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Edward Gibbon

1 of 17 portraits by Henry Walton

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Edward Gibbon

by Henry Walton
1773
9 in. x 6 1/2 in. (229 mm x 165 mm)
NPG 1443

This portraitback to top

Sold by the 3rd Baron Sheffield in 1906, NPG 1443 was almost certainly the portrait Gibbon had sent his step-mother at Bath in July 1773 and which she in turn bequeathed to Lord Sheffield in 1796. [1] On 13 July Gibbon told Mrs Gibbon she would be receiving ‘by the Bath Coach a representation, which is said to be very like a person, whom I believe is not indifferent to you’. Henry Walton was then being patronised by a number of Gibbon’s circle: J. B. Holroyd (later Lord Sheffield) and his wife, John Thomas Batt, Sir John Russell, George Wilbraham, Booth Grey and Godfrey Bagnall Clarke. [2]
Four other oval versions are known, of which the picture at Magdalen College Oxford, [3] and another in a private collection painted for George Wilbraham, [4] show the grey suit seen in NPG 1443. The others show Gibbon wearing an embroidered silk waistcoat and a green coat, either partly open, as in the portrait with the Government Art Collection (GAC 16642), [5] or wide open as in the example in a Swiss private collection. [6] An unspecified version, ‘after Walton’, was sold Christie’s, 11 September 1997, lot 36.
An engraving by James Fittler published in 1815 and lettered ‘from the original Portrait [with] Lord Sheffield, Painted by Mr Warton [sic] in the year 1774’, shows the head of NPG 1443 (but with a different wig tie), on the body of the Reynolds portrait of 1779 (then at Sheffield Place). [7]

Footnotesback to top

1) At Sheffield Place c.1804 Harding listed four portraits of Gibbon, one by Walton which he inaccurately called ‘the last likeness taken of him’ (G. P. Harding, List of Portraits in Various Mansions of the United Kingdom, I, f.13). It is curious that Sheffield did not himself have already a copy of the Walton portrait, although he owned the Reynolds portrait of 1779.
2) Gibbon, Letters, 1956, I, pp 370, 379, 382; D. M. Low, Gibbon, 1937, p 1n1. Harding listed Walton’s copies of his portraits of Batt and Sir John Russell at Sheffield Place c.1804 (G. P. Harding, List of Portraits in Various Mansions of the United Kingdom, I, ff.9, 11, 13).
3) Given in 1937, see Walton 1999, no.63; from the Porten family, through the Rev Thomas Burningham and his daughter Mrs Onslow; illus. G. de Beer, Gibbon, 1967, p 73. According to C. F. Bell ‘totally ruined by violent scrubbing’ (NPG archive). The portrait was stolen in June 1991 and subsequently recovered.
4) E. Bell, 'Life and work of Henry Walton', Gainsborough's House Review, 1999, no.62; exhibited Second special exhibition of National Portraits (William and Mary to MDCCC), South Kensington, 1867 (664) lent G. F. Wilbraham, the cat. describing the coat as ‘grey’ and saying the portrait was one of a set of four by Walton, the others being of Grey, Clark and Wilbraham himself. The photograph from the 1867 exhibition suggests a crude picture.
5) E. Bell, 'Life and work of Henry Walton', Gainsborough's House Review, 1999, no.64; ex Sotheby’s, 15 July 1964, lot 133 as Downman, and 13 July 1988, lot 52.
6) E. Bell, 'Life and work of Henry Walton', Gainsborough's House Review, 1999, no.65; painted for Georges Deyverdun; illus. Gibbon, Letters, 1956, II, front.
7) E. Bell, 'Life and work of Henry Walton', Gainsborough's House Review, 1999, p 59. Other engravings listed by O’Donoghue as after Walton (by B. Reading 1788, W. Ridley 1794 and G. Murray 1796) relate to the Reynolds portrait of 1779.

Referenceback to top

Bell 1999
E. Bell, 'Life and work of Henry Walton', Gainsborough's House Review, 1999, nos.61, 66.

Physical descriptionback to top

Blue eyes, grey powdered hair, grey coat, waistcoat and buttons, white shirt; grey-green background.

Provenanceback to top

Given by the sitter to his step-mother, Mrs Dorothea Gibbon, 1773,1 by whom bequeathed to 1st Baron Sheffield 1796,2 thence by descent to 3rd Baron Sheffield, by whom sold Christie’s, 30 June 1906, lot 149, bought by the NPG.

1 See Gibbon, Letters, 1956, I, p 370. This provenance was first proposed by C. F. Bell in a letter to the TLS, 20 June 1929.
2 See J. H. Adeane, The Girlhood of Maria Josepha Holroyd [Lady Stanley of Alderley], 1896, p 369.

Exhibitionsback to top

Gibbon Commemorative Exhibition, London, 1894; Portraits of English historical personages who died between 1714 and 1837, Examination Schools, Oxford, 1906 (129) lent by Lord Sheffield; Walton, Norwich, 1963 (2).


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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