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Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue: Montagu

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


Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762)

Author of the Letters; of aristocratic birth, née Pierrepont; married, 1712, Edward Wortley Montagu, MP for Huntingdon; accompanied him, 1716, on his appointment as ambassador to Constantinople; a victim of smallpox, on her return to England, 1718, supported the practice of inoculation; a leader of society; Pope, one of her greatest admirers, later published scurrilous attacks; went to Italy, 1739, Avignon, 1742, Brescia, 1746; settled in Venice until 1761, returning to England at her husband's death; Court Poems afterwards called Town Eclogues appeared 1716, Letters from the East and Letters of the Right Honourable Lady M--y W-----y M------, published posthumously, 1763.

3924 Attributed to Jean Baptiste Vanmour, c.1717 (with her son Edward, 1713-76, and attendants)
Oil on canvas, 27 x 35 ½ in. (690 x 900 mm); blue ermine-edged coat, open, over gold dress, turban in Turkish fashion; Edward in long white dress; a female servant, left, playing the Tambur (a Turkish lute) and a Turkish messenger, right, presenting a letter; dais with carpet, landscape background with a view of Constantinople.

Attribution is based chiefly on comparison with the artist's portrait of Ahmed III in the Rijksmuseum (2397). Vanmour (1671-1737) was in Constantinople from 1699 and painter-in-ordinary to the sultan from 1725, and despite lack, of supporting evidence he might well have painted the sitter among the notables at court. J.E. Schmidt and Johann Selmer can be eliminated as artists for NPG 3924 since they arrived in Constantinople only in 1719 when the sitter had already left. [1] A whole length with wooded background, apparently based on NPG 3924, [2] was sold by the trustees of the Wharncliffe Settled Estates, Christie's, 23 May 1958, lot 51, as a Charles Philips; it is now owned by R. Halsband. Another portrait which is possibly related, at Debenham Coe, 10 November 1970, lot 73, shows the sitter with a rolled paper in her right hand and a view of shipping, left.

Condition: rubbed; cleaned, 1955.

History: bought, 1958, from the Wharncliffe Estates—on loan from 1955; presumably descended through the sitter's great-grandson who was created Baron Wharncliffe, 1826; sketched by Scharf, 1860, when in the collection of Lord Wharncliffe.

2506 From the studio of Charles Jervas, called Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
Oil on canvas, 48 ¾ x 36 ¼ in. (1240 x 920 mm); dark brown hair, centre-parted, brown eyes, near-white eyebrows, dimpled chin, turban with brooch, centre; blue robe and waistcoat, Turkish style, gold belt over white shirt, white, gold-embroidered fichu(?) held in her left hand, a bracelet with a miniature of a man on her right wrist; landscape background, now somewhat indistinct, may include a bay or valley and a hill.

On comparison with authentic portraits and in particular with one at Dulwich which is very close in pose and features, NPG 2506 is now believed to represent Dorothy, Viscountess Townshend (1686-1726), [3] sister of Sir Robert Walpole and second wife of Charles, 2nd Viscount Townshend. The features agree well with known portraits such as the Kneller signed and dated 1715, sold by Lady Townshend, Christie's, 4 July 1947, lot 4 and the head by Jervas at Holkham. In the Dulwich painting the sitter is shown holding her surcoat instead of the fichu (or scarf) in NPG 2506, and there are tents in the background, left.

Condition: rubbed; discoloured varnish; small old damages above the head and the base of throat.

Collections: received, 1931, by bequest from Miss Lillie B. Randell, with portraits of Frederick, Prince of Wales (now NPG 2501, q.v.), George III (NPG 2502), George IV (NPG 2503) and the 2nd Duke of Newcastle (NPG 2504), incorrectly named the 1st Duke; earlier history unknown.

Literature: A. Boppé, Les Peintres du Bosphore, Paris, 1911; R. Halsband, The Life of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, 1956; The Complete Letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, ed. by R. Halsband, 1967.

Iconography

Portraits, unless otherwise stated, are in the collection of the Marquess of Bute, Rothesay, Mary, the sitter's only daughter and principal legatee, marrying, 1736, John Stuart, later 3rd Earl of Bute.

