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Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Ralph Allen (1693-1764), Philanthropist; known as 'The Man of Bath'

Collections are at Bath and, due to the sitter's friendship with Warburton and Hurd, in the episcopal library at Hartlebury Castle. Boyce's biography and Allen's Own Narrative, published by the Postal History Society, 1960, reproduce the main types.
A portrait, owned by the City of Bath was painted by Van Diest c.1728 and another, by Thomas Hudson, probably as early as 1740 according to an Allen family inventory. [1] The type was engraved by J. Faber junior [NPG D19992], 1754. Versions are in the collection of M. C. Allen, by descent from Ralph's brother Philip, at Hartlebury, bought by Hurd in 1786 from Edward, 2nd Earl Ligonier, [2] and in the City of Bath collection, from the Skrine family of Warleigh. A modern copy is owned by the GPO, London. In his last decade Allen seems to have sat to Arthur Pond, the date 1757 being associated with the portrait at Hartlebury stated to be by him, and formerly owned by Warburton's widow, another of Allen's nieces. [3] A version was purchased in 1950 for the Pump Room, Bath. The portrait at Exeter Hospital was painted by William Hoare although ascribed to Gandy c.1715. [4] Hoare was in Weymouth to draw Allen for the Hospital in 1758, [5] and may have drawn Mrs Allen at the same time. An unattributed portrait of the second Mrs Allen, collection M. C. Allen, could well be a pendant to Hoare's painting of her husband. A replica (?) of the Exeter Hospital portrait was bequeathed to the City of Bath by Captain M. Montagu, RN, in 1864, [6] and a drawing is in the British Museum. [7] Hoare also took and engraved a profile (F. O'Donoghue and (Sir) Henry M. Hake, Catalogue of Engraved British Portraits ... in the British Museum, 1908-25, 1); a similar drawing was in the possession of Miss Allen, Bath, 1858. [8] J. D. Milner had seen an etching (?) lettered Sacred to the Memory of the late Ralph Allen of Prior Park, W. Hoare ft. Bath 1764, suggesting the use of the type for a memorial.
A wax profile is among works by the elder Isaac Gosset in the Hurd Library, [9] and two marble busts by Prince Hoare, brother of the artist, are in Bath. One commissioned by his friend Warburton when Allen retired as a governor in 1757, was presented to the Mineral Water Hospital, now the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases, [10] while the other, provenance unknown, belongs to the city. [11] Allen is caricatured in The Knights of Baythe, or the One Headed Corporation, 1763. [12]
A portrait in the Royal National Hospital, formerly known as the novelist Henry Fielding, has of late been said to represent Allen himself. Fielding never sat, and the portrait, according to information received at the NPG in 1921, was apparently given to the hospital as Allen from the Prior Park sale of 1856. A comparison with authentic portraits is not conclusive but the portrait may well represent the sitter.

1) B. Boyce, The Benevolent Man. A Life of Ralph Allen of Bath, Cambridge, Mass., 1967, p 219, note 23.
2) J. Nankivell, The Collection of Portraits in Oils of Bishop Richard Hurd at Hartlebury Castle, 1953, pp 17-18.
3) Said to be of 1757, but not signed or dated: it is inscribed A. Pond pinx., J. Nankivell, The Collection of Portraits in Oils of Bishop Richard Hurd at Hartlebury Castle, 1953, p18; the evidence is doubtless from Hurd MS IX, f. 36, to which he refers.
4) C. H. Collins Baker, Lely and the Stuart Portrait Painters, II, 1912, p 62.
5) B. Boyce, The Benevolent Man. A Life of Ralph Allen of Bath, Cambridge, Mass., 1967, p 250 and note 32, letter of September that year to Hurd.
6) F. G. Farwell, A Description of the Portraits and Busts in the Guildhall, Bath, 1907, pp 33-7, and reproduction.
7) L. Binyon, Catalogue of drawings by British artists ... in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, 1898-1907, II, p 313.
8) Sketchbooks of Sir George Scharf, MS in NPG archives, LII, p 21.
9) J. Nankivell, The Collection of Portraits in Oils of Bishop Richard Hurd at Hartlebury Castle, 1953, p 18 and note 3.
10) B. Boyce, The Benevolent Man. A Life of Ralph Allen of Bath, Cambridge, Mass., 1967, p 242, citing hospital minute and inscription on bust; also R. Gunnis, Dictionary of British Sculptors 1660-1851, 1953, pp 176, 204.
11) F. G. Farwell, A Description of the Portraits and Busts in the Guildhall, Bath, 1907, p 52.
12) B. Boyce, The Benevolent Man. A Life of Ralph Allen of Bath, Cambridge, Mass., 1967, p 281 and pl.13.


This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Kerslake, Early Georgian Portraits, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1977, 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.