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Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Bernard Lens (III) (1682-1740), Artist, miniature painter, topographical draughtsman, etcher, limner and drawing master

Portraiture of the Lens family has not been worked on and there may still be some risk of confusion. For example, in addition to the three artists by the name of Benjamin, there is also the sitter's son Andrew Benjamin Lens (c.1713-79) who has at times been confused with his father. The following, all three-quarter face to the right, are believed to represent the sitter: Ickworth (128), said by Goulding to be signed and dated Feb: ye: 5: 1708, Age 27, [1] regarded by some authorities as a copy; Welbeck (148), with a similar face mask, signed and dated 1718, [2] recorded in Vertue's catalogue (98) of the Welbeck miniatures, 1743, and NPG 1624, signed and dated 1721. The Welbeck portrait is inscribed, apparently in the artist's own hand, Bernard Lens Pictore ad vivum. Aged: 37: Fecit Oct ye: 18; 1718. Painter in Minatura in Ordinary to his Majesty King George. It was engraved, in reverse, by A. Bannerman.

Despite the gap of ten years, there is little evidence of aging between the Ickworth and Welbeck portraits. This suggests both may derive from one sitting. If correct, the Welbeck portrait with its apparently autograph inscription would seem the better authority and the date at Ickworth might then be an error. This would resolve the problem of so little change in the sitter's appearance. An oil by Van der Vaart, painter, dealer and mezzotinter (1647-1726) is recorded by Vertue. [3] The portrait holding a miniature, signed and dated 1724, Ashmolean Museum, may be compared with NPG 1624, the age difference in the three years being far more marked than in the ten years supposedly separating the portraits referred to above.

A posthumous portrait, an oval flanked by seated figures in Christ's Hospital dress was engraved by L. P. Boitard (F. O'Donoghue and Sir Henry M. Hake, Catalogue of Engraved British Portraits ... in the British Museum, 1908-25, 1) for the frontispiece to A New and Compleat Drawing-Book, published 1750-51. [4]

A fine large miniature, profile, by P. P. Lens, another of his sons, is said to represent the sitter. [5] Signed and dated 1734, it shows a man with a hat under his arm.

1) R. W. Goulding, The Welbeck Abbey Miniatures ... A Catalogue Raisonné, 1916; E. Farrer, Portraits in Suffolk Houses (West), 1908, p 224, gives no date.
2) Ibid, loc. cit.
3) G. Vertue, Vertue Note Books (edited by The Earl of Ilchester), Walpole Society, 1930-55, III, p 13.
4) D. Foskett, A Dictionary of British Miniature Painters, 1972, I, p 379.
5) B. Long, British Miniaturists, 1929, p 270.

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.