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John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute

John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1773 -NPG 3938 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute

by Sir Joshua Reynolds
93 1/4 in. x 57 in. (2369 mm x 1448 mm) overall
NPG 3938

This portraitback to top

The pose, derived from the Apollo Belvedere, displays Bute’s legs to advantage. NPG 3938 is virtually identical to the Reynolds whole length which remains in the Bute collection, [1] differing only in that the plumed helmet is in his right hand instead of on a table, sky and trees replace an indoor setting, and the floor is carpeted rather than tiled; the execution of the Garter badge is disinterested.
Bute’s name appears in Reynolds’s sitter book nine times between 12 October and 25 December 1773. On 27 October 1773 Northcote, then working in the Reynolds studio, wrote that he was copying Lord Bute’s face ‘as there is to be two whole-lengths made of him’; he goes on:

‘his picture by no means gives me an idea of his character, if it be as the world says. He is a tall genteel figure with a mean Scotch face; his skin very yellow and small blue eyes, with a smile on his face which gives a look of vast good humour and humility. Sir Joshua has made an extraordinary fine head of him. He [Bute] must find it very different from the time when he was forced to have bruisers behind his coach to proptect him, for now he comes in a chair without any servants and often walks home.’ [2]
Payments for two whole-lengths were made by Lord Bute on 25 October 1780. [3] A half-length version attributed to Northcote, with the inscribed date 1780, is also in the Bute collection. [4]

Footnotesback to top

1) D. Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds, I, 2000, no.1719.
2) 15 December 1773, quoted in W. T. Whitley, Artists and their Friends in England 1700-1799, 1928, II, pp 294-95.
3) M. Cormack, 'The Ledgers of Sir Joshua Reynolds', Wal. Soc., XLII, 1970, p 146.
4) Exhibited Lord Mansfield, Kenwood, 1971 (39).

Referenceback to top

Graves & Cronin 1899-1901
A. Graves & W. V. Cronin, A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, 4 vols., 1899-1901, I, p 137.

Mannings 2000
D. Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds, 2 vols., 2000, no.1720.

Physical descriptionback to top

Grey eyes, powdered wig, wearing the robes of the Garter, the plumed bonnet in his right hand.

Provenanceback to top

By family descent to the 3rd Earl of Wharncliffe (d. 1953); purchased from his estate with the aid of the National Art Collections Fund 1958.

Exhibitionsback to top

Art Treasures, Manchester 1857 (BPG 290); Second special exhibition of National Portraits (William and Mary to MDCCC), South Kensington, 1867 (448); Royal House of Guelph, New Gallery, London, 1891 (108); lent to the NPG from 1953.

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.

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