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Probably William Kent

Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Probably William Kent

by Bartholomew Dandridge
circa 1736
35 in. x 28 1/4 in. (889 mm x 718 mm)
NPG 1557

Inscriptionback to top

Signed on the masonry B Dandridge; on the back of the relining stretcher, top left, is a label perhaps fifty years old, on which is written W. Kent/By Dandridge; also a label: 221 (dealer's stock number?).

This portraitback to top

NPG 1557 is the smaller of two signed versions by Dandridge, both with Shepherd Brothers of King Street in 1909. The larger, a 50 x 40 in a 'Kent' frame, last noticed in 1910 at 31 Old Burlington Street when reproduced in the Connoisseur, [1] includes a book, a plan and a monument in the background. It is signed on the masonry, lower left. The plan (a terraced house?) is unidentified. The book is not lettered but the size would be compatible with, say, Leoni's Palladio. [2] The monument, it is now suggested, is a simplified representation of Kent's pyramidal monument to Congreve at Stowe, 1736, reproduced in Bickham's Beauties of Stowe, 1750. [3] Other claims made in the 1910 account cannot be fully substantiated. For example, although of the period, there is no documentary evidence for attributing the carved frame to Kent. [4] Nor can the picture be firmly equated with the portrait mentioned by Mrs Lybbe Powys in her diary for 1771 at Wanstead House, [5] possibly the same noted there by Lysons in 1796 [6] and lot 365, described as Kent, when the house was pulled down in 1822. [7] Nevertheless, comparison with authentic likenesses is plausible and the identification of NPG 1557 as Kent is now provisionally accepted.

Footnotesback to top

1) Connoisseur, pp 211-12; The London Post Office Directory, 1910, give Lenygon & Co, Interior Decorators, at this address. They have no record of the picture.
2) H. M. Colvin, A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1954, p 361; published 1715-16, the two volumes often bound in one.
3) This suggestion is due to John Harris; compare M. Jourdain, The Work of William Kent, 1948, p 44.
4) Desmond Fitz-Gerald, V & A, verbal, 1970.
5) Passages from the Diaries of Mrs Philip Lybbe Powys, ed. E. J. Climenson, 1899, p 205.
6) D. Lysons, The Environs of London, IV, 1796, p 235.
7) George Robins, 10-21 June 1822, and succeeding days: F. Lugt, Repertoire des Catalogues de Ventes, 1600 10272, 10288, 10295, 10313.

Physical descriptionback to top

Grey eyebrows, dark blue eyes, double chin, bluish temple, upper lip and chin; rich red velvet cap, white shirt open at neck, brown velvet coat with gold frogged buttonholes in pairs, red cuff of his right arm folded back to reveal white wrist ruffle; his right elbow rests on a masonry ledge, the left arm indistinct as also a buttonhole sketched in at the neck of the coat, suggesting the picture may not be quite finished; plain brown background, darker on left.

Conservationback to top

Some discoloured varnish; a few minor retouchings in background, otherwise good.

Provenanceback to top

Bought, 1909, from Shepherd Brothers, King Street.

Exhibitionsback to top

'English Taste in the Eighteenth Century', RA, 1955-56 (53).


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 William Kent