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John Burgoyne

John Burgoyne, by Allan Ramsay, after 1756 -NPG 4158 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue

John Burgoyne

after Allan Ramsay
after 1756
20 in. x 14 in. (508 mm x 356 mm)
NPG 4158

Inscriptionback to top

Inscribed in pencil along the top bar of the plain nailed stretcher: Burgoyne[?] Painted by Sir W.Beechey/B 1753 D 1839 and, in ink: Painted by Sir W Beechey; in blue crayon, up the left bar: By Zoffany, and up the right: ZOFFANY; also on the left bar, in chalk, NP[?]R, now barely legible.

This portraitback to top

Three canvases are now known. NPG 4158; a portrait descended directly from the sitter until presented to the New York Historical Society by Major W. N. Seymour in 1956, [1] and a 50 x 40, signed and dated 1758, recently published by Smart [2] which was formerly in the collection of the late George Pollard Armitage who also owned Ramsay's portrait of Lady Charlotte Burgoyne. The first two are near-identical versions, both roughly 20 x 14 inches. The type was first associated with Ramsay in 1876 when the New York version, then in the possession of Miss Burgoyne, the sitter's grand-daughter, [3] was engraved for De Fonblanque's Life as painted by Ramsay in Rome 1750. [4] This date is not possible, however, either for Ramsay or Burgoyne, as the artist was in Italy in 1754-57 on his second visit, while Burgoyne was there in 1755. In 1956 John Fleming published a letter from Robert Adam in the Clerk papers, written 2 January 1756 in Rome, in which reference is made to a painting of Burgoyne by Ramsay as then 'half done'. [5] Ramsay's related drawing of the Colosseum [6] dated summer 1755, was probably made before the painting was begun.
The sitter's movements are not altogether clear. A niece, Miss Warburton, writing to his daughter on 23 September 1823, refers to the Burgoynes travelling together with the Choiseuls on a tour of pleasure into Italy. [7] But according to Adam, the Burgoynes are reported newly arrived in Florence from Aix, with Mr and Mrs Elliott, not the Choiseuls, in February 1755, [8] Choiseul having probably preceded them to Rome to take up his appointment as ambassador to the Holy See on 4 November 1754. [9] Lady Charlotte Burgoyne is mentioned in a letter of 24 May 1755 as soon to leave Rome; thereafter there is no further mention of their travels in the Clerk correspondence. [10]
Before the Armitage portrait came to light, the New York picture with its direct descent from the sitter had been taken as the prototype. [11] Not only was there Burgoyne's will, with mementos left to his nieces Miss Warburton and Mrs Horton [12] as evidence, but also the former's letter of September 1823 mentioning the portrait taken by Ramsay in Rome 'which Mrs Horton afterwards had'. [13] Neither the New York version nor NPG 4158 carry conviction as autograph Ramsay and both are of a scale, about half life size, which he is never known to have used in oil. Furthermore, these portraits are too weak for an artist who was one of the best draughtsmen and colourists of the century. Of the two, NPG 4158 is marginally better, but it too is surely a copy, though an early one; it is on unlined canvas coeval with the plain, nailed stretcher which antedates the wedged type introduced in the late 18th century. The provenance of the Armitage portrait, implicit in the recent account, [14] is as follows: bequeathed by the sitter to Mrs Horton, i.e. Elizabeth Stanley, daughter of James Lord Stanley (known as Lord Strange) and niece of Burgoyne on his wife's side. Elizabeth married in 1778 the Rev. Thomas Horton, but pre-deceased her husband, 1796. He succeeded his brother Sir Watts Horton, Bart, in 1811 and died in 1831. Their only child Charlotte (named after her great-aunt, Lady Charlotte Burgoyne?) married George Pollard of Stannarry Hall, Halifax, having issue a son George Thomas Pollard, who married Clara née Royds, 31 August 1835. [15] The portrait would have then passed to the Armitage family of Milnsbridge House through the marriage on 30 January 1866 of Joseph Armitage Armitage to Julia Frances (d. 17 March 1923), daughter of George Thomas Pollard; [16] thence by descent. The prototype would therefore have gone to the Hortons c.1792, when copies might well have been made.

Footnotesback to top

1) New York Historical Society Quarterly, reproduced p 305.
2) A. Smart, 'The Genuine Portrait of General Burgoyne by Ramsay', Apollo, XCIV, 1971, pp 198-205, when the date first read as 1756. Further inspection confirms it to be 1758.
3) Daughter of Field Marshal Sir John Fox Burgoyne (1782-1871) the sitter's natural son by Susan Caulfield.
4) E. B. de Fonblanque, Political and Military Episodes … from The Life and Correspondence of … Burgoyne, 1876, frontispiece.
5) J. Fleming, ‘Allan Ramsay and Robert Adam in Italy', Connoisseur, CXXXVII, 1956, p 82; Clerk of Penicuik was a patron of the architect.
6) National Gallery of Scotland D3775; A. Smart, 'The Genuine Portrait of General Burgoyne by Ramsay', Apollo, XCIV, 1971, p 201 and pl.3.
7) E. B. de Fonblanque, Political and Military Episodes … from The Life and Correspondence of … Burgoyne, 1876, p 9.
8) 13 February 1755. Information from J. Fleming.
9) Repertorium der diplomatischen Vertreter aller Länder, ed. F. Hausmann, II, 1950, p 118. He is unlikely to have been in Italy before 1754; see Memoires du Duc de Choiseul, 1904, pp 61, 81, 94, 121.
10) Confirmed by J. Fleming, correspondence 1960.
11) J. Fleming, ‘Allan Ramsay and Robert Adam in Italy', Connoisseur, CXXXVII, 1956, p 82; A. Smart, 'The Genuine Portrait of General Burgoyne by Ramsay', Apollo, XCIV, 1971, p 202.
12) E. B. de Fonblanque, Political and Military Episodes … from The Life and Correspondence of … Burgoyne, 1876, p 464.
13) Ibid, p 8.
14) A. Smart, 'The Genuine Portrait of General Burgoyne by Ramsay', Apollo, XCIV, 1971, p 203; 'Mrs Houghton', presumably Mrs Horton.
15) 28 July 1778, Burke, Peerage, 1916, p 629; Burke, Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies, 2nd edition, 1841, p 270 gives 1779.
16) Burke, Landed Gentry, 1939, p 53.

Physical descriptionback to top

Grey eyes, straight nose, full red lips, grey wig tied with black ribbon; scarlet coat with gold buttonholes, low black collar with turn back, indigo blue cuffs, the right blacker than his left, long buff waistcoat; in his left hand black tricorne hat, edged with gold lace; [1] in the background the Colosseum, pale blue sky and white clouds beyond; lit from the left.

1) Major Dawnay tentatively suggests this jacket may be the uniform of the 1st Royal Dragoons.

Conservationback to top

Unlined, canvas now rather worn and frail; ultra-violet light reveals some retouchings, e.g. in the craquelure on the left side of the face, a worn patch over his left eye and possibly in an area below it; slight losses at the corners and along the edges.

Provenanceback to top

Bought, 1960, from the Sabin Galleries, with the aid of the National Art Collections Fund; believed by the Sabin Galleries to have been previously in Scotland and before that in Kent.

Exhibitionsback to top

'The British Face', Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, 1967.


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.

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