Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue: Grantham

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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Thomas Robinson, 1st Baron Grantham (1695-1770)
Diplomat; secretary and later chargé d'affaires, 1723, English embassy, Paris; ambassador to Vienna, 1730-48; joint plenipotentiary for the peace at Aix-la-Chapelle, 1748, and among other offices secretary of state, 1754-55, for the southern department and joint postmaster-general, 1765-67; MP for Thirsk and Christchurch; created Baron, 1761.

1586 By an unknown artist
Chalk on vellum, 18 x 13 3/8 in. (460 x 349 mm), turned over the stretcher bars about ½ in. all round; large light-brown eyes, nose slightly curved, bright red lower lip, fresh com­plexion, grey wig, faint centre parting, touching shoulders; white shirt and lace cravat, gold-brocaded coat just visible above the blue drapery covering his right shoulder; light greenish background; lit from left.

A manuscript label on the top bar of the original (?) stretcher reads: Original Portrait of Sir Francis Robinson Lord Grantham / Painted by Liotar at Vienna during the residence of / Sir Thomas Robinson at that Court, & given by him to / Sir James Porter; [1] by whom this picture was much valued / & who left it to his daughter Anna M. Larpent.

As envoy to Vienna, Grantham was more or less continuously abroad from 1730 to 1748 with a period of leave from 1 January 1737 to 25 May 1738. [2] Liotard is known to have visited Vienna between September 1743 and February 1745; his portrait of the Empress Maria Theresa dates from this time. [3] The quality of NPG 1586 is now impaired but it is still better than most English pastels of the period. Possibly French, it lacks Liotard's usual perception of character and while close to La Tour, is probably not by him. Age and costume are consistent with a date in the early 'forties.

Condition: faded; severe losses include two in the forehead and one in the cheek, left.

Collections: presented, 1910, by Alfred Jones of Bath who also had companion portraits of Lady Robinson and Maria Theresa, both doubtfully ascribed to Liotard. According to his letters of 26 and 31 October, these and NPG 1586 seem to have come from the sitter's collection, commissioned perhaps by the Empress Maria Theresa who had, according to Jones, given Grantham a portrait of herself. The facts are by now difficult to verify. The other two portraits, being ineligible for the Gallery, and probably not sent to London, may well have had similar inscriptions to NPG 1586. Jones, a small dealer who gave generously to the Gallery, rarely indicated the source of his pictures. Though inaccurate on attribution, there appears to be a prima facie case for the provenance stated in the inscription. [4]

Literature: F. Fosca, Liotard (Les petits maîtres français), Paris, 1928; D.B. Horn, British Diplomatic Representatives 1689-1789 (Royal Historical Society, Camden, 3rd series XLVI), 1932.

Appearance
‘. . . a large unwieldy man, and [who] would in debate put his arms straight out, which made George Selwyn compare him to a signpost.’ [5]

Iconography
Portraits of the sitter have been little studied but due to the many years spent abroad, they are not likely to be numerous. A pastel, ascribed to Ramsay, pair with his wife Frances Worsley, is still at Hovingham Hall, the family house, dating presumably from about the time of their marriage, 1737. E. Harding engraved for W. Coxe in 1802 a miniature (O'D 1), then in the possession of the Hon. Miss Robinson. This is rather similar to the Hovingham portrait and, both on costume and apparent age, could be close in date. G.P. Harding records c.1804 a portrait of Lord Grantham at Boringdon [6] which seems incorrectly named. It might represent John Parker, Baron Boringdon (d.1788) who married, as his second wife, Grantham's second daughter Theresa.

The plump sitter Thomas Robinson, 1st Baron Grantham, is not to be confused with his namesake, 'Long Tom' Robinson, created a Baronet, 1731.

Notes
1. Diplomat, 1710-86; in Vienna 1741 assisting Sir Thomas in negotiations between Austria and Prussia, and again in 1742.
2. Horn, p.36.
3. Fosca, pp.32-34.
4. Anna Margaretta, eldest surviving child of Sir James Porter, became the second wife of John Larpent (1741-1824). Her daughter-in-law Charlotte, née Cracroft, died in Bath in 1851, DNB, XI, pp.596-97, XVI, p.180.
5. GEC, VI, p.83, citing Colebrook.
6. Harding, III, p.55.