Of three portraits attributed to Kneller and said to be of 1710, 1715 and 1719-20, only the last is certainly by him and firmly dated. The first, showing the sitter as a shepherdess leaning against a tree, was painted before her marriage in 1712. It is inscribed Lady Mary Pierrepont and on stylistic grounds is more likely to be by Jervas. A miniature omitting the spud [4] and lamb engraved as after Kneller, 1710, by Caroline Watson (O'D 7), was published 1803. Nearly whole length, the second portrait, of her seated and holding a book, is probably by Kneller and on appearance, can be dated after her marriage. The inscription is perhaps not contemporary. A head and shoulders repetition, formerly in the Wharncliffe collection, is now owned by R. Halsband. Another, in a private collection, is inscribed LADY MARY WORTLEY MONTAGU Given to / LADY LONSDALE BY j LADY LOUISA MANNERS. The third portrait, in a reclining pose and Turkish costume engraved by Caroline Watson (O'D 1), was painted for Alexander Pope; the inscription includes the date 1720. This presumably is the portrait mentioned in a letter written by Pope to the sitter, apparently in the summer of 1719: 'Upon conferring with him [Kneller] yesterday, I find he thinks it absolutely necessary to draw the Face first . . . To give you as little trouble as possible, he proposes to draw your face with Crayons & finish it up at your own house, in a morning . . .’. [5] The portrait is said to have prompted the poem beginning: 'The playfull smiles around the dimpled mouth / That happy air of Majesty and Youth . . .'. [6]

Other portraits, in addition to NPG 3924 ofc.1717-18, include a three-quarter length formerly in the Wharncliffe collection known until recently as Mary Churchill, Duchess of Montagu. Given to Jervas but close to an engraving by Caroline Watson published, 1817, after a portrait of 1719 by Jonathan Richardson, it is now owned by Denis Martineau. A striking whole length in Turkish dress, traditionally attributed to Richardson, in the collection of the Earl of Harrowby, Sandon Hall, does not accord with the majority of female portraits by this artist. It is, however, unusually attractive, the head in particular suggesting a Venetian influence—perhaps Rosalba's. A related pastel head and shoulders, artist unknown, is in the Bute collection. A miniature by Zincke, 1738, at Welbeck, although apparently engraved by Vertue in 1739 as from life, may nevertheless be based on the Kneller of 1715. A portrait in which the sitter rests her hand on a skull, on loan from the Wharncliffe collection to the Department of the Environment, HM Embassy, Ankara, is inscribed done from the life by Carolus de Rusca London 1739 Given by her Ladyship to Lady Oxford.

FALSE PORTRAITS

Turkish style dress was much in fashion after the sitter's return from Constantinople [7] and various ladies were so painted, in some cases in a pose similar to NPG 2506. These include Lady Fanny Shirley, Winchester College exhibition, 1938 (24), as by Kneller, lent by Sir F. Hervey-Bathurst, Bart; the portrait of Jemima, Countess of Ashburnham, attributed to Jervas, at Wrest Park, and Lady Selina Bathurst, artist unknown, sold from the Heathcote collection, Christie's, 27 May 1938, lot 34. A later portrait of Nancy Parsons by G. Willison (d.1797), now in the Mellon collection, has also been mistaken for the sitter. A portrait inscribed Lady M. Wortley Montagu / Vanderbank, almost certainly a late Kneller, shows a lady in Turkish dress and may represent the sitter although the shape of the jaw is not easily reconciled with known portraits of her by this artist. It isnot unlike portraits of Frances Thynne, 7th Duchess of Somerset (1699-1754). [8] Another portrait, lent by the Duke of Newcastle to the 'NPE', 1867 (25) as Mary Wortley Montagu, is now believed to represent Mary Churchill, Duchess of Montagu.

Notes

1. Boppé, passim.
2. A portrait similar in style in the Wharncliffe collection, had an inscription or signature Eduardo Cadella, of whom nothing further is known.
3. Reproduced Connoisseur, CXX, 1947, p.5, as Lady Mary Wortley Montagu; first questioned by C.K. Adams in the 1950s.
4. For 'spud', see the Oxford English Dictionary, X, 1933, p.706.
5. G. Sherburn, The Correspondence of Alexander Pope, 1956, II, p.22.
6. Poems, ed. J. Butt, 1965, p.467.
7. For a description of the dress, see Halsband, I, 1967, pp.325-27, letter to her sister Frances, Countess of Mar, 1 April 1717.
8. Exh. 'Old Masters from Houses in Kent', Canterbury, 1937 (25), lent by Mrs Hammond.