Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue: Cork

The following text is from the National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Kerslake, Early Georgian Portraits, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1977 (now out of print). For the most up to date research on the Collection, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text. This can be accessed by following the link with each portrait’s title.

In consulting the following, please note that apart from the reformatting which allows the printed catalogue to be made available on-line the text is as published in 1977. Footnotes in the original edition are given within square brackets.

Contents Foreword Introduction Catalogue scope Abbreviations Arrangement of entries

John Boyle, 5th Earl of Cork and Orrery (1707-62)

Literary dilettante and patron; his Remarks . . . on Swift, 1751, is the first account of the Dean whom he had known in old age; Pope and Johnson were also of his circle; political opponent of Walpole; married, 1738, as his second wife Margaret Hamilton, one of the largest fortunes in Europe; DCL 1743; FRS 1750.

4621 Attributed to Isaac Seeman
Oil on canvas, 24 3/4 x 20 in. (630 x 510 mm); blue eyes, double chin, fresh complexion; red velvet cap and matching gown lined with ermine, gold lace edging of a coat or waistcoat just visible above, white shirt and neck-tie; plain brown background; lit from the left.

Inscribed in paint on the back: Earl of Cork & Orrery, and on the stretcher: 1st husband to Susanna Countess of/ Ailesbury;also a MS label Earl of Cork & Orrery Father of Lord Viscount Dunga . . ., and another label 91 and stencil 237 LII.

The handling of NPG 4621 seems to agree with known work by Isaac Seeman who died in England in 1751 and whose portrait of Henrietta, first wife of the sitter, was engraved by Vertue. Isaac, according to the latter, was successor to his brother Enoch (d.1744) but the work of this family needs further elucidation. Paul, Enoch's only son, was also a painter. Mrs Hill [1] suggests a date, on costume, in the late 'forties although it could be earlier.

Condition: unlined; the paint is very dry; a few discoloured retouchings visible, e.g. in the right cheek; cleaned, 1971.

Collections: presented, 1968, by H. Leggatt, the purchaser at the sale of Mrs Bruce Binney, Wolfhall Manor, Marlborough, Wilts, 9 August 1968, lot 739: '18th century oil painting reputed to be from the collection of the Countess of Ailesbury'. It is probably the portrait recorded by G.P. Harding in the Ailesbury collection, Tottenham Park, Wilts, 1804: 'Earl of Orrery afterwards Earl of Cork, Father of Lord Dungarvan/ 1st husband of Susannah Countess of Ailesbury.' [2] The MS label on the back of NPG 4621 is now partly torn and a misreading in the later painted inscription makes it appear that Cork married Susannah, wife of his eldest son Charles, Viscount Dungarvan (1729-59) who would be too young to represent the sitter. Charles' widow married, as her second husband, the 1st Earl of Ailesbury.


Portraits are rare. A whole length as a boy, with a dog, and miniatures, c.1750, with companion pieces of his first and second wives, were at Marston, the family seat. [3] An engraving ad vivum, 1741, by J. Faber junior (CS 272) is in the Ashmolean Museum, Hope collection. [4] A portrait of an earl in peer's parliamentary robes, with a faint inscription containing the name Cork and agreeing reasonably with this type, was with the late David Minlore in 1935. Possibly the portrait with the dealer Rodd in 1824, it was stated to be ‘style of Kneller', but on costume, c.1730,is too late for him. [5]


1. Former NPG Registrar, to whom I am indebted for both attribution and research on this entry.
2. Harding, II, p.326.
3. The Orrery Papers, ed. Countess of Cork, 1903, I, facing p.160; II, frontispiece.
4. The Life of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell, ed. by R. Ingpen, 1925, II, p.753, reproduced as 'after a painting by Faber'.
5. Rodd's priced sale catalogue, 1824, p.10 (28).