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Study for 'Patrons and Lovers of Art'

Study for 'Patrons and Lovers of Art', by Pieter Christoffel Wonder, 1826-1830 -NPG 792 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Regency Portraits Catalogue

Study for 'Patrons and Lovers of Art'

by Pieter Christoffel Wonder
1826-1830
24 1/2 in. x 18 1/2 in. (622 mm x 470 mm)
NPG 792

Inscriptionback to top

Old labels on the back indicate the sitters' relative positions.

This portraitback to top

The four groups (NPG 792-5) are preliminary studies for a large picture of an imaginary gallery hung with pictures from famous collections in England. The idea was conceived by General Sir John Murray who already owned a similar picture by Gonzalez Coques, probably a version of the famous Coques Picture Gallery in the Mauritshuis, of which a variant is at Windsor Castle and others were well-known at the time. Lord Egremont owned one by Teniers, of the Archduke Leopold's Gallery. Murray commissioned Pieter Wonder to paint its English companion with the collectors grouped in the foreground and about 40 well-known Old Masters hanging on the walls. Pieter Wonder came over from Holland in about 1822 under Murray's aegis and exhibited in London 1823-31, his last work being at the British Institution 1831 (345) - 'An Interior of a Picture Gallery with Portraits 5ft 7in x 7ft 4in', presumably the finished work for which the groups are studies.
In the final 'Imaginary Gallery', Taylor's Parmigianino appears in the same place, above his head, and his Roubiliac bust of Pope nearby. Taylor had had an important mixed sale in his Cavendish Square house (Christie's 13 June 1823) which included 'the finest female Picture in the world', Mrs Siddons as the Tragic Muse by Reynolds, bought by Lord Grosvenor and now in the Huntington Library; his Four Seasons by Teniers was bought by Peel (NG 857-60) and a Parmigianino Altarpiece was bought by Holwell-Carr for the British Institution and presented by the Directors to the National Gallery in 1826 (NG 33)
In the final picture appear Holwell-Carr's Garofalo St Augustine (NG 81), Storm by Dughet, then believed to be Poussin (NG 95) and Christ Teaching by Luini, then attributed to Leonardo (NG 18). Holwell-Carr bequeathed a large group of pictures to be placed with the Angerstein Collection, including his own portrait by Jackson (NG 124).
Murray commissioned the final picture from Wonder and in front of him high above in the 'Imaginary Gallery' hangs his Christ as Victor over Sin and Death, later in the sale of Lady Murray's effects at Christie's in 1852 and finally acquired in 1890 by the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Strasbourg. Portraits of Murray himself by Wonder are reproduced in J. W. Niemeijer, 'P. C. Wonder in Engeland' in Bulletin van het Rjksmuseum, 1965, plates 7-9.
An art critic reviewing the exhibition at the British Institution in 1851 where the final picture appeared as no.345 'An Interior of a Picture Gallery with Portraits', complained that Murray and his friends were in deep shadow, ending with a feeble pun: 'under such circumstances it would have required a miracle to insure success: as it is, however, the performance is a wonder' (Literary Gazette, 19 February 1851).

Referenceback to top

Brown 1981
Christopher Brown, Scholars of Nature, Hull, 1981.

Haskell 1976
Francis Haskell, Rediscoveries in Art, 1976.

Herrmann 1972
Frank Herrmann, The English As Collectors, 1972.

Niemeijer 1965
J. W. Niemeijer, 'P. C. Wonder in Engeland' in Bulletin van het Rjksmuseum, 1965, no.3, pp 115-23.

Return (Pursuant to an Order of the House of Lords dated 13 July 1869) of All Pictures purchased for the National Gallery from the commencement to the Present Time ...

Scharf 1888
George Scharf, NPG Catalogue, 1888, II, pp 516-19.

Spielmann 1912
H. Spielmann, 'Pictures of Picture Galleries: John Scarlett Davis', Connoisseur, XXXIII, 1912, pp 215-22.

Staring 1924
A. Staring, 'Een Schotsch verzamelaar en de Nederlandsche Kunst', in Oud Holland, XLII, 1924, pp 1-12.

Physical descriptionback to top

George Watson Taylor in black coat and grey trousers kneels before Titian's Bacchus and Ariadne, bought by the National Gallery in March 1826. The Rev William Holwell-Carr stands to left in black frock-coat and baggy grey trousers. Sir John Murray in dark blue coat with brass buttons, black trousers, holding top-hat, cane and gloves, stands as the dominant figure in the group; he commissioned the final picture itself from Pieter Wonder who stands behind in dark brown studio coat holding palette and mahlstick. Beside them is Angerstein's bust of Wellington by Nollekens, replaced in the final picture by busts of Milton and Locke. Several recognisable pictures hang on the walls, slightly altered for the final picture: the legs of Velazquez's Olivares, St Augustine by Garofalo (NG 81, Holwell-Carr bequest), Madonna and Child with St John and the Magdalen by Parmigianino, then belonging to George Watson Taylor and now in a private collection in England (see 'A Parmigianino Discovery' by Clovis Whitfield in Burlington Magazine, CXXIV, May 1982, reproduced in colour, and Eliot W. Rowlands letter to Burlington Magazine, CXXV, June 1983); on the far wall are: Girl Peeling Apples by Maes (Metropolitan Museum, New York), Cattle in Meadow with Willows by Paul Potter (Westminster Collection) and a famous Madonna and Child with St John by Raphael (Hermitage Museum, Leningrad); above Wellington's head is Woman with Spaniel by Metsu, then in the Stafford Gallery, and on the floor behind Holwell-Carr is the Duke of Westminster's The Visitation by Rembrandt.

Provenanceback to top

Pieter Wonder and his family; offered on their behalf to the NPG by J. S. Coster, antiquarian dealer of Utrecht, and declined; Edward Joseph of 18 New Bond Street and given by him 14 May 1888.

Exhibitionsback to top

'Scholars of Nature', Ferens Art Gallery, Kingston-upon-Hull 1981 (43).


This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: Richard Walker, Regency Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, 1985, 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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