- Extended Catalogue Entry
by Sir William Beechey
oil on canvas, 1798
87 1/4 in. x 66 1/2 in. (2216 mm x 1689 mm)
Artistback to top
- Sir William Beechey (1753-1839), Portrait painter. Artist associated with 252 portraits, Sitter in 7 portraits.
This portraitback to top
Beechey's portrait reflects Hope's passion for the exotic, especially Turkey, Egypt and Syria where he travelled extensively between 1787 and 1795. This painting hung on the main staircase of Hope's celebrated London town house where the public could visit and see his designs realised.
Related worksback to top
Linked publicationsback to top
- Audio Guide
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 313
- 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. 69, 166 Read entry
Carved and gilt with compo ornament on pine, mitred with butterfly keys in oak, the guilloche on the top edge set between burnished water-gilt fillets, egg-and-dart next to a similar fillet, the bole red with traces of a dark bole, the main hollow now plain but originally fluted as has been revealed at one corner, the compo acanthus mitre-leaves later, alterations to the back edge at the top perhaps associated with hanging the picture. 4 inches wide plus 1 inch slip.
This is the portrait of Thomas Hope which hung in the staircase hall of his celebrated house in Duchess Street, off Portland Place in London. Hope's pioneering neo-classical interiors and furnishings were the subject of his book, Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, published in 1807. The frame was originally fluted, as can be seen from the small area in one corner which has recently been stripped. At some stage in the nineteenth century the fluting was covered with a layer of gesso and strengthening linen tape, applied to give a smooth surface, and the hollow then regilded. The acanthus mitre leaves were added in compo at the same time, perhaps following the pattern of the original leaves which have not been uncovered. The frame has butterfly keys joining the corner mitres at the rear instead of the usual feather keys.
This French Louis XVI frame type, with a fluted hollow and a guilloche set between fillets on the top edge, was popular in England in the 1790s and again in the mid-nineteenth century. Was it Beechey who had Thomas Hope's portrait framed, probably early in 1799, shortly before its exhibition at the Royal Academy? At this stage Hope was yet to begin work on his Duchess Street house. Had the portrait been framed by Hope a few years later, one might have expected him to use a more severe neo-classical style, or even a 'Turkish' frame of the sort he illustrated as the frontispiece to his book, to match the Turkish costume he is wearing in his portrait. Moreover, the existence of a rather similar fluted frame on Beechey's half-length portrait of the Duke of Cumberland suggests that it was probably Beechey who was responsible for proposing the frame pattern for Hope's portrait.1
1 The Cumberland portrait is in a private collection; photograph in the National Portrait Gallery Archive. Beechey's framemaker in 1796 may have been G. Steevens; see Farrington, Diary, pp 522-3, 9, 13 April 1796.
- Walker, Richard, Regency Portraits, 1985, p. 262
Subjects & Themesback to top
Events of 1798back to top
Current affairsTo meet war costs, William Pitt introduces a Finance Bill which levies income tax for the first time.
Art and scienceWilliam Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge publish Lyrical Ballads; a key publication for the romantic movement in poetry. Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner opens the volume.
Publisher and printseller Rudolph Ackermann establishes his popular 'Repository of the Arts' shop, gallery, library and social centre on the Strand.
InternationalUprising of the United Irishmen: a republican rebellion which attempted to achieve Ireland's total independence by force with the aid of a French invasion. It was only narrowly defeated.
Battle of the Nile. Napoleon's visionary Egyptian campaign offers British first major victory as Nelson destroys the French fleet.