Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue: Halifax

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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George Montague-Dunk, 2nd Earl Halifax (1716-71)
President of the board of trade, 1748-61; aided foundation of colony of Nova Scotia, the town of Halifax named after him, 1749; styled the 'Father of the Colonies' for his success in extending American commerce; lieutenant-general, 1759; held a number of offices from 1761, including secretary of state, 1762-63 (north), 1763-65 (south), 1771 (north); KG, 1764.

3328 ('with his two Secretarys'), Attributed to Daniel Gardner, after Hugh Douglas Hamilton, c.1765-67
Gouache on paper laid down on canvas, 27 ¾ x 38 in. (705 x 965 mm), framed in an oval slip; Halifax (right) in white wig, mauve suit with Garter ribbon and star, dictates to a secretary in blue suit and holding pen; another secretary, in brown suit, holds sealing wax to a candle; red curtain and column in the background; land­scape with setting sun seen through window opening, left. Inscribed on a box on the table, far right: GR 1765.

A better version in oils, lent as a Zoffany to the 'NPE' 1868 (826) by Sir G.R. Osborn, 6th Bart, and still in the family, is likely to have descended through the marriage of Lady Mary Montague, daughter of Halifax, to Sir Danvers Osborn, 3rd Bart, one-time governor of New York. The painting differs from NPG 3328 in having a bookcase in place of the window opening. On the back of the relining canvas is a 'fairly old inscription': [1] George Earl of Halifax. Secretary of State, 1764/ with his two Secretarys/ Edward Sedgwick and Lovell Stanhope Esqrs.

In 1767 'Mr. Hamilton, Bond-Street' exhibited at the Society of Artists (68) a painting of 'A nobleman and his secretary, a conversation', against which Walpole noted in his catalogue 'Earl of Halifax, Mr Sedgwicke & Mr Lovel Stanhope'. [2] Whether this was NPG 3328, the Osborn picture or a two- or three-figure composition cannot now be known. In support of three sitters, and a better authority than the official catalogue in cases of discrepancy, are Walpole's marginalia and the Osborn inscription derived, most probably, from the original canvas and independently of Walpole.

By 1882, when in the possession of the Shirley family at Lower Ettington, NPG 3328 had become known as Halifax signing the general warrant against Wilkes ('North Briton no. 45') which led to his arrest. This incident took place in April 1763 and the politicians concerned with Halifax were Lord Egremont and George Grenville, neither of whom is portrayed in this picture. Both the provenance of NPG 3328 and family connections between the Stanhopes and Shirleys would seem to suggest the presence of Stanhope. His great-niece Elizabeth married Evelyn John Shirley of Ettington, [3] and there is a portrait of Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, [4] in the present Earl Ferrers' collection (see above, Chesterfield). There are no other known portraits of Stanhope and Sedgwick. The inscription GR 1765 occurs in both versions but no pastellist of these initials is known and, as in present practice, it is doubtful that a date would be associated with the royal cipher. The composition is probably not earlier than 1764, the year Halifax was awarded the Garter; 1765 presumably indicates the date of the subject matter. Halifax was secretary of state, south, from September 1763 to July 1765, Sedgwick was under-secretary for American affairs, a sub-division of the department, and Stanhope under-secretary only in 1765. [5] The date 1765 is near enough for the composition to have been the one exhibited two years later at the Society of Artists and, since the catalogue does not state otherwise, it was almost certainly an oil. Entries under Francis Cotes (nos 32-34), for example, are listed as 'crayons' and nos.35-37 without qualifying description are presumably oils. 'Mr Hamilton' must be Hugh Douglas Hamilton who, while better known as a pastellist, worked in both media. The heads of NPG 3328 are near his hand and a pastel such as 'The Reverend William Rose and his Parents', 1775, Christie's, 12 October 1945, lot 38, shows him capable of handling effectively a horizontal group. The colour of the background, though faded, is however typical of the pastellist Daniel Gardner (1750?-1805) and while Hamilton may yet prove to be the painter of both the Osborn oil and NPG 3328, the latter is more likely to be an early work by Gardner. [6]

Collections: bought for the. NPG, Ettington Park sale, 31 October 1946, lot 801 (as by N. Dance); sketched by Scharf, 8 September 1882, in the Shirley collection, Lower Ettington. [7]

Condition: rather faded.

Literature: John O'Keefe, Recollections, 1826.

Appearance
'above the middle stature, fine countenance, lively and expressive, concave face, rather sallow.' [8]

Iconography
Halifax was painted by Reynolds three-quarter length, sittings 1764-66. In the collection of G.F. Weston-Underwood, 1910, the portrait was sold Scarsdale heirlooms, Christie's, 18 July 1930, lot 110. [9] A head and shoulders version, in Garter robes, in the collection of Major Cosby, Stradbally Hall, County Leix, is descended through the marriage, 1711, of Grace, sister of George Montague, Earl of Halifax, KB, the sitter's father, to Brigadier General William Cosby, a governor of New York and the Jerseys. [10] A whole length by Seeman, seen by Scharf at Wroxton Abbey in 1861, was lot 688 of the Wroxton sale, 22 May 1933. [11] Walpole, in 1763, noted a small hunting picture by Van Risquet at Horton, where Halifax died in 1771 [12] and Harding listed portraits at Kimbolton and in the Samwell collection at Upton Hall; [13] among the latter, the portrait described as George Montague, Earl of Halifax, is possibly the sitter's father. There is a bust of 1763 by John Van Nost, the younger. [14] A portrait in Garter robes by Jeremiah Davison, 1740, included the inscription Davison pinx; the words were still visible when it was sold at Christie's, 22 May 1936, lot 6, from Chicksands Priory, the family seat. Listed as George Montague, Earl of Halifax, it seems wrongly named. Halifax was not nominated to the Garter until 1764. His predecessor had the Bath.

Notes
1. So described, Piper, verbal, 1948; such an inscription is likely to have been copied from the original canvas.
2. Walpole Society, XXVII, p.67.
3. Great-grandson of the 1st Earl Ferrers; Burke, Peerage, 1902, pp.302-03; see part II, p.807.
4. Gentleman's Magazine, LII, 1783, part II, p.807.
5. Court and City Register, 1764 and 1765.
6. Mr E. Croft Murray has kindly drawn my attention to a large horizontal oval by Gardner in a private collection, London, 1971.
7. SSB, CIV, p.31.
8. O'Keefe, I, p.254.
9. Reproduced in catalogue.
10. Burke, Landed Gentry of Ireland, 1958, p.181.
11. SSB, LIX, p.162, on 24 May.
12. Walpole Society, XVI, p.53.
13. Harding, II, pp.253, 281.
14. Strickland, II, p.487.