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Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

William (Thomas) Beckford (1760-1844), Writer, collector and eccentric dilettante

c.1766
Painting by Andrea Casali, as a boy, oval whole-length seated. Lennoxlove (illus. D. E. Ostergard ed., William Beckford: An Eye for the Magnificent, 2001, p 298). According to Beckford’s sister, ‘the strongest resemblance ... a sweet pretty picture’ (G. Chapman and J. Hodgkin, Bibliography of W. Beckford, 1930, p 115, no.1). Casali undertook much decorative painting at Fonthill before leaving England c.1766 (see E. Croft-Murray, Decorative Painting in England 1537-1837, II, p 182).

c.1770
Painting attributed to William Hoare, as a boy, with two hounds. Mrs Lovette West, New York, in 1967, from the Hamilton sale, Christie’s, 6 November 1919, lot 11 (as N. Dance, Portrait of a Boy; illus. W. Beckford, The Vision and Liber Veritatis, 1930, ed. G. Chapman, front.). The identification is traditional.

1777-78
Painting by A. R. Mengs. ‘The portrait I would like to recover is the one Mengs did when I was at Geneva coming out of the sea, and in the best of all costumes- that of paradise’ (Beckford to Franchi, 20 October 1824; Boyd Alexander, 'Portraits of William Beckford', Register of the Museum of Art, University of Kansas, 1967, III, p 10).

Portraits by J-D. Huber, made in Geneva. Beckford recalled that Huber ‘did various portraits of me’, one with a ‘pink bath robe-de-chambre’ (Boyd Alexander, 'Portraits of William Beckford', Register of the Museum of Art, University of Kansas, 1967, III, p 10). An unfinished pencil sketch shows Beckford standing behind the artist’s son François who plays the clavichord (Beckford MSS, Bodleian Library; Boyd Alexander, 'Portraits of William Beckford', Register of the Museum of Art, University of Kansas, 1967, III, p 10).

1781-82
Painting by George Romney, whole length. Upton House. Alastair Laing (In Trust for the Nation, National Gallery, 1995, no.9) commented ‘although the portrait conveys all the arrogance of a rich, handsome and precociously published youth, its conventionality suggests that it may in fact have been painted at the wish of his Methodistical but dangerously possessive mother’.

1782
Painting by Joshua Reynolds, see NPG 5340.

1787-88
Two portraits painted in Madrid by ‘Kauffmann’, an unidentified relative of Angelika Kauffmann, doubtless one of her three cousins who served in the bodyguard of Carlos III of Spain (G. Chapman and J. Hodgkin, Bibliography of W. Beckford, 1930, p 118, no.6).

1797
Painting by J. P. Sauvage, undraped medallion, engraved J. Singleton 1797 (European Mag.); A. de St Aubin 1801 (illus. D. E. Ostergard ed., William Beckford: An Eye for the Magnificent, 2001, p 99); S. Freeman 1844. A related engraving (with coat) published G. Smeeton 1823 (illus. L. Melville, Life and Letters of William Beckford, 1910, p 228).

c.1800
Painting by John Hoppner, three-quarter length seated. Salford Museum and Art Gallery. Probably painted after 1799 when Beckford finally returned to England having been abroad 1787-88, 1793-96 and 1798-99 (see Boyd Alexander, Life at Fonthill, 1957, pp 343-44).

1817
Anon. engraving after William Behnes, A Dialogue in the Shades, half length with spectacles, with his bookseller Clark and William Caxton (illus. Boyd Alexander, 'Portraits of William Beckford', Register of the Museum of Art, University of Kansas, 1967, III, p 7; a variant, showing Clark without his wig, illus. Boyd Alexander, Life at Fonthill, 1957, f.p.70, and see pp 344-45). Beckford’s likeness compares with an anon. caricature in the Beckford MSS on a letter of 1 April 1803 (illus. Boyd Alexander, England’s Wealthiest Son, 1962, p 39).

c.1825-30?
Drawing by Lucius Gahagan, on horseback (illus. H. Bridgeman & E. Drury, The British Eccentric, 1975, p 117, without source).

1842
Lithograph by John Doyle, on horseback (illus. Boyd Alexander, 'Portraits of William Beckford', Register of the Museum of Art, University of Kansas, 2001, p 262). In old age Beckford, 'dressed in the manner of a country squire and in the fashion of the regency,’ would ride out on a grey Arab, attended by a small retinue (B. Fothergill, Beckford of Fonthill, 1979, p 330).

1844
Painting by Willes Maddox, on his deathbed. Brodick Castle (illus. Boyd Alexander, 'Portraits of William Beckford', Register of the Museum of Art, University of Kansas, 2001, p 404). A reduced version in a private collection (illus, ibid., p 405).

Doubtful Portraits
An unattributed miniature said to represent Beckford, wearing blue coat, powdered wig and black cravat, formerly with Lord Harrowby, was stolen in 1937 (Boyd Alexander, 'Portraits of William Beckford', Register of the Museum of Art, University of Kansas, 1967, III, p 10). Unattributed painting (Scottish NPG, PG 342); miniature by A. Plimer (H. Drake in 1903; illus. G. C. Williamson, Andrew & Nathaniel Plimer, 1903, f.p.48); painting by Richard Cosway (Sotheby’s, 19 November 1969, lot 38); unattributed painting (T. Mowle, Beckford, 1998, pl.28; Bridgeman & Drury, The British Eccentric, 1975, p 115).



This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, National Portrait Gallery, 2004, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.