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Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford (1676-1745), Prime Minister

Most of the pictures from Walpole's famous collection are now in the Hermitage, Leningrad, sold, 1779, to Catherine the Great by George, 3rd Earl of Orford, the sitter's unbalanced and spendthrift grandson. [1] A number of family portraits, however, and a whole length of the Empress herself, [2] sent after the sale, are at Houghton [3] which passed to George, 3rd Earl of Cholmondeley, husband of the sitter's younger daughter Mary.

A list of his father's pictures was compiled by the sitter's third son Horace Walpole in 1736 when he was nineteen and Vertue gives many valuable references. In addition there are the MS list of pictures at Houghton in 1744, the editions of the Aedes Walpolianae between 1747 and 1798 of which the first and that of 1752 are the most important, the Robertson MS of 1750 presented to the NPG in 1888 and the list compiled for Musgrave, 1785. No modern study exists.

The sitter was probably the most frequently painted statesman of his day [4] but not all to whom he sat did justice to him. Jervas and Kneller produced sound portraits but Wootton and Rysbrack, works of art.

The two main portraits before his first period of office as chancellor and first lord of the treasury are as 'Secretary at War to Queen Anne 3 Quarters' [5] by Jervas c.1708-10 and NPG 3220 by Kneller, 1710-15, [6] painted for the Kit-Cat Club, engraved by Faber junior 1733 with the Garter ribbon and Star added. The former, with a companion of 'His Lady', was listed in 1736 by Horace Walpole 'in the Rustick Story at Houghton. In the little Breakfast Room ... Sr Robert Walpole. Jervase. 4 = 2 High 3 = 4 Wide'. [7] A later three-quarter length in chancellor's robes and ribbon of the Bath in the collection, 1961, of H. Birkbeck, is probably, on stylistic grounds, also by Jervas. A companion of the sitter's first wife Catherine is in the same collection; both are too late to be the pair mentioned in 1736. A three-quarter length by Kneller in plain dress with Bath and Garter ribbons, engraved by Simon, was at Sotheby's, 18 November 1964, lot 19 from the de Saumarez collection, Shrubland Park. The face is similar to the Kit-Cat portrait but if by Kneller himself who died in 1723, the ribbons are later additions. In a letter dated November 1772 to Lord Hardwicke, Horace Walpole wrote that 'at Rainham is a very good one by Sir Godfrey Kneller. If Lord Hardwicke chooses that in Arlington Street [8] to be copied, it is very much at his Lordship's service'. [9] The only known portrait at Raynham Hall [10] was a canvas 49 x 40 in. in chancellor's robes, at Christie's, 5 March 1904, lot 4, Townshend Heirloom sale, artist not named. [11]

Hardwicke must have chosen the Vanloo. No version is at Wimpole but Musgrave, rarely so explicit, mentions a 'copy from v. Loo'. [12]

Portraits by Richardson appear in the 1736 Downing Street inventory [13] ‘in the Bedchamber ... in an hunting Dress ... 5 = 0 High 4 = 9 ¾ Wide' (60 x 57 ¾ in.) and at Houghton [14] 'in the little Dressing Room ... in the garter Robes 7 = 6 High 4 = 7 Wide'. The latter is whole length and unless the robes were a later addition which would have been a substantial one, was probably painted in or after 1726. A portrait of 'Sr Robert in green hunting dress. Richardson’ noted by Vertue in 1739 'in the bed chamber red Damask' [15] at Whitehall (Downing Street) may be the same as the painting in hunting dress referred to in 1736.

Either could also be identical with a '3 quarters by Richardson' ‘in the Supping Parlour' at Houghton described, 1750. [16] A three-quarter canvas (approx. 30 x 25 in.) might, however, refer to the small whole length with hounds in which only the figure, in hunting dress, is by Richardson and the rest by Wootton. The best known of four versions, owned by Sybil, Marchioness of Cholmondeley, formerly in the collection of Baroness Burton, [17] is the type discussed inter alia by Horace Walpole in the letter of November 1772 (see above) to Lord Hardwicke: ‘Mr Walpole has ... in town what his mother always kept as the best picture of Sir R. Walpole, done when about forty. It is painted by Richardson in green frock and hat, and the dogs and landscape by Wootton. The most like print, which is in the Garter robes, was taken from this.' [18] 'Done when forty' dates the picture to c.1716 and may be correct as regards the type but there is no evidence for Horace's recollection of his father's age. A head-and-shoulders engraving inscribed From an original by Richardson was published, 1806, in the posthumous edition of Horace Walpole's Royal and Noble Authors. A three-quarter length in black hunting dress with Garter star attributed to Wootton, formerly at Keppel College, Lexham, and now at Althorp, is perhaps also by Richardson. The pose is roughly the same as in the Cholmondeley whole length variously described as ‘Master of the Royal Hounds' or ‘Ranger of Windsor Forest'.

