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George Colman the Elder

25 of 1413 portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

George Colman the Elder

after Sir Joshua Reynolds
29 in. x 24 1/2 in. (737 mm x 622 mm)
NPG 1364


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This portraitback to top

The original portrait, painted for the 1st Baron Mulgrave, [1] was last sold Sotheby’s, 8 April 1998, lot 101, and is in poor condition. [2] When it was exhibited at the RA in 1770, hung with Reynolds’s Goldsmith and Johnson (both now in a private collection), an anonymous satirist wrote: ‘but what the deuce brought Coly there? ... Now may the touch of Reynolds save/The mungrel’s likeness from the grave:/Drawn by the hand of such deserving,/Even frogs and toads are worth preserving’. [3]
Other copies are in the Garrick Club, [4] at Buscot Park and sold Bonham’s 7 December 1990, lot 126 (from the Gow collection); Haydon recounted how John Jackson made ‘a really wonderful copy’ from the Mulgrave portrait. [5]

Footnotesback to top

1) D. Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds, I, 2000, no.396; engraved G. Marchi 1773, other plates include those by N. Schiavonetti 1807, E. Scriven 1813 and S. Fisher 1841.
2) J. Northcote, The Life of Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1819, p 158, described it being force-dried by a fire when it was covered by a fall of soot and dust. Reynolds, observing a picture [the same?] on which soot had fallen, is supposed to have remarked on the ‘fine, cool tint’ and scumbled the dirt into the flesh (Haydon, Autobiography, II, p 390).
3) Wal. Corr., XLI, pp 400-01.
4) G. Ashton, Pictures in the Garrick Club, ed. K. A. Burnim & A. Wilton, 1997, no.125.
5) B. R. Haydon, Autobiography, 1926 ed., I, p 23; John Jackson’s preparatory drawings for the engraving by E. Scriven are in the British Museum (1861.05.18.210 dated 1802, and 1856.07.12.959 dated 1810).

Referenceback to top

Mannings 2000
D. Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds, 2 vols., 2000, no. 396b.

Physical descriptionback to top

Brown eyes, dark hair, deep red coat trimmed with black fur.

Provenanceback to top

Thomas Turton, Bishop of Ely; his sale, Christie’s, 14 April 1864, lot 331 as ‘Unknown artist, Oliver Goldsmith, his arm resting on a book’; C. J. Huth sale, Christie’s, 19 March 1904, lot 48 as Goldsmith by Dance (‘from the collection of the Bishop of Ely’), bought Leggatt for the NPG.


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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