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The Court of Chancery during the reign of George I

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- subject matching 'Group portraits'

Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue

The Court of Chancery during the reign of George I

by Benjamin Ferrers
circa 1725
29 3/4 in. x 24 7/8 in. (756 mm x 632 mm)
NPG 798

This portraitback to top

The court of chancery in session in the south-west corner of Westminster Hall is represented. [1] At this date the courts of chancery and kings bench were still held in Westminster Hall at the upper end, against the south wall, below the great window, and can be seen in the engraving after Gravelot 'Westminster Hall in Term Time', c.1730. [2] The square caps worn by some figures are derivatives of the sergeant's coif. There is a complete absence of red robes. The iconographic content of the picture is low, a number of the figures being virtually interchangeable. However, the Lord Chancellor (Macclesfield), Sir Philip Yorke (Solicitor General) afterwards Lord Chancellor Hardwicke, and Sir Thomas Pengelly (King's Prime Sergeant) afterwards Chief Baron of the Exchequer, should be those on the bench, Macclesfield being the middle figure beneath the royal arms.
Walpole refers to NPG 798 as 'in the time of Lord Chancellor Macclesfield' [3] who was in office from 1718-25, and the costume suggests a date at the end of this period.

Footnotesback to top

1) A larger version, about 50 x 40 in., with more of the Hall, to left showing part of the court of king's bench and below, a throng of counsel, litigants and spectators is reported in a private collection, USA, 1977.
2) Sir George Scharf, Historical and Descriptive Catalogue of the Pictures, Busts & etc. in the National Portrait Gallery, new and enlarged edition, 1888, pp 519-20 and references there cited.
3) H. Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford, Anecdotes of Painting in England ... collected by ... George Vertue; digested ... by Horace Walpole, edited J. Dalloway and R. N. Wornum, 1862, III, p 836.

Physical descriptionback to top

At the top, four figures - three, in black gowns - seated before a blue hanging embroidered with royal arms and GR; to left, tipstaff and spectators behind a bar, right, spectators behind columns; in the middle; five figures seated behind a table - two, right, with gowns, pens and books; on the table, chancellor's, mace, the purse of the great seal, green table-cloth; figures to left, standing, and to right, seated; in front of the table, several figures seen from behind, two with square black caps on wigs; in foreground, several passers-by in front of a low screen including a man carrying a green bag, two figures with gowns - one with square cap, and two dogs; lit from the right. Two stencils on the top bar of the relining stretcher: 394L and 984Z.

Provenanceback to top

Purchased from the Hardwicke collection, Wimpole, Christie's, 30 June 1888, lot 32; not in this collection originally since, according to Walpole, [1] it was given to the Earl of Hardwicke by the antiquary Michael Lort (1725-90).

1) H. Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford, Anecdotes of Painting in England ... collected by ... George Vertue; digested ... by Horace Walpole, edited J. Dalloway and R. N. Wornum, 1862, III, p 836.


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.

View all known portraits for Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke

View all known portraits for Thomas Parker, 1st Earl of Macclesfield