Mr Fox and his Friends
1 of 2 portraits of Lord Robert Spencer
- Extended catalogue entry
© National Portrait Gallery, London
Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue
Mr Fox and his Friends
by William Lane
21 in. x 27 1/2 in. (533 mm x 699 mm)
Inscriptionback to top
The old backboard inscribed [signed?] W Lane delt/from Life.
This portraitback to top
The title is that given by the first owner, Lord Holland, and the subject is fanciful. It may be regarded as a remote echo of the Temple of Liberty created by the Dukes of Bedford at Woburn Abbey (completed by 1804, in Fox’s lifetime) in which the bust of Fox was surrounded by the busts of six of his friends (Lord Robert Spencer, General Robert Fitzpatrick, Lord Holland, James Hare, Charles Grey and Lord Lauderdale).  Fox’s extraordinary talent for friendship, and the dominance of the Tory party after his death in 1806, made his surviving friends particularly anxious to preserve his memory and broadcast his ideals. 
NPG 2076 shows twelve of his disciples,  as listed below.
Back row from the left:
William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire (1748-1811); the likeness copied from the portrait by Reynolds of 1776.
William Wentworth Fitzwilliam, 2nd Earl Fitzwilliam (1748-1833); the half-erased head relates to his portrait of 1817 by William Owen (NPG 4979) see R. J. B. Walker, National Portrait Gallery, Regency Portraits, 1985, I, pp 184-85.
(Bust of Fox copied from the 1802 bust by Nollekens)
John Crewe, 1st Baron Crewe (1742-1829); Lane exhibited his portrait RA 1811 (795).
Frederick Posonby, 3rd Earl of Bessborough (1758-1844); Lane exhibited his portrait RA 1811 (360).
Dudley Long North (1748-1829); Lane exhibited his portrait RA 1811 (795).
George James, 1st Marquess of Cholmondeley (1749-1827); the likeness corresponds with the portrait by John Simpson exhibited in 1825, six years after Lane’s death.
Lord Robert Spencer (1747-1831); the source of this image is untraced.
Front row from the left:
Henry Richard Vasall-Fox, 3rd Baron Holland (1773-1840); the source of this image is untraced (cf. R. J. B. Walker, National Portrait Gallery, Regency Portraits, 1985, I, pp 256-58).
John Fitzpatrick (1747-1813); from the drawing by Lane engraved H. R. Cook, probably that exhibited RA 1814 (472 ‘the late General Fitzpatrick’).
Lord John Townshend (1757-1833);  the source of this image is untraced.
Fox had died in the Duke of Devonshire’s house at Chiswick and the attendants at his death bed included Lord Holland (his nephew), General Fitzpatrick, Lord Robert Spencer and Lord John Townshend (who had christened his son Charles Fox Townshend).
The inscription/signature on the old backboard, W. Lane delt from Life must be qualified. Fox is taken from the Nollekens bust of 1802 and the Duke of Devonshire (d. 1811) from the Reynolds portrait of 1776, but the other figures might all derive from original studies by Lane. The death of Fitzpatrick in 1813 may provide a postquam non.
A comparable group by Lane showing a group of musicians around a bust of Handel is in the Royal Collection. 
Footnotesback to top
1) All by Nollekens, see J. Kenworthy Browne, Apollo, CXXX, 1989, pp 27-32. Also in the St Anne’s Hill House sale were a set of drawings by Henry Edridge, ‘Fox and five friends’ (lots 505-507).
2) See for example, N. Penny, ‘The Whig Cult of Fox in early nineteenth-century Sculpture’, Past and Present, LXX, 1976, pp 94-106.
3) The identities written in an annotated copy of the St Anne's Hill House sale cat. (NPG archive) and otherwise verifiable.
4) Previously identified as George, 2nd Marquess Townshend (e.g. NPG, Complete Illus. Cat., 1981, p 657).
5) Exhibited RA 1810 (544); A. P. Oppé, English Drawings, Stuart and Georgian periods, in the Collection of His Majesty the King at Windsor Castle, 1950, no.408, fig.67.
Provenanceback to top
By descent at St Anne's Hill House, Chertsey,1 to the 4th Lord Holland (d. 1859); his widow, who devised property to the Hon L. W. H. [Fox-]Powys, thence to his nephew, the Hon Stephen Powys; St Anne's sale, Phillips, 3rd day, 26 November 1924, lot 502 (Court Scene, by William Lane, the bust of C. J. Fox, and 12 notables), bought Leggatt for the NPG.
1 A label in a late-19th-hand, formerly on the verso, read: Mr Fox and his friends in chalk by Wm. Lane/won in a raffle by Lord Holland - presumably the 3rd Lord Holland.
This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, National Portrait Gallery, 2004, 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.
View all known portraits for Frederick Ponsonby, 3rd Earl of Bessborough
View all known portraits for George James Cholmondeley, 1st Marquess of Cholmondeley
View all known portraits for John Crewe, 1st Baron Crewe
View all known portraits for William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire
View all known portraits for Richard Fitzpatrick
View all known portraits for William Wentworth Fitzwilliam, 2nd Earl Fitzwilliam
View all known portraits for Charles James Fox
View all known portraits for Henry Richard Fox (later Vassall), 3rd Baron Holland
View all known portraits for Dudley Long North
View all known portraits for Andrew St John, 14th Baron St John
View all known portraits for Lord Robert Spencer
View all known portraits for Lord John Townshend
View all known portraits for John Fitzpatrick, 2nd Earl of Upper Ossory