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George Macartney, 1st Earl Macartney; Sir George Leonard Staunton, 1st Bt

George Macartney, 1st Earl Macartney; Sir George Leonard Staunton, 1st Bt, by Lemuel Francis Abbott, circa 1785 -NPG 329 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

George Macartney, 1st Earl Macartney; Sir George Leonard Staunton, 1st Bt

by Lemuel Francis Abbott
circa 1785
39 in. x 49 in. (991 mm x 1245 mm)
NPG 329

Inscriptionback to top

Above Staunton an inscription Sir George Staunton/Baronet/1783 had been overpainted.
A label formerly on the verso reads: Received Augt 29 1850 from S. M. Caldwell Esqre the sum of Sixteen Pounds for cleaning and restoration a Picture by Sir Joshua Reynolds - J. Caldwell.
A label formerly on the verso reads: This Picture by Sir Joshua Reynolds was Purchased by me at Lissanoure Castle Co Antrim Ireland May 12 1850 when a Sheriffs sale took place at the suit of A Clarke against George Macartney Esqr/S Macartney Caldwell.

This portraitback to top

NPG 329 shows Lord Macartney as governor of Madras with his private secretary George Staunton, whom he had first met in Grenada in 1775. It is a much-damaged version of the double portrait formerly belonging to the Staunton family and now in an American private collection, [1] in which the map is inscribed Mangalore and the folded document Instructions/for/making Peace/with Tippoo Sultan. In September 1783 Macartney sent Staunton with two other envoys (Sadleir and Huddleston) to Seringatapam to negotiate a settlement in Mysore, where Tipu Sultan with his father, Hyder Ali (d. 1782), had harassed the British. Staunton succeeded in this mission at the cost of ceding the port of Mangalore, where the treaty was signed on 11 March 1784. Macartney was much impressed with Staunton’s diplomatic skill, telling Fox that he was a man ‘most capable of rendering essential service to the State of India’. [2] Staunton’s treaty was subsequently modified by Warren Hastings.
NPG 329 had been called Reynolds in 1850 and it was offered in 1871 as Gainsborough, [3] but Scharf convincingly attributed it to Abbott, remembering that the Staunton version had previously been offered in 1860 as Abbott. [4] NPG 329 particularly commemorates Staunton’s success, combining Macartney’s instructions of September 1783 with a reference to Mangalore. The Staunton version also suggests that Staunton’s head was painted with rather more interest than Macartney’s; the heads relate uncomfortably and neither looks at the other. Abbott, who was never in India, had arrived in London in 1784 and first exhibited at the RA in 1788; Staunton returned from India in 1784 and Macartney in 1785, and their double portrait as Indian officials must date soon after. Apart from the regrettable differences in condition, there are minor variations between the two versions: NPG 329 shows the folded document lying on the table instead of in Macartney’s right hand; Macartney’s waistcoat buttons are more visible, and the back of his bamboo chair is of a different pattern.
Abbott also painted a separate (related) half length of Macartney.

Footnotesback to top

1) Descended through the Staunton family; with Sir George Staunton in 1850, when he told Macartney he had a duplicate of their picture (letter from Sir George Staunton to S. Macartnay Caldwell dated May 27 1850 copied on a label formerly on the back of NPG 329); offered to the NPG in 1860 as Abbott; Capt. G. S. Lynch-Staunton sale, Christie’s, 8 July 1927, lot 70, as Abbott; Dr D. B. Bache, USA (d. 1994); London art market.
2) Quoted in H. H. Robbins, Our First Ambassador to China, an Account of the Life of George, Earl of Macartney, 1908, p 145.
3) NPG Offers 1865-71, 23 November 1871.
4) NPG Offers 1857-64, 11 January 1860, from C. M. Lynch, ‘Painted by Abbott’.

Physical descriptionback to top

Macartney on the left with his secretary, George Staunton, on the right; on the table a red-wax sealed silk bag, a letter headed Instructions and an illegible map to which Staunton points.
Macartney: blue eyes, grey powdered hair, wearing a blue coat with the ribbon and badge of the Bath; sitting in a bamboo chair.
Staunton: grey eyes, white hair, wearing a cream jacket and white vest, a green hat under his arm.

Provenanceback to top

Macartney’s widow, Jane (d. 1828), by descent at Lissanoure Castle to his great nephew, George Macartney Hume (d. 1869);1 Lissanoure Castle sale, 12 May 1850, bought S. Macartney Cauldwell;2 Sir Maziere Brady (d. 1871), sold Dublin 1871;3 C. H. Waters,4 from whom purchased November 1871.

1 See H. H. Robbins, Our First Ambassador to China, an Account of the Life of George, Earl of Macartney, 1908, p 456; P. Roebuck ed., Macartney of Lisanoure, 1983, p 306.
2 A label formerly on the verso reads: This Picture by Sir Joshua Reynolds was Purchased by me at Lissanoure Castle Co Antrim Ireland May 12 1850 when a Sheriffs sale took place at the suit of A Clarke against George Macartney Esqr/S Macartney Caldwell.
3 This ownership is implied by Scharf; among his papers relating to NPG 329 is a note that the Brady sale, Christie’s, 1 July 1871, did not include ‘the Macartney one. That was sold afterwards at Dublin’.
4 The London dealer (cf. R. J. B. Walker, National Portrait Gallery, Regency Portraits, 1985, I, pp 98, 201).

Exhibitionsback to top

Irish Industrial Exhibition, Dublin 1853 (324 as Reynolds) lent S. M. Caldwell; China und Europe, Berlin, 1985 (14/2); Britain's First View of China, British Museum, 1992.


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.

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