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Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue: Lyttelton

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

George Lyttelton, 1st Baron Lyttelton (1709-73)

Politician and scholar; MP for Okehampton, 1735-56; a lord of the treasury, 1744-54; with Pitt and the Grenvilles, a leader of the 'Cobhamites'; chancellor of the exchequer, briefly, 1756; created Baron Lyttelton of Frankley, 1756; friend of Pope and Thomson; Fielding dedicated Tom Jones to him; published To the Memory of a Lady [Lucy Lyttelton] lately deceased, a Monody, 1747, and among other works Dialogue of the Dead, 1760, and The History of the Life of Henry the Second . . ., 1767-71.

128 By an unknown artist
Oil on canvas, 29 ½ x 24 ¾ in. (749 x 629 mm); blue eyes, acquiline nose, pursed lips, long angular face, full white wig looped into a knot; white neck-cloth and shirt ruffle, plain collarless blue velvet coat with silver lace buttonholes; dark brown background, lighter on right; lit from the left.

The portrait is undated and in appearance seems near in age to the Reynolds of 1756; but, despite certain marks of his influence in the lighting, it is too weakly painted for him. Nor is it likely to be by Benjamin West although there is a close resemblance in the face to his portrait of the sitter in peer's parliamentary robes at Hagley. Arthur Pond, who worked for the sitter there, may also be discounted.

Condition: slight retouchings, chiefly down the shoulders; restored and repaired, 1872 and 1881.

Collections: presented, 1861, by George, sixth Baron Lyttelton; presumably by descent.

Literature: [J. Heeley], A Description of Hagley Park, 1777; Catalogue of Pictures & Portraits at Hagley Hall, Worcestershire, Sir R. C. Hoare Bart, MS taken c.1794-98 (photostat in NPG archives); Stowe: A Description of the House and Gardens, c.1797;Lord Albemarle, Memoirs of Rockingham, I, 1852.


Born prematurely, he was 'thrown away by the nurse as a dead child, but upon closer inspection was found to be alive. Though he lived to the age of sixty-four, his appearance bespoke this inauspicious entry into the world'. [1] Hervey commented his face was 'so ugly, his person so ill-made, and his carriage so awkward, that every feature was a blemish, every limb an incumbrance, and every motion a disgrace'. [2]


Considering his position as prominent parliamentarian and literary figure, portraits are relatively rare. The Reynolds of 1756, [3] destroyed in the Hagley Hall fire of 1926, and West's portrait, which survived, are the only ones recorded in Hoare's catalogue of c.1794-98,datable from his visit to Hagley and his tour of Wales. The Reynolds, first listed in 1766 [4] when next to Lucy Fortescue, his first wife, by Williams, was exhibited 'NPE', 1867 (338). The portrait, recorded by Musgrave in 1798, [5] at Wimpole, and mentioned by Scharf, 1879, 'Lord Lyttelton to waist profile to r holding up paper', [6] when reproduced in the catalogue 'English Portraits 1500-1830', Sabin Galleries, 1970 (36), was listed as from the collection of the Earl of Hardwicke, 1888, and later owned by H.V. Yorke. It seems to be a repetition of the West. Another version of the West was engraved by Dunkarton, 1774, when in the possession of Dr Newton, Bishop of Bristol. A bust was in the Temple of Friendship at Stowe, 1745, [7] and a portrait by Alcock is recorded by Musgrave in the house of Dr Johnstone at Worcester, 1796, [8] presumably Dr John Johnstone (1768-1836) who practised medicine there 1793-99. A pastel, nearly full face, artist unknown, at Phillips Son and Neale, 26 April 1855, lot 116, and again at Bonham's, 12 June 1969, lot 226, seems rightly named. A portrait by Calze, at Boconnoc, deriving no doubt from the family of the sitter's first wife Lucy, née Fortescue, is probably not from life.

A conversation by A. Devis, signed and dated 1748, from Mrs Tritton's collection, first seen in the Bourne sale, Sotheby's, 12 December 1934, lot 124, was also at Christie's, 20 November 1964, lot 39. It is said to represent Lyttelton, with his brother and sister-in-law, Lt-Gen. Sir Richard and Lady Rachel Lyttelton. The house in the background, with water, is not the old Hagley house and the present house was not built until 1759-60. A three-quarter length in baron's parliamentary robes but with what appears to be a viscount's coronet and a book Coke on Littleton [9]on the table, was sold at Christie's, 2 July 1954, lot 122 as Lyttelton. It resembles work by William Hoare and could represent Lyttelton if the coronet is inaccurately depicted.


1. Albemarle, I, p.205, 24 July, 1796.
2. GEC, VIII, p.310, note (d).
3. Waterhouse, 1948, p.41.
4. The English Connoisseur, 1766, I, p.71.
5. BM Add. MS 6391, f.19v.
6. TSB, xxvi, f.81v.
7. Vertue, III, p.133; Stowe. . ., p.34.
8. BM Add. MS 6391, f.248v.
9. Mrs Cullen suggests this is Sir Edward Coke's 17th-century commentary on Littleton's treatise on Tenures. Thomas Littleton (1422-81), judge and legal writer, was an ancestor of the sitter, Burke's Peerage, 1860, pp.635-36.


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