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John Jervis, Earl of St Vincent

John Jervis, Earl of St Vincent, by Lemuel Francis Abbott, circa 1795 -NPG 936 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Regency Portraits Catalogue

John Jervis, Earl of St Vincent

studio of Lemuel Francis Abbott
circa 1795
23 3/4 in. x 20 in. (603 mm x 508 mm)
NPG 936

This portraitback to top

There are two known versions of this portrait, one originally belonging to Lady Jervis, the other to Captain William Locker. The first, NPG 936, shows the Admiral aged about 60 wearing the newly designed full-dress uniform to which he was entitled as Admiral of the Blue, promoted 1 July 1795; he is not wearing the Naval Gold Medal awarded for the Battle of Cape St Vincent in 1797. It was probably painted therefore during the few months on leave in England before taking up the appointment as C.-in-C. Mediterranean in November 1795. Orme's engraving of 1799 states the original picture as belonging to 'Her Ladyship'.
The second version, in a private collection Berkshire in 1969, shows him in undress uniform, with the Naval Gold Medal awarded in 1797, and without ships in the background. It was probably painted specially for Captain Locker and hung in his dining-room at Greenwich Hospital among portraits of other well-known naval officers; it was sold by a Locker-Lampson descendant to Knoedler in about 1925.
The NPG portrait was acquired as by an unknown artist, altered to Abbott on the strength of Ridley's engraving of 1800; a correspondent then pointed out the existence of Barnard's mezzotint of 1798 where the artist's name clearly appears as G. Stuart. This was immediately recognised as a mystery because the Admiral is shown not only in the new uniform (epaulettes and the three silver stars for a full admiral) authorised by the Admiralty on 1 June 1795 but wearing the Gold Medal awarded in 1797, whereas Gilbert Stuart is known to have left England permanently in 1789. It seems unlikely that Barnard was simply mistaken in his mezzotint attribution; Captain Locker, a keen picture collector, would never have allowed such a slip to have passed unnoticed. Yet it seems almost certain that St Vincent was painted by Stuart, probably in the 1780s. In a conversation with Farington in 1805 'His Lordship mentioned how great a Patron He had been to American Stuart while He painted Portraits in England, & said Stuart had received through his recommendations at least £2000 - and that Stuart had behaved most ungratefully to Him' (Diary of Joseph Farington, 27 April 1805). Perhaps the most likely sequence therefore is that the original, or an original, was painted by Stuart in the 1780s and the uniform brought up to date by Abbott in about 1795, Abbott being an artist much patronised by Locker. The awkward cut of the right shoulder certainly indicates an alteration.

Physical descriptionback to top

Head and shoulders in admiral's full-dress uniform (style from June 1795), Ribbon and Star of KB, white neckcloth and shirt-frill; scanty white hair in queue, small blue eyes, fresh ruddy complexion; sea and ships in right background.

Provenanceback to top

Possibly Lady St Vincent (see Reproductions (2)); bought from John Brinson 1892 without earlier provenance.

Reproductionsback to top

(1) Mezzotint by W. Barnard (with artist's name as 'G. Stuart') in admiral's undress uniform and with addition of Naval Gold Medal for St Vincent, 'From a Picture in the Possession of Wm Locker Esqr. Lieut. Governor of the Royal Hospital, Greenwich', published 5 June 1798 (example in National Maritime Museum); (2) stipple by D. Orme 'from a Picture in Her Ladyship's Possession', published by D. Orme for the British Naval and Military Gallery, 1799; (3) stipple by Ridley, 1 August 1800 (with artist's name as 'L. F. Abbot Esq') published in Naval Chronicle, IV, 1801, p 1 and The European Magazine, 1 September 1801; (4) small oval stipple by Mackenzie (NPG impression undated but possibly 1797), head and shoulders in pre-1795 uniform, Ribbon and Star of KB, face slightly younger.

This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: Richard Walker, Regency Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, 1985, 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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