1 of 3 portraits by Ralph Earl
- Extended catalogue entry
Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue
by Ralph Earl
50 in. x 39 in. (1270 mm x 991 mm)
Inscriptionback to top
Signed lower left, on the anchor: R. Earl Pinxt 1783.
This portraitback to top
Although dated 1783, after Kempenfelt’s death, the head is vigorously painted, suggesting it was painted from the life, i.e. before April 1782 when Kempenfelt departed for Spithead on his last voyage. It has been observed that the likelihood of an American artist being commissioned to paint a portrait of a deceased English hero is remote, but if he had already painted the head he would undoubtedly have received commissions.  The rest of the composition, imitating Gainsborough’s portrait of the 3rd Earl of Bristol and displaying a carefully-described uniform, is more pedestrian. The distant three-decker appears to derive from the mezzotint by Richard Earlom (published on 22 October 1782 after Kettle’s whole-length portrait), identified as the Royal George.
Footnotesback to top
Physical descriptionback to top
Grey eyes, grey powdered buckle-wig, wearing the full-dress uniform of a flag officer: dark-blue coat with gold facings, white waistcoat with gold trim and white breeches; holding a wooden telescope in his right hand, resting his elbow on an anchor; the distant three-decker, resembling the Royal George, flies a plain blue flag on the main mast1 and blue flags quartered with a white cross fore and aft.
1 Normally indicating an admiral of the blue; the flag of a rear-admiral of the blue would fly from the mizzen (third) mast, as in the Kettle portrait (M. S. Robinson, letter of 24 January 1947 on file). Kempenfelt hoisted his flag as rear-admiral of the blue on 7 April 1782 on the Royal George at Spithead.
Provenanceback to top
Graves 1889;1 John Glen, London, 1911; Leggatt, from whom purchased 1912.
1 Where sketched by Scharf in 1889 (Sir George Scharf's Trustees' Sketch Books, 35/37).
Exhibitionsback to top
Ralph Earl, Washington, Hartford, Fort Worth, 1992 (12).
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.
View all known portraits for Richard Kempenfelt