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Lord Halifax and his secretaries

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- subject matching 'Group portraits'

Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Lord Halifax and his secretaries

attributed to Daniel Gardner, after Hugh Douglas Hamilton
circa 1765-1767
17 3/4 in. x 38 in. (451 mm x 965 mm)
NPG 3328

Inscriptionback to top

Inscribed on a box on the table, far right: GR 1765.

This portraitback to top

A better version in oils, lent as a Zoffany to the Third Exhibition of National Portraits, South Kensington, 1868 (826) by Sir G. R. Osborn, 6th Bart, and still in the family, is likely to have descended through the marriage of Lady Mary Montague, daughter of Halifax, to Sir Danvers Osborn, 3rd Bart, one-time governor of New York. The painting differs from NPG 3328 in having a bookcase in place of the window opening. On the back of the relining canvas is a 'fairly old inscription': [1] George Earl of Halifax. Secretary of State, 1764/with his two Secretarys/Edward Sedgwick and Lovell Stanhope Esqrs.
In 1767 'Mr. Hamilton, Bond-Street' exhibited at the Society of Artists (68) a painting of 'A nobleman and his secretary, a conversation', against which Walpole noted in his catalogue 'Earl of Halifax, Mr Sedgwicke & Mr Lovel Stanhope'. [2] Whether this was NPG 3328, the Osborn picture or a two- or three-figure composition cannot now be known. In support of three sitters, and a better authority than the official catalogue in cases of discrepancy, are Walpole's marginalia and the Osborn inscription derived, most probably, from the original canvas and independently of Walpole.
By 1882, when in the possession of the Shirley family at Lower Ettington, NPG 3328 had become known as Halifax signing the general warrant against Wilkes ('North Briton no. 45') which led to his arrest. This incident took place in April 1763 and the politicians concerned with Halifax were Lord Egremont and George Grenville, neither of whom is portrayed in this picture. Both the provenance of NPG 3328 and family connections between the Stanhopes and Shirleys would seem to suggest the presence of Stanhope. His great-niece Elizabeth married Evelyn John Shirley of Ettington, [3] and there is a portrait of Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, [4] in the present Earl Ferrers' collection (see Chesterfield). There are no other known portraits of Stanhope and Sedgwick. The inscription GR 1765 occurs in both versions but no pastellist of these initials is known and, as in present practice, it is doubtful that a date would be associated with the royal cipher. The composition is probably not earlier than 1764, the year Halifax was awarded the Garter; 1765 presumably indicates the date of the subject matter. Halifax was secretary of state, south, from September 1763 to July 1765, Sedgwick was under-secretary for American affairs, a sub-division of the department, and Stanhope under-secretary only in 1765. [5] The date 1765 is near enough for the composition to have been the one exhibited two years later at the Society of Artists and, since the catalogue does not state otherwise, it was almost certainly an oil. Entries under Francis Cotes (nos.32-34), for example, are listed as 'crayons' and nos.35-37 without qualifying description are presumably oils. 'Mr Hamilton' must be Hugh Douglas Hamilton who, while better known as a pastellist, worked in both media. The heads of NPG 3328 are near his hand and a pastel such as 'The Reverend William Rose and his Parents', 1775, Christie's, 12 October 1945, lot 38, shows him capable of handling effectively a horizontal group. The colour of the background, though faded, is however typical of the pastellist Daniel Gardner (1750?-1805) and while Hamilton may yet prove to be the painter of both the Osborn oil and NPG 3328, the latter is more likely to be an early work by Gardner. [6]

Footnotesback to top

1) Great-grandson of the 1st Earl Ferrers; Burke, Peerage, 1902, pp 302-03; see part II, p 807.
2) Gentleman's Magazine, LII, 1783, part II, p 807.
3) Court and City Register, 1764 and 1765.
4) Mr E. Croft Murray has kindly drawn my attention to a large horizontal oval by Gardner in a private collection, London, 1971.

Physical descriptionback to top

Halifax (right) in white wig, mauve suit with Garter ribbon and star, dictates to a secretary in blue suit and holding pen; another secretary, in brown suit, holds sealing wax to a candle; red curtain and column in the background; land­scape with setting sun seen through window opening, left.

Conservationback to top

Rather faded.

Provenanceback to top

Bought for the NPG, Ettington Park sale, 31 October 1946, lot 801 (as by N. Dance); sketched by Scharf, 8 September 1882, in the Shirley collection, Lower Ettington. [1]

1) Sir George Scharf's Trustees' Sketchbooks, CIV, p 31.


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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