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Constantine John Phipps, 2nd Baron Mulgrave

Constantine John Phipps, 2nd Baron Mulgrave, by Unknown artist, circa 1775 -NPG 1094 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Constantine John Phipps, 2nd Baron Mulgrave

by Unknown artist
circa 1775
49 in. x 39 1/4 in. (1245 mm x 997 mm)
NPG 1094

This portraitback to top

In 1773, by Royal command, a voyage was made ‘to see how far navigation was practicable towards the North Pole’. [1] Captain Phipps in the Racehorse was given command, accompanied by Captain Lutwidge in the Carcass, and he was additionally charged with making ‘such observations of every kind as might be useful to navigation, or tend to the promotion of natural knowledge’. [2] Between 3 July and 22 August he explored the ice-bound coasts around Spitsbergen, within 10 degrees of the North Pole, returning to England in September. The following year he published a detailed, illustrated account, [3] evidently consulted by the painter of NPG 1094 - John Cleveley’s plate of the Racehorse and Carcass on 7 August 1773 showing a similar team of men hauling a boat across the ice. Phipps’s head may be based on an original study, unlike his stance [4] and the menacing sky. [5]
A replica, with minor variations in the background, remains with family descendants. Haydon recounted seeing this, or NPG 1094, in Lord Mulgrave’s collection in 1808:

'We were loitering about the picture of Lord Mulgrave’s brother blocked up in the ice, in the Arctic expedition in which Nelson sailed as a middy. Lord Mulgrave, holding the lamp, said: ‘What is that my brother has got hold of? Is it a boat hook?’ ‘No. My Lord!’ said [George] Colman [the younger], in his half-throttled, witty voice; ‘it is the North Pole!’' [6]

Footnotesback to top

1) C. J. Phipps, A Voyage towards the North Pole, 1774, p 10.
2) Ibid., p 20.
3) C. J. Phipps, A Voyage towards the North Pole, 1774, of which pp 1-76 contain Phipps’s journal and pp 77-253 detailed appendices (‘an account of all the experiments and observations’); reprinted in J. Pinkerton, Voyages and Travels, I, 1808, pp 538-94, and partly in Gentleman's Magazine, XLIV, 1774, pp 420-24.
4) Perhaps ultimately inspired by the Prima Porta Augustus in the Vatican Gallery.
5) C. J. Phipps, A Voyage towards the North Pole, 1774, p 71, recorded that the arctic sky ‘was in general loaded with hard white clouds’; there was just one day of foul weather.
6) B. R. Haydon, Autobiography, 1926 ed., I, p 79.

Physical descriptionback to top

Grey eyes, brownish hair, wearing a captain’s uniform, blue coat with white revers, gold trim and brass buttons, white waistcoat with gold trim, white breeches and stockings; holding an ice-spear with wooden and metal points.

Provenanceback to top

By descent from the sitter at Mulgrave Castle through his cousin, the 1st Viscount Normanby (d. 1831), to the 3rd Marquess of Normanby; his sale, Christie’s, 8 May 1897, lot 103, bought Colnaghi, from whom purchased 1897.


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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