Thomas Robinson, Bart in 1777.
13. List of Portraits at Chevening, 1931, p.5.
14. Gunnis, p.203.
15. Letters, V, p.1883.
16. Stowe: A Description of the . . . House and Gardens . . ., 1777, p.31.
17. Letters, IV, p.1789.
18. British Museum Add MS 6329, f.42.
19. Strickland, II, p.486.
20. Letters, VI, p. 2939.
21. Catalogue, 1963 (217); see also Hayman, Francis, below.
22. 'Description of Portraits', 1897, vol. I (24), MS, NPG archives.