Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue: Clive

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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Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive (1725-74)
'Clive of India'. Soldier; a clerk in the East India Company, 1744; took Arcot from the French, 1751, and with Stringer Lawrence, captured Trichinopoly; after the 'Black Hole', relieved Calcutta and in 1757, at Plassey, won his greatest victory; returned to England 1760; MP for Shrewsbury; governor of Bengal 1765; returned, broken in health, the following year; though commended for his services, also censured by a parliamentary enquiry for his policies in India; died by his own hand.

39 Studio (?) of Nathaniel Dance
Oil on canvas, 50 1/4 x 40 1/4 in. (1276 x 1022 mm); heavy grey eyebrows, dark eyes, pursed lips, rather pale complexion with grey shadow on his right cheek and left temple, light grey wig, or powdered hair; white stock and wrist ruffles, scarlet jacket with black (or dark blue) frogging and gold lace, the buttons arranged in pairs, a single epaulette on his right shoulder and four rows of lace, chevron-shaped, on the cuffs; the star of the Bath, half visible, with scarlet ribbon over light buff waistcoat; plain black hat held in his left hand; in the background a battle scene, red jackets firing cannon, left, and Indian troops galloping, right; brown sky with smoke rising; lit from the left.

NPG 39 is perhaps a studio production, rather than an early copy, of a popular portrait by Dance. The prototype is presumably the portrait (Steegman, 48) [1] at Powis Castle where there is another closely related signed whole length (Steegman, 47) with the sitter resting his left hand on a stick, a hat in his right hand and a peaceful river scene in place of the battle in NPG 39. The land­scape backgrounds have not been identified and are probably mere studio con­ventions. The battle may represent Plassey, Clive's most famous victory. Both paintings presumably descended through the sitter's son Edward, 2nd Baron Clive, created 1st Earl of Powis (3rd creation) in 1804. The Gallery's version lacks the incisiveness of the three-quarter length at Powis (48) and is weaker and more powdery in colour than such good examples of Dance's portraits as Lancelot 'Capability' Brown (NPG 1490) and Arthur Murphy, the actor and author (NPG 10). A three-quarter length of the sitter's wife (Steegman, 50) given to Dance, might prove to be a pendant to the whole length (Steegman, 47) but the attribution has been questioned and the portrait could be by West. A date c.1774 has been suggested on hair style.

All versions of the Dance show the sitter with the order of the Bath to which he was nominated 24 April 1764 and installed 1772; the date of the portrait is not, however, known. Dance was expected back from Italy in the spring of 1764, [2] and Clive left London for India again in the autumn of that year, returning finally in 1767. The dress shown is probably major general's uniform. The buff waist­coat, however, is not known to have been introduced before c.1780. If white is intended, this colour was introduced in 1772. Lacings in the form of chevrons were introduced in 1802 [3] although, as in other cases, it seems likely this order merely confirmed existing practice. A similar uniform, with nearly straight lacings and without the epaulette, appears in Zoffany's portrait, 1771, of George III at Windsor (Millar, 1969, 1195).

There are replicas or copies of the type in the India Office, in Lord Plymouth's collection, and at Sutton Court, presumably painted for Lord O'Hagan's ancestor, Sir Henry Strachey, 1st Bart (1737-1810), secretary to Clive from 1764. Others are in the Oriental Club, given by Lord Powis, in the Indian Institute, Oxford, [4] and at Walcot. A posthumous miniature (Steegman, 104) by John Smart, signed with initials and dated 1778, is based on Dance's face mask. An identical miniature at Sotheby's, 1 June 1970, lot 86, from the collection of Lord Southborough, is signed and dated 1776, and a miniature by Smart, of Lady Clive in 1770, was lent by Lord Powis to the 'British Portrait Miniatures' exhibition, Edinburgh, 1965 (222).

Condition: pin holes in corners; retouching evident in the craquelure of the face and on his right shoulder; cleaned, varnished, lined and restored, 1858 and 1895-6; cleaned 1970.

Collections: bought, 1858 (as by Reynolds), from John Jones, acting on behalf of the owner Thomas James Blair who stated, in a letter dated 30 April 1858; ‘. . . the picture was taken by Lord Clive to India on his last visit . . . and being injured by the voyage, another picture was painted by Sir Joshua. This picture fell into the hands of a Miss Clive who married a Dr Grey, a Surgeon in the HEI Co's Service, and on his death passed into the hands of the present owner'.

