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Edmund Burke

28 of 1413 portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Edmund Burke

studio of Sir Joshua Reynolds
circa 1769 or after
29 3/4 in. x 24 3/4 in. (756 mm x 629 mm)
NPG 655


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Inscriptionback to top

Canvas stamped J Middleton1

1 A supplier, known to Reynolds, whose business lasted until c.1840. Comparable canvas stamps appear on the canvas used by Opie for his 1792 portrait of Burke (Sir George Scharf's Sketch Books, 92a/21).

This portraitback to top

A near-contemporary copy of the original Reynolds portrait that was given by the sitter’s widow to the Earl Fitzwilliam (private collection); it was first engraved by James Watson in 1770 and was once described as the best portrait of Burke. [1] When NPG 655 was acquired a second, weaker copy was already in the collection (purchased in 1874; NPG 389); [2] it was lent to the National Gallery of Ireland 1884-1916 and was sold by the Trustees in 1916 to Mrs Walter Hayes Burns, mother-in-law of Earl Harcourt; it was last sold Christie's, 27 October 1961, lot 32.
Other copies include those in the Victoria Memorial Hall, Calcutta (by Edward Dyer); the Bristol Council House, the Palace of Westminster and the Royal Albert Museum, Exeter (both these last once attributed to Northcote). An enamel copy by Henry Spicer, inaccurately inscribed 'from a crayon Pictor painted by Ozias Humphry’, sold Christie’s, 7 November 1988, lot 84, [3] was possibly that exhibited RA 1795 (487). The head from the Reynolds portrait was used in an anonymous engraving showing Burke as The British Cicero, the Magna Charta in his left hand.

Footnotesback to top

1) D. Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds, I, 2000, no.284; J. Prior, Memoir of the Life and Character of the Right Hon Edmund Burke, 1826, II, p 411.
2) From Col. Penleaze, brother-in-law of Capt. William Phillips (d. 1873), whose father Charles Phillips (1787-1859) was the first recorded owner.
3) A portrait by Humphry of Edmund Burke’s brother, Robert, was copied in enamel by Spicer, see G. C. Williamson, Daniel Gardner, 1918, pp 239, 277, 295, illus. f.p.188 (previously exhibited SKM 1865, no.2229, lent T. Moreton Wood).

Referenceback to top

Graves & Cronin 1899-1901
A. Graves & W. V. Cronin, A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, 4 vols., 1899-1901, I, pp 130-1.

Mannings 2000
D. Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds, 2 vols., 2000, no. 284a.

Waterhouse 1941
E. K. Waterhouse, Reynolds, 1941, p 59.

Physical descriptionback to top

Grey eyes, dark brown hair, dull grey-green coat, a black eyeglass ribbon.

Provenanceback to top

Thomas Haviland Burke (d. 1852), the sitter’s great nephew;1 his son, E. Haviland Burke; sold by order of the Court of Chancery,2 Christie’s, 4 July 1874, lot 81, bought in; Christie’s, 4 July 1874, lot 81, bought George Attenborough, from whom purchased 1882.

1 After Burke’s death, his widow (d. 1812) lived at Butler’s Court, Beaconsfield, with her niece, Mrs Haviland (d. 1816), and her son, Thomas Haviland [Burke] (J. Prior, Memoir of the Life and Character of the Right Hon Edmund Burke, 1826, II, pp 405-06, and Burke's Landed Gentry, 1868, pp 182a-182b, inserted pages of uneasy pretence, were not retained in later editions).
2 The property was disputed in Chancery in 1874 between the children of Thomas Haviland Burke, E. Haviland Burke v Mrs Mary J. Evezard.

Exhibitionsback to top

RA 1871 (161) lent E. Haviland Burke; The Past We Share, Dallas, 1967 (16); Johnson, Arts Council, 1984 (67); The Raj, NPG, 1990-91 (148); Romantic Icons, Dove Cottage, the Wordsworth Museum, Grasmere, 1999 (7).

Reproductionsback to top

C. E. Wagstaff 1834.


This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, National Portrait Gallery, 2004, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.

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