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Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue: Vernon

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

Edward Vernon (1684-1757)

Admiral; second son of James Vernon; entered the navy, 1700; captain, 1706; MP, Penryn, 1722; advocated war with Spain, 1731; took the defenceless Porto Bello, 1739, but, in conjunction with Brigadier-general Wentworth, failed miserably at Cartagena, in 1741, at Santiago in Cuba, and Panama; first to issue rum diluted with water ('grog'), 1740; bought Nacton; MP, Ipswich; admiral, 1745; given command in North Sea, 1745; attacked the admiralty in anonymous pamphlets, 1745-46; cashiered, 1746.

881 By Thomas Gainsborough, c.1753
Oil on canvas, 49 ¾ x 40 7/8 in. (1264 x 1038 mm); grey eyes, brown bushy eyebrows, grey wig, fresh complexion; light red coat, white cravat and shirt, black hat under arm, gilt sword hilt; greenish-brown rocks and fortress to right, rocks and black cannon to left, grey-green sea, yellow sky with dark grey clouds or smoke.

Philip Thicknesse saw two portraits in Gainsborough's painting room at Ipswich in1753. [1] These are likely to be the two extant versions: NPG 881 and another, which had belonged to the sitter and was in the Dashwood heirlooms sale at Christie's, 26 June 1914, lot 99. Since 1967 it has been in the collection of Mrs Breckenridge Long. [2] NPG 881 is not perhaps a typical Gainsborough, Scharf tending to attribute it to Highmore prior to acquisition. Waterhouse accepted it, however. [3] McArdell's mezzotint perhaps suggests rather different handling from NPG 881.

Condition:small areas of retouching, particularly to right side of face, to right cuff and to the boat in the background; surface cleaned, polished and varnished, September 1895 and July 1901.

Collections:bought 1891 from Shepherd Bros, the purchasers at Christie's, 20 June 1891, lot 135; from the collection of B.B. Hunger Bodwell, the lender to the Guelph exhibition in 1891.

Engraved:the type was engraved by James McArdell (CS 182) and others.

Exhibited:'Exhibition of the Royal House of Guelph', New Gallery, 1891 (125).

Literature:Philip Thicknesse, A Sketch of the Life and Paintings of Thomas Gainsborough,1788; J.T. Medina, Las Medallas del Almirante Vernon,1919; L. McCormick-Goodhart, Admiral Vernon Medals,1945.


The family collection of portraits and pictures, founded by the sitter's father, James Vernon (1646-1727), descended by marriage to Sir Robert Harland, 2nd Bart, builder of Wherstead Park, Ipswich. On Lady Harland's death in 1860, the pictures passed to her great-nephew, the father of C.E. Dashwood, by whose order they were dispersed in 1914 and 1934. [4] The earliest recorded likeness is in Charles Philip's group of 1733, 'The Family of Admiral Vernon taking tea' which was sold in the first Dashwood heirlooms sale, Christie's, 26 June 1914, lot 104. By 1740 he had been painted by Bardwell. This portrait was engraved by Faber in that year. Philips painted him again in 1743; a signed and dated example, presumably lot 115 of the second Dashwood sale, Sotheby's, 25 April 1934, is in the National Maritime Museum. Another signed example was lot 117 of the same sale, and two other versions are in the Admiralty and at Sudbury. Finally, an unattributed whole length, lot 91 of the 1914 sale, reappeared at Sotheby's, 11 December 1929, and again 27 July 1938, lot 143. [5]

Also in 1743 Vernon sat for a bust by Rysbrack intended for Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough. The sculptor's letter to the Duchess' agent Mr Stephens, dated 19 March 1743, is still at Blenheim: 'Be pleased to aquent her Grace that Admiral Vernon Sat for is Busto for the first time and I don't dout if I shall make the Busto in marble better by that miens. The Admiral is gon hout of town for 10 or 12 days but promist me another Sitting when he comes back.' [6] The bust itself has disappeared but as Mrs Rowan and Mr St Q. Wall have suggested, [7] it may well be the excellent unattributed likeness, lot 124 of the second Dashwood sale and now in the National Maritime Museum. A similar bust at Sudbury, according to a note in the Vernon archive written on paper with an 1824 watermark, was 'executed by Roubillat for Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough', [8] but it is entirely consistent with Rysbrack. A copy by Francis is in the National Maritime Museum.

Both Gainsborough portraits were completed by 1753. O'Donoghue records an engraving by G. Bockman after a portrait by G. Hansoon, presumably Hansson (fl. 1st h. 18 c.). A miniature by Zincke from the Jeffrey Whitehead collection was exhibited at the Burlington Fine Arts Club, 1889 [9]. A classical bust by Rysbrack is on the monument in Westminster Abbey, erected in 1763 by the sitter's nephew Francis Vernon, afterwards Earl of Shipbrook. For the numerous commemorative medals struck at the time of Vernon's Portobello expedition see McCormick-Goodhart and Medina.

Portraits whose authenticity has yet to be established include lot 116 of the second Dashwood sale, a whole length inscribed Admiral Vernon / 1750—the features do not compare convincingly with authentic likenesses—and a portrait of a flag officer and a boy sold at Christie's as a Reynolds of 'Admiral Vernon and his Son', 17 October 1947, lot 121.


1. Thicknesse, p.11.
2. Information from Dr John Hayes, 1967.
3. TSB, XXXVI, p.51; Waterhouse, 1958 (692).
4. Sale catalogue 1934, p.15.
5. Sketch in NPG copy of 1914 sale catalogue.
6. Webb, p.167.
7. Correspondence, NPG archives.
8. Esdaile, p.55.
9. 'Portrait Miniatures', no.16.


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