Engraved: a stipple engraving by F. Bartolozzi of the battle type, dated 1788, with the wig covering the ear and a bigger bow, follows Steegman (48) rather than NPG 39.

1688 By John van Nost the younger, and ‘C.G.', 1766
Silver medal, 1 11/16 in. (43 mm) diameter. Obverse: Tie wig, unbuttoned flowered coat with Bath ribbon and star; drapery in the bottom left-hand corner; lettered within a plain rim, around two-thirds of the circumference: ROBERT. CLIVE. BARON. OF. PLASSEY., signed with initials on the cut-away of his left sleeve, I.U. [i.e. 'V'] N.F. Reverse: A whole length figure of a woman with trumpet (Fame?) points to a pyramid (alluding to eternity?) inscribed: 1757./ Feb 5. NABO/BS./ CAMP./ DESTRO/YED/ JUNE. 23/ VICTORI/OUS. AT./ PLASSEY./ 1765/ ESTABLISH/ED. PEACE./ IN. BENGAL./ AND. MADE./ 0MRA [5] 58 OF. THE./ EMPIRE; inside the double rim lettered: HONOUR. THE./ (here the tip of the pyramid) REWARD. OF. MERIT, and below the rule, ANNO 1766/ C G.

The face mask is close to McArdell's engraving of the missing Gainsborough. A crude line engraving by J. Taylor was first published, according to O'Donoghue, in the 1757 edition of Smollett's History of England. Since the book contained no illustrations and the print shows the Bath it cannot have been circulated before 1764. John van Nost the younger settled in Dublin c.1750 and could well have been working there in 1766. There is evidence he was in London the previous year. [6] A sculptor rather than a medallist, his role is likely to have been that of designer. He is credited with medals of George II and Cumberland, both English sitters. [7] 'C.G.' has not been identified. Dr J.P.C. Kent [8] regards it as a signature, perhaps of the medallist and points to the work of Isaac Gosset whose portrait of Wolfe [9] is stylistically comparable. It may yet prove to be the initial of an Irish medallist.

Condition: good.

Collections: bought, 1912, from Spink and Son.

Literature: Colonel M.H. Grant, 'Catalogue of British Medals since 1760', Part I, The British Numismatic Journal, XXII, 1936-7; Letters David Garrick, ed. D.M. Little and G.M. Kahrl, 1963.

Appearance
'Though his person', declared Macaulay, whose hostility to the sitter is well known, 'was ungraceful, and though his harsh features were redeemed from vulgar ugliness only by their stern, dauntless, and commanding expression, he was fond of rich and gay clothing, and replenished his wardrobe with absurd profusion'. [10]

Iconography
McArdell's engraving
of a portrait by Gainsborough can be closely dated from the lettering which refers to Clive as Baron Plassey, created 1762, and omits the Bath, received 1764, shown in the Dance (NPG 39 above) and in the whole length statue by Scheemakers in the India Office commissioned in 1760 and completed by 1764. [11] Lady Clive sat to Gainsborough in 1787, presumably for a whole length, and an unfinished por­trait was in the Gainsborough Dupont sale, Christie's, 10 April 1797, lot 32. [12] The portrait of Clive himself which must have been earlier, as also 'The Family Piece' listed in the 1771 Powis inventory, remain untraced. [13] An unusual portrait (Steegman, 49) with a house in the background, once attributed to Reynolds, was given by Lord Powis to the National Army Museum in 1963. It also shows the Bath

Notes
1. Steegman, I, p.266 ff.
2. Little and Kahrl, I, p.401, quoting Garrick to his brother, 2 January 1764.
3. Information from Major N.P. Dawnay, 1961.
4. Poole, I, p.240 (731).
5. i.e. Commander or Lord; see OED, VII, 1933, p.133 sub 'omrah'.
6. Strickland, II, pp.484-5.
7. Ibid.
8. British Museum (verbal), Department of Coins and Medals.
9. Medallic Illustrations, II, p.706; Forrer, II, p.302.
10. GEC, III, p.325, note c.
11. W. Foster, A Descriptive Catalogue . . . The India Office, 4th edition, 1924 (53).
12. The authorship of lots 1-32 is ambiguous in the sales catalogue although Waterhouse, 1958, p.60 (154-5) treats lot 32 as by Gainsborough.
13. Waterhouse, 1958, p.60.