A similar painting stated to have been in the collection, 1932, of Lord Aberdare was at Christie's, 19 October 1953 and days following, part of lot 107; a third portrait with the whip in a different position belongs to Lord Walpole of Wolterton [19] by descent from the sitter's younger brother Horatio, 1st Baron Walpole, and a fourth at Melbury, may well be the picture 'in a hunting dress, small, Wootton' [20] noted at Redlynch in 1762. A drawing from it is in the Sutherland collection, Ashmolean Museum. Signed as in the other three versions but not dated, the Melbury painting has been assigned, from the building in the background, to near 1727. Lord Ilchester who called it a ‘red-brick house of two storeys, with attics above' [21] believed it to be the lodge in Richmond Park mentioned by Horace Walpole in his reminiscences: ‘... Sir Robert began another of brick for himself and the Under-Ranger, which by degrees he much enlarged.' [22] Work on the old lodge began in 1726 and ‘by degrees' hardly suggests that the house could have been completed by 1727, the year of the King's accession. In 1726 Walpole had secured the rangership for his son Robert, afterwards 2nd Earl of Orford, while he himself became deputy, thus permitting the office to remain in the family for a longer period. The son was made master of the harriers and foxhounds in 1738 and appointed to the rangership for life in 1740 with a reversion to his father. [23] The portrait nevertheless represents the sitter.

All known versions of the Wootton portrait show the Garter. Although the Garter has been added to some other portraits of Walpole, [24] it is improbable that it would have been added to all four versions of this type. Hence the type is post 1725. A drawing by Vertue inscribed From Wotton was one of eighteen portraits mainly by this artist, part of lot 307, from Horace Walpole's collection, Christie's, 19 October 1953, Knowsley library sale.

Walpole's patronage of Wootton extended over a considerable period. Eight landscapes over the doors at Houghton [25] and a picture of dogs over the chimney in the little breakfast room, [26] presumably a copy of the original sold to Russia, are listed in the 1736 inventory and, in addition to the portraits discussed above, a second type by this artist is clearly implied by the large 'Hunting Peice, Sr Robt. in Green, Coln Churchill in the middle'. [27] Measurements are given as ‘6 = 10 High 8 = 5 Wide'; in the 1750 inventory the third figure is identified as ‘Mr T Turner'. [28] Another type, in the family collection of the 3rd Viscount Sydney, when lent to the Second Exhibition of National Portraits, South Kensington, 1867 (284), shows Walpole standing, left, with a hunter led by a groom occupying the other half of the picture. A house, perhaps Houghton, is in the background. The picture was sold at Knight, Frank and Rutley, 7 June 1915, lot 62, from Frognal, Chislehurst. A fourth type, at Sotheby's, 10 June 1942, lot 93, from the collection of Sir John Smith-Marriott, Bart, and again Christie's, 19 November 1948, lot 164, both times as Wootton, depicts a knight of the Bath standing with other figures to the left of a horse, perhaps the same as in the Sydney painting. The attribution is probably correct and the sitter, surely Walpole. The date must be 1725, the only year in which he would have been shown with the Bath.

Other portraits include a three-quarter length, seated, by Vanderbank, signed and dated 1723, formerly collection Sir Robert Peel, Drayton Manor, at Christie's, 9 April 1934, lot 71, and another in plain dress with Garter by Thomas Gibson, engraved three-quarter length by G. Bockman. Gibson (b. 1680?) died in 1751 but illness compelled a sale in 1732. [29] The costume would be consistent with the type having been painted by that date. It is odd that Vertue who was his friend and painted by him, [30] should make no mention of the portrait. Two rather crude oils corresponding with the engraving were at Christie's, 10 December 1964, lot 21, listed as 'a gentleman English school' and in the Papillon sale, with earl's coronet added, Crowhurst Park, 1942, bought Prince Louis de Bourbon. A good three-quarter length, unattributed when acquired by the family of the present owner General Sir Henry Jackson at the Strawberry Hill sale, 1842, 21st day, lot 28, is datable on costume to the late 1720s. The portrait might be by Dahl, author of the striking head and shoulders of the sitter's first wife Catherine at Houghton, [31] engraved by J. Simon (J. Chaloner Smith, British Mezzotinto Portraits, 1878-83, 156). While not mentioned in any of the early accounts of Walpole's collection, it has an inscription and coat of arms similar to those on an oval of Catherine owned, 1949, by Lady Thornton. If the portrait of the sitter was acquired by Horace, the two might at one time have been in the same collection.

