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Sir William Vernon Harcourt

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Sir William Vernon Harcourt

by Sir Arthur Stockdale Cope
oil on canvas, 1904
50 in. x 40 in. (1270 mm x 1016 mm)
Purchased, 1993
Primary Collection
NPG 6212

Sitterback to top

  • Sir William Vernon Harcourt (1827-1904), Lawyer, journalist and Liberal politician; MP for Oxford and Derby, Chancellor of the Exchequer and leader of the British Liberal Party. Sitter in 54 portraits.

Artistback to top

This portraitback to top

Painted just before his death, Harcourt is shown in his Chancellor's robes. The portrait is in an Italian 'Pitti Palace' revival frame favoured by the artist.

Related worksback to top

  • NPG D35329: Sir William Vernon Harcourt (source portrait)

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 279
  • Simon, Jacob, The Art of the Picture Frame: Artists, Patrons and the Framing of Portraits in Britain, 1997 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 8 November 1996 - 9 February 1997), p. 183 Read entry

    Carved and gilt pine, mitred and plated with wide L-corner plates, the carving partly matt water gilt on a red bole, the flats oil gilt on a white ground. 6 inches wide.

    This frame on Cope's portrait of the Lord Chancellor, Sir William Harcourt, takes up the spirit of the fantastic Italian auricular frames of the mid-seventeenth century, such as those in the Pitti Palace in Florence, though in execution it is broader and the forms more sweeping.

    Cope had a substantial practice as a portraitist of men in positions of power. He favoured at least two main frame types: one an English seventeenth-century bunched leaf revival pattern, found in the National Portrait Gallery on portraits of Lords Knutsford, St Aldwyn and Chaplin, and formerly on the portrait of Sir William Perkin, all of the period 1906-8; the other a much more showy Italian revival style as exemplified by NPG 6212, and also found on portraits of Admiral Sir Frederick Richards of 1900 (National Maritime Museum) and of the 3rd and 4th Marquesses of Bristol (Ickworth, Suffolk).

Events of 1904back to top

Current affairs

Britain and France sign the Entente Cordiale, an agreement which resolves a number of longstanding colonial disputes (including a Declaration respecting Egypt and Morocco), signalling growing anxiety about the risk of future German aggression. Although not militarily binding, the agreement, negotiated between French foreign minister Théophile Delcassé, and Lord Lansdowne, the British Foreign Secretary, establishes a diplomatic understanding between the two countries.

Art and science

J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan is first performed at the Duke of York's Theatre in London. Charting the fantastical adventures of Peter, 'the boy who never grew up', the Darling children and the villainous Captain Hook in Neverland, many adaptations have been made of the story.
The painter Gwen John settles in Paris, where she becomes the lover and model of the sculptor Auguste Rodin, modelling for his sculpture Muse.

International

Japan attacks the Russian Navy at Port Arthur, sparking the Russo-Japanese war. Hostility was prompted by the rival imperialist ambitions of the Russian and Japanese empires in Manchuria, North East China, and Korea, considered by Japan to be an essential buffer against colonisation by Western Powers. Japan wins a series of victories against Russia which transforms the balance of power in East Asia, and undermines the Tsar's rule in Russia.

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