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The Death of the Earl of Chatham

1 of 2 portraits of William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth

The Death of the Earl of Chatham, by John Singleton Copley, 1779-1781 - NPG L146 - Tate 2013; on loan to the National Portrait Gallery, London

Tate 2013; on loan to the National Portrait Gallery, London

The Death of the Earl of Chatham

by John Singleton Copley
oil on canvas, 1779-1781
90 in. x 121 in. (2286 mm x 3073 mm)
Lent by Tate Gallery, 1968
Primary Collection
NPG L146


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The painting represents the collapse of William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham, in the House of Lords on 7 April 1778 after speaking for every measure in favour of the British colonists in America short of actual independence. Chatham died a month later. The fallen earl is surrounded by his three sons and his son-in-law, Lord Mahon, and is supported by the Dukes of Cumberland and Portland. The Duke of Richmond, who has just finished speaking, stands nearby. Lord Camden described the scene in a letter to the Duke of Grafton: 'He fell back upon his seat, and was to all appearance in the agonies of death. This threw the whole House into confusion .... even those who might have felt a secret pleasure at the accident, yet put on the appearance of distress, except only the Earl of Mansfield, who sat still, almost as much unmoved as the senseless body itself'.

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  • NPG D9178: Key to 'The Death of Chatham' (source portrait)

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