Apart from the bust by Rysbrack probably of 1726 (discussed under NPG 2126), and the portrait by Vanloo (NPG 70), important later portraits are by Hysing and Zincke with lesser works by Slaughter, Pond and others.

Vertue refers to a sitting to Hysing for a whole length in 1730 [32] and another portrait 'in the Best Drawing Room' at the sitter's Chelsea house is mentioned by Horace Walpole, 1736, [33] but without further details. A portrait in Garter robes is listed at Houghton by Vertue in 1739, [34] and a whole length stated to be of 1734, in chancellor's robes and the inevitable Garter, is at King's College, Cambridge [35] , the face mask corresponding with J. Simon's mezzotint inscribed H. Hysing pinxt (J. Chaloner Smith, British Mezzotinto Portraits, 1878-83, 158, II). Three-quarter lengths without the Garter, attributed to Hysing, were at Stanmer [36] and in Lord Hertford's collection when seen at his London residence, Hertford House, in 1888. A head and shoulders of the type, in Garter robes, was at Christie's, 14 February 1964, lot 5.

A version of the type at Castletown dated 1740 by the Irish artist Stephen Slaughter (d. 1765) was probably painted for Speaker Conolly and given to him by the sitter. A seated three-quarter length in chancellor's robes with the Garter and papers in his left hand, formerly at Wentworth Woodhouse, now in the Palace of Westminster, is inscribed Sir Robert Walpole, aetat. 66, Stepn. Slaughter pinxt. 1742. [37] Slaughter also painted the sitter with his secretary Henry Legge, perhaps the 'terrible picture of Sir Robert and Harry Legge at your brother's' described by George Montagu in a letter, 19 September 1762, [38] to Horace Walpole after visiting the house at Frogmore. A good version of the composition reminiscent of the Shackleton of Pelham (q.v.), from the collection of Miss Walpole, Strawberry Cottage, Woodford, is now at the Treasury, from the Department of the Environment [39]. A small replica was at Christie's, 9 May 1952, lot 77, as by Charles Philips. A standing whole length stated to be signed and dated 1760 was at Christie's, 17 June 1966, lot 65, and a head in a painted oval was at Sotheby's, 'English School', 1 February 1967, lot 4, from the collection of D. Robinson.

A head and shoulders by Arthur Pond signed and dated 1742, in a private collection in Scotland, corresponds with the engraving by J. Houbraken published 1746. A miniature in Garter robes engraved by Vertue, 1748, lettered F. Zinke effig. p.1744, is now on loan to the Manchester Art Gallery from the collection of the Earl of Derby. The engraving which is in an elaborate setting, and a companion portrait of Catherine after Zincke, 1735, also engraved by Vertue, 1748, forms a double frontispiece to the Aedes Walpolianae of 1752. A small oil by Eccardt based on the type with the background of ‘hounds and the view of Houghton by Wootton’ shows Walpole seated whole length at a table on which there is the chancellor's seal and busts of George I and Catherine stands beside him. In the Lansdowne collection until 1930, now W. S. Lewis collection, the portrait was first mentioned 'in the Blue Bed-Chamber' in the Strawberry Hill catalogue of 1748. [40] An enamel by Zincke was engraved by M. Bovi, 1797, from the original then in the possession of the Hon. Mrs Walpole and another at Windsor, undated, in chancellor's robes with Garter star and ribbon, purchased by George IV from his jewellers, [41] is probably also by Zincke.

A small ivory-coloured wax profile with Garter ribbon, in an 18th-century frame inscribed on the back The Right Hon. Robt. Earl of Orford, was acquired by W. S. Lewis, 1959, from Miss D. Haydock. A letter said to be dated December 1741 from Reynolds, then a pupil of Hudson, reported that 'on Thursday next, Sir Robert Walpole sits for his picture, master says he has had a great longing to draw his picture, because so many have been drawn, and none like ...’ . [42] No portrait by Hudson is known. A rather crude whole length by Heins, now in Stranger's Hall, Norwich, was presented to the city by the sitter in 1743. Two painters of this name, father and son, the latter born 1740, lived in Norwich. Their work is not easily distinguished. [43]

Walpole, with Speaker Onslow (q.v.), is a principal figure in the group of 1730 by Thornhill and Hogarth at Clandon, Onslow collection.

