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Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue

George Berkeley (1685-1753), Philosopher; Bishop of Cloyne

Portraits are not uncommon. A well illustrated account, with useful material revising and expanding Fraser, is given by Luce. [1] Foote discusses the Smiberts in some detail. [2] The earliest portrait of the sitter by this artist formerly at Hanwell Castle and now in the collection of Mrs Maurice Berkeley, Avening, near Stroud, is thought to have been painted while he was in Italy, 1719-22. [3] It shows the characteristic defect above the right eyelid and, as in an anonymous engraving in the NPG library, the sitter is in civil dress. Although not entirely typical of Smibert's early work, the evidence of Roman influence is consistent with a 19th-century record of its Italian origins. Its provenance suggests Berkeley's younger brother Dr Robert (Robin) Berkeley (1696-1787), from whom it descended, but despite appearing rather young for George the eyelid defect points to him. [4] Smibert painted Berkeley twice in London, one portrait perhaps reappearing at Sotheby's in 1960 and four times in America between 1729 and 1732, as discussed above.
The following portraits represent him as bishop and are therefore of 1734 or later. [5] These include an anonymous standing three-quarter length inscribed Mai. 19.1733 (sic), as of his consecration, at Lambeth Palace since 1781 when engraved by T. Cook, [6] and the head and shoulders by James Latham (Lathem) of perhaps c.1734-38, [7] Trinity College, Dublin, exhibited 'Irish Portraits 1660-1860', NPG, 1970 (22), when the engraving by John Brooks was stated to be of 1743. Berkeley was in Dublin for the last time between October 1737 and May 1738. Latham died 26 January 1747.
A seated three-quarter length with affinities to the work of Francis Bindon, wrongly attributed in Luce to John Vanderbank, is also at Trinity College. [8] A picture near this type was at Sotheby's, 4 October 1967, lot 94, as by Zoffany, and others similarly described were listed in 1871 with General Berkeley and at Allerby, in the collection of Sir David Brewster, the physiologist. [9]
The portrait at Trinity College given to Vanderbank shows the sitter facing the spectator and holding a book, whereas the engraving, 1800, by W. Skelton 'after Vanderbank' has the head turned towards a fountain, left, a different chair and no book. The original of this engraving might be by Slaughter. Among several portraits now lost, one by Vanderbank which presumably went to the sitter's widow, was later, 1797, offered by the widow of the younger George Berkeley to Trinity College - a transaction evidently never completed. [10]
The group by Smibert at Yale [11] mentioned in the artist's notebook in 1730, comprises Berkeley, his wife and son, members of his mission to America - James, Dalton and Hendcock, as well as Smibert himself. The small version bought by the National Gallery of Ireland, 1897, seems likely to be a copy. A posthumous whole length by Robert Home, c.1783, is one of a set of college worthies painted for Trinity College between 1783 and 1788.

False portraits
Two portraits should now be regarded with reservation. One bearing an apparent Smibert signature and date of 1728 was acquired from F. W. Bayley by Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts, in 1917 [12] and the other, last seen in the Frank Bulkley Smith sale, American Art Association, New York, 1920, was regarded by C. H. Hart as a repetition of the former. [13]

1) A. A. Luce, The Life of George Berkeley, 1949, pp 239-44.
2) H. W. Foote, John Smibert, 1950, pp 130-4.
3) An earlier visit c.1717 remains a possibility, cf The Notebook of John Smibert, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1969, ed. Sir David Evans and others, p 7.
4) A. A. Luce, The Life of George Berkeley, 1949, p 240 (1); H. W. Foote, John Smibert, 1950, p 129.
5) I have not seen the picture at the Massachusetts Historical Society, traditionally believed painted during the voyage of 1728; A. A. Luce, The Life of George Berkeley, 1949, p 242 (3); H. W. Foote, John Smibert, 1950, pp 130-3.
6) A. A. Luce, The Life of George Berkeley, 1949, pp 242-3 (5).
7) Ibid, pp 247-9.
8) Ibid, reproduced opposite p 180, and p 244 (7).
9) A. C. Fraser, The Works of George Berkeley, 1871, IV, p 348, note 24.
10) A. A. Luce, The Life of George Berkeley, 1949, p 244-6; see NPG 653, Provenance.
11) H. W. Foote, John Smibert, 1950, pp 131-2; The Notebook of John Smibert, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1969, ed. Sir David Evans and others, p 89 (48).
12) W. Dunlap, A History of the Rise and Progress of the Arts of Design in the United States, reproduced, revised edition 1918, I, frontispiece.
13) H. W. Foote, John Smibert, 1950, pp 237-8.


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.