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Matthew Prior

Matthew Prior, by Thomas Wright; Jonathan Richardson, circa 1728-1736, based on a work of circa 1718 -NPG 91 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Later Stuart Portraits Catalogue

Matthew Prior

by Thomas Wright, after Jonathan Richardson
circa 1728-1736, based on a work of circa 1718
49 in. x 39 in. (1245 mm x 991 mm)
NPG 91

This portraitback to top

A copy of Richardson’s portrait at Welbeck painted in 1718, [1] made by Thomas Wright before 1730 (see NPG 562).
Replicas of the Welbeck portrait are at Cirencester, signed, with minor differences (no papers on the table and the coat not protruding beyond the fold of the tablecloth), [2] and in the Bodleian Library, presented by Edward, Lord Harley (2nd Earl of Oxford), in 1723. [3] A half-length version in the Sterling Library, London University (from Chesterfield House), may be nearly contemporary. [4]
Other half-length versions were on the London art market in 1956 and sold Bonham’s, 26 October 1989, lot 101; a bust-length version was with A. Reader, London, in 1925. A bust-length miniature copy by Bernard Lens III, signed and dated 1720, is in the Glasgow Museum & Art Gallery.

Footnotesback to top

1) R. W. Goulding, Catalogue of Pictures belonging to … the Duke of Portland …, C. K. Adams ed., 1936, no.450. Richardson’s bill for a ‘half length, £21.10’ is dated 10 January 1718, i.e.1719NS. NPG 91 formerly had a label verso: Artist unknown, from a painting by Richardson, now at Welbeck (cited in Earl Bathurst, Catalogue of the Bathurst Collection …, 1908, p 70); engraved G. Vertue 1719 (D. Alexander, ‘George Vertue as an Engraver’, Wal. Soc., LXX, 2008, no.299; illus. C. Gibson-Wood, Jonathan Richardson, 2000, p 59); J. Simon (reversed bust-length; J. Chaloner Smith, British Mezzotinto Portraits, 127 as … I Richardson pinx 1718 …); R. Parr as front. for Prior’s Miscellaneous Works 1740, lettered Aetatis lvii ....
2) Earl Bathurst, Catalogue of the Bathurst Collection …, 1908, pp 70-71, illus.
3) Mrs R. L. Poole, Catalogue of Portraits in the possession of the University, Colleges, City and County of Oxford, I, p 87 no.217; Catalogue of Portraits in the Bodleian Library by Mrs R. L. Poole completely revised and expanded by K. Garlick, 2004, p 256.
4) D. Piper, ‘The Chesterfield House Literary Portraits’, in R. Wellek & A. Ribeiro eds., Essays in Memory of James Marshall Osborn, 1979, p 191, no.12, as perhaps from the Halifax sale, 4th day, 10 March 1740, lot 12 (‘Mat. Prior ditto [half-length]), but if so cut down’, or perhaps a copy commissioned by Chesterfield. In the James West sale, Langford, 31 March 1773, lot 45 was a painting of Prior by Jonathan Richardson, ‘painted for Lord Halifax’.

Referenceback to top

Piper 1963
D. Piper, Catalogue of the Seventeenth Century Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery 1625-1714, 1963, p 287-88.

Wal. Soc., LIII, 1987, p 173.

Provenanceback to top

Listed in the collection of the 10th Earl of Derby (1664-1736) at Knowsley c.1730 as ‘Matt Prior half Length Coppy after Richardson by Tom Wright’;1 by descent to the 14th Earl of Derby at Knowsley, by whom presented 1860.

1 F. Russell, Wal. Soc., LIII, 1987, p 173. Wright was one of Lord Derby’s agents as well as a professional painter; he compiled the catalogue of the collection at Knowsley c.1730 (ibid., pp 143, 156-59, 168-80).

Exhibitionsback to top

Kensington Palace 1909; Department of Education 1971; Foreign and Commonwealth Office 1991–95.


This extended catalogue entry is from the National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Later Stuart Portraits 1685–1714, National Portrait Gallery, 2009, 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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