1) R. W. Ketton-Cremer, A Norfolk Gallery, 1948, p 184.
2) By Michele Benedetti, exhibited 'The Houghton Pictures', Agnew's, 1959 (42).
3) 'Country Homes: Houghton Hall, Norfolk', Country Life, XXII, 1907, pp 126-33 & 162-70; and 1921, pp 14-22.
4) 78 portraits recorded by C. K. Adams, c.1938.
5) Aedes Walpolianae, 1747, p 42; R. Robertson(?), A Description of the Pictures at Houghton Hall, 1750 MS, p 4; reproduced J. H. Plumb, Sir Robert Walpole, the Making of a Statesman, 1960, I, frontispiece.
6) D. T. Piper, Catalogue of Seventeenth-Century Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery, 1625-1714, 1963, p 257, pl.27c.
7) A Catalogue of the Right Honble Sir Robert Walpole's Collection of Pictures, 1736, MS, The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, pp 9-10.
8) Arlington St, Piccadilly, birthplace of Horace, left to him by Sir Robert, W. S. Lewis, Horace Walpole (A. W. Mellon Lectures, 1960-61), 1961, p 20; Dictionary of National Biography, XX, p 627. The portrait referred to is not identified.
9) The Letters of Horace Walpole, Fourth Earl of Orford, ed. by Mrs P. Toynbee and others, VIII, 1904, p 213.
10) Duleep Singh, Portraits in Norfolk Houses, II, p 217 (120).
11) The sitter was related by marriage both to the Townshends and Pelhams.
12) British Museum Add. MS 6391, f.20.
13) A Catalogue of the Right Honble Sir Robert Walpole's Collection of Pictures, 1736, MS, The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, pp 19-20.
14) Ibid, pp 7-8.
15) G. Vertue, Vertue Note Books (edited by The Earl of Ilchester), Walpole Society, 1930-55, V, p 126.
16) R. Robertson(?), A Description of the Pictures at Houghton Hall, 1750 MS, p 4.
17) Exhibited 'The Houghton Pictures', Agnew's, 1959 (41).
18) The Letters of Horace Walpole, Fourth Earl of Orford, ed. by Mrs P. Toynbee and others, VIII, 1904, p 213.
19) Adams' MS list, c.1938, NPG archives.
20) Catalogue of Pictures Belonging to the Earl of Ilchester, 1883 (347); Addenda and Corrigenda, 1939 (347); 'Horace Walpole's Journals of Visits to Country Seats & etc', edited P. Toynbee. Walpole Society, XVI, p 44.
21) Earl of Ilchester, The Home of the Hollands, 1937, p 38.
22) Ibid.
23) J. H. Plumb, Sir Robert Walpole, the King's Minister, 1960, [II], p 90 and note 4.
24) Walpole's fondness for the Garter earning him the soubriquet 'Sir Blue-String', ibid, p 101 and note 1.
25) A Catalogue of the Right Honble Sir Robert Walpole's Collection of Pictures, 1736, pp 7-8, 11-12.
26) Ibid, pp 19-20, see also pp 25-26.
27) Ibid, pp 9-10.
28) R. Robertson(?), A Description of the Pictures at Houghton Hall, 1750 MS, p 4.
29) G. Vertue, Vertue Note Books (edited by The Earl of Ilchester), Walpole Society, III, pp 3, 5, 58.
30) Ibid, p 155.
31) J. H. Plumb, Sir Robert Walpole, the Making of a Statesman, 1956, I, reproduced opposite p 90, as by Kneller; exhibited 'The Houghton Pictures', 1959 (43).
32) G. Vertue, Vertue Note Books (edited by The Earl of Ilchester), Walpole Society, III, p 44.
33) A Catalogue of the Right Honble Sir Robert Walpole's Collection of Pictures, 1736, p 29.
34) G. Vertue, Vertue Note Books (edited by The Earl of Ilchester), Walpole Society, III, p 44.
35) J. W. Goodison, Portraits & Other Pictures at King's College, Cambridge, 1933, p 88; previous history unknown.
36) Exhibited 'House of Guelph', 1891 (348); Sir George Scharf's Trustees' Sketchbooks, XXX, 38, seat of the Pelhams, afterwards Earls of Chichester.
37) R. J. B. Walker, A Catalogue of Paintings ... Palace of Westminster, 1960, II, p 85 (160).
38) W. S. Lewis, Horace Walpole (A. W. Mellon Lectures, 1960-61), 1961, 10 (Montagu II), p 42.
39) R. J. B. Walker, A Catalogue of Paintings ... Palace of Westminster, 1960, II, pp 85-86.
40) A Description of the Villa of Mr Horace Walpole at Strawberry-Hill, near Twickenham ..., 1784, pp 23-29.
41) O. Millar, verbal, 1973.
42) F. W. Hilles, Letters of Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1929, p 3.
43) A Catalogue of Portraits and Paintings, City of Norwich, 1905 (7).


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.