Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue: The Court of Chancery
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.
798 By Benjamin Ferrers, c.1725 (?)
Oil on canvas, 29 ¾ x 24 7/8 in. (756 x 635 mm); at the top, four figures—three, in black gowns—seated before a blue hanging embroidered with royal arms and GR; to left, tipstaff and spectators behind a bar, right, spectators behind columns; in the middle; five figures seated behind a table—two, right, with gowns, pens and books; on the table, chancellor's, mace, the purse of the great seal, green table-cloth; figures to left, standing, and to right, seated; in front of the table, several figures seen from behind, two with square black caps on wigs; in foreground, several passers-by in front of a low screen including a man carrying a green bag, two figures with gowns—one with square cap, and two dogs; lit from the right. Two stencils on the top bar of the relining stretcher: 394L and 984Z.
The court of chancery in session in the south-west corner of Westminster Hall is represented.  At this date the courts of chancery and kings bench were still held in Westminster Hall at the upper end, against the south wall, below the great window, and can be seen in the engraving after Gravelot 'Westminster Hall in Term Time', c.1730.  The square caps worn by some figures are derivatives of the sergeant's coif. There is a complete absence of red robes. The iconographic content of the picture is low, a number of the figures being virtually interchangeable. However, the Lord Chancellor (Macclesfield), Sir Philip Yorke (Solicitor General) afterwards Lord Chancellor Hardwicke, and Sir Thomas Pengelly (King's Prime Sergeant) afterwards Chief Baron of the Exchequer, should be those on the bench, Macclesfield being the middle figure beneath the royal arms.
Walpole refers to NPG 798 as 'in the time of Lord Chancellor Macclesfield'  who was in office from 1718-25, and the costume suggests a date at the end of this period.
Condition:good, except for three pin-holes in the centre of each edge except the bottom.
Collections:purchased from the Hardwicke collection, Wimpole, Christie's, 30 June 1888, lot 32; not in this collection originally since, according to Walpole,  it was given to the Earl of Hardwicke by the antiquary Michael Lort (1725-90).
1. A larger version, about 50 x 40 in., with more of the Hall, to left showing part of the court of king's bench and below, a throng of counsel, litigants and spectators is reported in a private collection, USA, 1977.
2. Scharf, pp.519-20 and references there cited.
3. Anecdotes, III, p.836.
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