The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

James Ramsay

1 portrait of James Ramsay

James Ramsay, by Carl Fredrik von Breda, 1789 -NPG 2559 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

James Ramsay

by Carl Fredrik von Breda
35 in. x 27 in. (889 mm x 686 mm)
NPG 2559

Inscriptionback to top

Signed below left: Breda/1789.

This portraitback to top

Ramsay died on 20 July 1789 but NPG 2559, dated that year, appears to have been painted from the life. Three other versions have descended through the family: one with Phylis Green in 1957; [1] another, signed, and with an enclosed architectural background, at Chilston Park, [2] and a less finished version, also with an enclosed background, belonged to the Duke of St Albans at Newtown Anner, Clonmel, in 1957. [3] This last was presumably the portrait said to have been painted by Mrs Bouverie, a neighbour of Ramsay at Teston, [4] which in 1894 was said to belong to the Duke of St Albans. [5] A miniature copy was with Sir Edmund Phipps in 1933. [6] There is also an unlettered, bust-length engraving of Ramsay, wearing bands, the head not unrelated to NPG 2551 (conceivably based on a drawing by von Breda). [7]

Footnotesback to top

1) Given to her father by Mary Warde, a direct descendant.
2) Illus. Country Life, CXII, 1952, p 2099 (and see pp 2096-99 for the descent).
3) As described by Lady Beatrix Beauclerk (letter of 31 March 1933; NPG archive): ‘There is very little difference between [this and NPG 2559], but I should say that [NPG 2559] is the better one, & certainly shows more detail. In ours, the books are barely indicated ... and the background shows no distant view’. Sir Edmund Phipps had first described NPG 2559 as a copy of Lady Beauclerk’s (letter of 4 October 1932; NPG archive).
4) Mrs Elizabeth Bouverie (c.1726-98) of Teston, cousin of the 5th Earl of Radnor, friend of Hannah More, unmarried (Wal. Corr., XXXI, p 294n3).
5) See DNB, ad vocem, and P. W. Phipps, Life of Col. Pownoll Phipps, 1894, pp 122-23. The gift of the portrait recorded in the diary of Lady Osborne (d. 1856), the Duchess of St Albans great-grandmother (letter from the 12th Duke of St Albans, 12 July 1957; NPG archive).
6) Seen by J. Steegman in St James’s Court, 7 October 1932 (note on file).
7) Photograph of 1967 in NPG archive from the print in the Vicarage at Yalding, where Ramsay’s son-in-law was rector for over forty years.

Physical descriptionback to top

Blue eyes, white hair, wearing gown and bands; a red drape behind him; his left hand rests on Sea Sermons [1781] and on the table lies open On the Treatment Conversion of [African Slaves in the British Sugar Colonies 1784] and a pamphlet Effects of the Abolition of Slave Trade [Enquiry into the Effects of putting a stop to the Slave Trade 1784].

Provenanceback to top

The sitter’s great-great grandson, Lt.-Col. P. R. Phipps (d. 1932);1 his cousin and executor, Sir Edmund Phipps Kt, by whom presented 1933.

1 Possibly the portrait of Ramsay sold in Oxford Street as John Wesley, bought by a Mrs Dickinson and bequeathed to Pownoll W. Phipps’s mother (P. W. Phipps, Life of Col. Pownoll Phipps, 1894, pp 122-23).

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.


Tudor and Elizabethan matching pairs

Test your memory by playing our matching pairs game. Three levels of difficulty make it fun for the whole family.

Test your skill

Regency familiar faces

Rearrange tiles to uncover sitters from the Gallery's Collection by playing our puzzle game.

Play today

Who do you think you were?

Answer a few lifestyle questions about the Elizabethan period and discover your inner Elizabethan!

Start now