Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue: Ayscough

Francis Ayscough (1700-63)

Tutor, 1726-28, to George Baron Lyttelton whose sister he married; DD Oxford, 1735; clerk of the closet to Frederick Prince of Wales and preceptor, 1750-51, to his sons Prince George and Edward, Duke of York and Albany.

1165 and 1165A By Richard Wilson, c.1749-50
Divided after entering the Gallery into NPG 1165A, Dr Ayscough (left section of the original), and NPG 1165, the Prince of Wales, afterwards George III (1738-1820) and his brother Edward Augustus, Duke of York and Albany (1739-67). Description and condition apart, the two are here treated as the entity they once were. Since going to press the sections have been re-united and the lacunae have been supplied.

1165A Oil on canvas, 79 ¾ x 37 in. (2026 x 940 mm), dark blue eyes, double chin with marked cleft, grey wig touching shoulders; black gown, cassock, white bands; in his left hand Ayscough holds a paper, his right rests on a book turned on its spine, on a table covered with a dark brown cloth.

Condition: varnish much discoloured; flaking along lines of old folds, horizontally 5 1/2 in. from top and vertically 12 in. from the left edge.

1165 George, Prince of Wales and Edward, Duke of York. Oil on canvas, 56 1/2 x 62 3/4 in. (1435 x 1595 mm), both have deep blue eyes and long wigs falling behind the shoulders; York (left), blond, wears blue velvet suit with gold frogging; George, light brown wig centre-parted, wears oyster-grey velvet suit with silver frogging, and silk waistcoat; between them they hold an open book with a plate on the right-hand page; a large folio volume with the Prince of Wales' feathers on the binding rests against a globe, bottom right; sofa covered in rose material, dark blue drapery behind; strongly lit from the left.

Condition: impasto flattened in relining; many discoloured retouchings; small losses top left; left background worn, fold marks (?) visible in an area approximately 17 1/2 x 24 in., including York's head.

Prince George, as Constable points out, [1] does not wear the Garter ribbon and star and NPG 1165 must therefore, almost certainly, have been painted before his election, 22 June 1749, and before 12 July 1750 when he was installed in the order by proxy. This would apply also to the small version last seen at the 'Pictures from Hampshire Houses' exhibition, 1955 (76), [2] considered by Constable likely to be a study. The Tate Gallery picture showing George with the Garter has a table with books instead of the globe. Ayscough is not included.

Edward Edwards remembered Wilson painting c.1749 for Dr Thomas Hayter (1702-62), Bishop of Norwich, 1749, and of London from 1761, 'a large picture of his present Majesty, when Prince of Wales, with his brother the late Duke of York'. [3] Certain later writers have taken this to mean the portrait now divided into NPG 1165 and 1165A with the tutor identified as Hayter. Constable finds neither assumption justified, the reference being more suited to the double portrait in the Tate which could perhaps have descended from Hayter who did not, however, succeed Ayscough until after the death of Frederick, Prince of Wales, father of the Princes, in 1751. Allowing for difference in scale, the tutor in both the study and the Gallery painting appears to be the same person and in neither do the features compare convincingly with the only known portrait of Hayter dated 1761, at Fulham Palace. [4] NPG 1165/1165A descends from Ayscough and he is probably the person depicted.

Collections: presented, July 1900, by Agnew and Sons; bequeathed to the National Gallery by Marianna Augusta, Lady Hamilton, great grand-daughter of Dr Ayscough, and accepted, 1892; transferred on loan to the NPG; withdrawn February 1900, the bequest being found invalid; sold, Christie's, 25 June 1900, lot 18, by the beneficiaries under the will of Sir James Cockburn, 6th Bart, [5] bought Agnew and Sons; divided into two between 1915-20. [6]

Engraved: by J. Faber junior, 1751, half length, the princes in different dress, George with the Garter, [NPG D7992] reproduced Constable (pls 7b and 7c); the portrait of Ayscough not engraved.

Literature: The Diaries of Fanny Burney, extra-illustrated, NPG Library; E. Edwards, Anecdotes of Painters, 1808; W.G. Constable, Richard Wilson, 1953.


NPG 1165A is the only known portrait type of Ayscough.


1. Constable, pp.153-4, pls 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7b, 7c.
2. Lent by Mrs Thomas Parrington; its early history seems unavailable.
3. Edwards, I, p.78.
4. Burney, I, part i, p.48; listed by Musgrave, BM Add MS 6391, f.113, without artist's name, but Harding, f.349, gives [Nathaniel] Dance. This appears correct on stylistic grounds.
5. Son of Ayscough and grandfather of the donor to the National Gallery, Marianna Augusta.
6. Minutes of Trustees meeting, 1915, vol.IX, pp.118-23, NPG archives.