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Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue

William Kent (1685?-1748), Architect, painter and landscape gardener

A number of portraits have been called Kent and although some ground has been cleared by Margaret Jourdain, [1] a detailed study is still to seek. A head by Benedetto Luti, under whom the sitter studied in Italy, inscribed on the back Wi. Kent Rittrato Cavalier Benedetti Luti/Pinxt: in Roma 1718, at Chatsworth was possibly given by the sitter to his patron the 3rd Earl of Burlington. [2] After Kent's return, Vertue refers to the following portraits: a whole length by W. Aikman at Lord Castlemain's at Wanstead [Editor’s note, 2013: this is NPG 6063], and 'his picture done by Mr Dahl very like', 1725, [3] two busts in Rysbrack's studio, 1732, [4] the well-known caricature Taste, or Burlington Gate, 1731-32, [5] the portrait in the 'Conversation of Virtuosis', 1734-35, by Gawen Hamilton, [6] (see NPG 1384) a self-portrait despatched to Paris to be engraved by Ravenet, 1743, [7] and a crayon by Lady Burlington in her great room at Piccadilly 'much more like than that done by Aikman', c.1748. [8] Not all these portraits can now be identified. A head and shoulders by Aikman is known through engravings (F. O'Donoghue and Sir Henry M. Hake, Catalogue of Engraved British Portraits ... in the British Museum, 1908-25, 1-3) such as A. Bannerman's made for the 1762 edition of Walpole's Anecdotes. The Dahl and the busts by Rysbrack are apparently lost and efforts to trace the Wanstead portrait have so far proved fruitless. No very convincing self-portrait is known although one exhibited at the Second Exhibition of National Portraits, South Kensington, 1867 (350), lent by Rev. W. V. Harcourt, cannot be ruled out. A portrait by Lady Burlington 'painted like Kneller' was reported at Hardwick in 1865. [9] In the decorations of the King's Stairs, Kensington Palace, [10] there is a self-portrait with palette and probably another in the allegory 'Mercury and the Arts' in the Red Velvet Room at Chiswick House, [11] and a small profile drawing is among the Chiswick miscellanies at Chatsworth.
An oil which may represent Kent was in the possession, 1919, of Judge Lock at Bridlington, Yorkshire, the sitter's birthplace, and a painting by Viviani, [12] at Euston Hall, is reputed to show him with the 2nd Duke of Grafton in Rome.

1) M. Jourdain, The Work of William Kent, 1948, pp 43-44.
2) Exhibited 'Italian Art and Britain', RA, 1960 (122).
3) G. Vertue, Vertue Note Books (edited by The Earl of Ilchester), Walpole Society, vols XVIll-XXIX, 1930-55, III, pp 2, 24.
4) Ibid, p 56.
5) Ibid, pp 55-56, 68; R. Paulson, Hogarth's Graphic Works, 1965 (277) doubting the attribution to Hogarth.
6) Ibid, p 71.
7) Ibid, pp 88, 115.
8) Ibid, V, p 73.
9) MS catalogue (263) of that date; Sir George Scharf's Sketchbooks, LXXIV, p 18.
10) D. Lysons, The Environs of London, III, 1796, p 183.
11) R. J. B. Walker, 1973.
12) Kent was in Italy 1709-19.


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.