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A Bravura at the Hanover Square Concert

A Bravura at the Hanover Square Concert, by John Nixon, 1789 -NPG 5179 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

A Bravura at the Hanover Square Concert

by John Nixon
9 1/4 in. x 6 5/8 in. (235 mm x 168 mm)
NPG 5179

Inscriptionback to top

Signed in monogram and dated lower right: JN:1789, and inscribed immediately above: Hanover Square/Rooms; along the top edge, inscribed in a different hand: Cervetto, Violincello and Signor Marchesi and numbered 170.

This portraitback to top

The inscriptions identify:
Luigi Marchesi (1755-1829), a celebrated Italian male soprano who performed throughout Europe and was in London 1788-90. Nixon’s caricature fully exploits Marchesi’s vanity and affectation, but the likeness may be reconciled with the portrait by Richard Cosway engraved by Luigi Schiavonetti in 1790.
Giacomo [James] Cervetto II (1747/9-1837), an Italian ‘cellist, was a pupil of Abel in London in 1760, and from 1780 played at the professional concerts at the Hanover Square Rooms. His identity seems confirmed by a second Nixon caricature of 1784 [1] and by a drawing of him in old age by A. E. Chalon, dated 1832 (British Museum; 1922.10.17.5); he has also been identified in a Zoffany group. [2]
The old mount is inscribed below in a near-contemporary hand Duke of Cumberland 1791, apparently identifying the left-hand foreground seated figure wearing a (vestigial) Garter ribbon and star as Henry, Duke of Cumberland (1745-90; KG 1767), the rather foolish brother of George III, who was nevertheless musical and owned a collection of musical instruments; [3] the likeness is, however, perfunctory. It has also been suggested that the shadowy profile in the bottom left corner of the drawing evoked Giacobbe Cervetto (c.1682-1783), the cellist’s deceased father. [4]
The Hanover Square concert rooms in London, a joint venture by J. C. Bach and C. F. Abel (who are separately featured in this catalogue) with the Italian dancer and dancing master G. A. [Sir John] Gallini (1728-1805), had opened in 1775; ‘Professional Concerts’, run by Professors of Music, were held between 1783 and 1793.

Footnotesback to top

1) Illus. Master Drawings from the National Portrait Gallery, NPG exhibition catalogue, Tulsa, Miami, Washington, Ottawa, NPG, Manchester, Carlisle, Canterbury, 1993-95, no.37; Christie’s, 22 November 1977, lot 45 (the same sale as NPG 5179).
2) Self-portrait with his Daughter[?] and two Musicians, Yale Center for British Art (B1977.14.88), see Zoffany c.1780.
3) The title fell into abeyance from 1790 to 1799 when George III’s fifth son Ernest (1771-1851) succeeded.
4) See M. Rogers in Master Drawings from the National Portrait Gallery, NPG exhibition catalogue, Tulsa, Miami, Washington, Ottawa, NPG, Manchester, Carlisle, Canterbury, 1993-95, no.37 - a full and lively account of Nixon’s caricature. Giacobbe has also been identified in the Zoffany group, see note 2 above.

Physical descriptionback to top

Cervetto on the left playing the ‘cello, Marchesi on the right, his hat under his arm, foppishly dressed, with a large ring on his left little finger and a sword; in the foreground a ‘cellist with his spectacles on his forehead, and four members of the audience, three looking bored (one wears the ribbon and star of the Garter), and one content.

Provenanceback to top

The French Hospital of La Providence, Rochester; Christie’s, 22 November 1977, lot 49, bought John Baskett, from whom purchased 1978.

Exhibitionsback to top

Master Drawings from the National Portrait Gallery, Tulsa, Miami, Washington, Ottawa, NPG, Manchester, Carlisle, Canterbury, 1993-95 (37).

Reproductionsback to top

Anon. aquatint, pub. William Holland, 27 May 1789, A bravura at the Hanover Square Concert (M. D. George, British Museum, Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires, VII, 8268).

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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