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Augustus Keppel, Viscount Keppel

43 of 1413 portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Augustus Keppel, Viscount Keppel

by Sir Joshua Reynolds
1779
48 1/2 in. x 39 1/2 in. (1232 mm x 1003 mm)
NPG 179


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This portraitback to top

Upon Keppel’s honourable acquittal from his court-martial on 11 February 1779, Reynolds immediately had his pupil William Doughty make a mezzotint from the last portrait he had painted of his friend, see NPG 5572. ‘I have taken the liberty’, he told Keppel, ‘without waiting for leave, to lend your picture to an engraver, to make a large print from it’. [1] Keppel’s successful defence lawyer, John Lee, then asked for his portrait (rather than accepting his proffered gift of £1000), suggesting that Nathaniel Dance ‘takes excellent likenesses’. [2] Keppel, predictably, preferred to sit to Reynolds who then created this defiant image, set against a threatening sky, the right hand firmly holding the sword which had been restored to him.
NPG 179 is one of four replicas which Keppel gave to those who had supported him during his ordeal. He was sitting spasmodically to Reynolds between 27 May 1779 and July 1780, and in September 1779 Reynolds had entered in his Ledger: ‘Admiral Keppell, for four half lengths £400’, [3] the price indicating that he regarded each as an autograph work (despite some studio intervention). The four replicas are:
a) the portrait received by John Lee, together with a miniature, on 18 November 1779; he considered it beautifully painted, and ‘a very exact likeness’; now in the National Maritime Museum, and considered to be the original portrait. [4]
b) NPG 179, given to John Dunning (Lord Ashburton). On 23 February 1779 Keppel told Dunning that his acquittal was ‘in a great measure [due] to your good counsel and assistance, together with that of Mr Lee and Mr Erskine’. [5]
c) The portrait given to Edmund Burke some time before 6 November 1779 when Burke told Keppel that ‘whenever [my son] sees that picture, he will remember what Englishmen, and what English seamen were’; now in a private collection. [6]
d) The portrait that belonged to the 6th Earl of Albemarle by 1883, now in a private collection. [7]
Another version, probably somewhat later in date, is at Berkeley Castle. [8] Half-length versions include those in the Hessische Hausstiftung at Friedrichschof; [9] sold Parke-Bernet, New York, 4-5 December 1941, lot 86, as Copley, and with Knoedler, New York, in 1975. [10] A pastel version with Derek Hand in 1968. Miniature versions include one by Samuel Shelley 1779 with Mrs George Keppel in 1949, and those sold Christie’s, 15 July 1949, lot 112; 19 June 1973, lot 45 (withdrawn), and 13 December 1983, lot 63. A miniature copy had been sent to John Lee in November 1779 and an entry in the Reynolds Ledger on the same page as Keppel’s account for the four half-lengths, reads: ‘20 Guineas for four miniatures paid’ [11] which may, or may not, refer to such copies.

Footnotesback to top

1) 12 Feb.1779, the day after Keppel’s acquittal (J. Ingamells & J. Edgcumbe eds., The Letters of Sir Joshua Reunolds, 2000, p 81).
2) T. Keppel, The Life of Augustus Viscount Keppel, 1842, II, p 217.
3) M. Cormack, 'The Ledgers of Sir Joshua Reynolds', Wal. Soc., XLII, 1970, p 157 (‘half length’ meaning our three-quarter length).
4) BHC 2822 (D. Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds, I, 2000, no.1042). T. Keppel, The Life of Augustus Viscount Keppel, 1842, II, p 262.
5) T. Keppel, The Life of Augustus Viscount Keppel, 1842, II, p 213; the letter enclosed a gratuity of £1000 (such as he also sent to Lee, and Erskine, who accepted it) which Dunning declined: ‘no pecuniary consideration can add to the respect and esteem with which I have the honour to subscribe myself, Your faithful and obedient servant’ (1 Mar.1779; T. Keppel, The Life of Augustus Viscount Keppel, 1842, II, pp 213-15).
6) Burke Corr., IV, p 169 (Burke to Keppel, 6 Nov.1779); D. Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds, I, 2000, no.1043.
7) D. Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds, I, 2000, no.1045.
8) Ibid., no.1046.
9) Ibid., no.1047.
10) Ibid., nos.1046a & b.
11) M. Cormack, 'The Ledgers of Sir Joshua Reynolds', Wal. Soc., XLII, 1970, p 157.

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, II, p542.

Mannings 2000
D. Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds, I, no.1044 (and see no.1042).

Waterhouse 1941
E. K. Waterhouse, Reynolds, 1941, p 71.

Physical descriptionback to top

Clear blue eyes, powdered wig, wearing a flag officer’s undress uniform of dark blue coat with gold facings and white vest with gold facings.

Provenanceback to top

John Dunning, 1st Baron Ashburton; his son, whose widow (d. 1835) bequeathed her husband’s estates to her maternal cousin, the 10th Baron Cranstoun; purchased from Lord Cranstoun 1864.

Exhibitionsback to top

British Institution 1833 (23); Third and concluding exhibition of National Portraits (fortieth year of the reign of George the third to MDCCCLXVII), South Kensington, 1868 (843); Royal Naval Exhibition, Chelsea, 1891 (342); War at Sea, Yorktown, Va., 1978.


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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