John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich
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Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue
John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich
by Joseph Highmore
48 in. x 36 in. (1219 mm x 914 mm)
Inscriptionback to top
Signed below left: Jos Highmore pinx:/1740.
This portraitback to top
NPG 1977 celebrates Lord Sandwich’s voyage to the Middle East in 1738-39. In July 1738 he had left Leghorn with William Ponsonby (later 2nd Earl of Bessborough) and the French artist Liotard to visit Athens, Constantinople, Cyprus and Egypt. In his account of the voyage, published posthumously in 1799 and dedicated to the King as ‘an early performance of a long-tried and faithful Servant’, he described how, besides copying inscriptions and taking ‘plans and drafts of the pyramids, and all ancient buildings’, he had returned with
‘two mummies and eight embalmed ibis’s from the catacombs of Memphis; a large quantity of the famous Egyptian papyrus; 50 intaglios; 500 medals ... marble vase from Athens ... and a very long inscription ... on both sides of a piece of marble of about two feet in height.' 
On his return Sandwich was elected FRS; he became the first President of the Egyptian Society in 1742 and founded, as ‘Vizir’, the Divan Club for Turkish travellers in 1744. 
Both Sandwich and Ponsonby were painted whole length in Turkish costume by Liotard. NPG 1977 shows a blue cloak,  where Liotard showed green; in the background are the dome and minarets of Hagia Sophia,  and drawings of the pyramids, as described in A Voyage performed by the late Earl of Sandwich round the Mediterranean in the years 1738 and 1739, written by himself, lie on the table.  An earlier depiction of an English adaptation of Turkish dress is seen in the portrait by J. B. Vanmour of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu in Constantinople c.1717 (NPG 3924). 
Footnotesback to top
1) A Voyage performed by the late Earl of Sandwich round the Mediterranean in the years 1738 and 1739, written by himself, 1799, p III; the marble inscription he gave to Trinity College, Cambridge.
2) N. A. M. Rodger, The Insatiable Earl, 1993, p 7; see J. Sweetman, The Oriental Obsession, 1988, pp 63-64.
3) A similar cloak is worn by Ponsonby in his portrait by Liotard (Stansted; illus. Liotard, opera complete, 1978, no.48, tav.VII).
4) The minarets agree with the engraving by John Cooke in A Voyage performed by the late Earl of Sandwich round the Mediterranean in the years 1738 and 1739, written by himself, 1799, f.p.131, presumably copied from drawings made during the voyage.
5) Cf. the [six] engravings of the pyramids in A Voyage performed by the late Earl of Sandwich round the Mediterranean in the years 1738 and 1739, written by himself, 1799, f.p.456-61.
6) See J. Kerslake, National Portrait Gallery, Early Georgian Portraits, I, p 188-89, II, pl.549.
Referenceback to top
A. S. Lewis, 'Joseph Highmore', D. Phil thesis Harvard, UMI, 1979, II, no.151.
Physical descriptionback to top
Dark grey eyes, wearing a blue cap below his turban, a red kaftan beneath a blue coat trimmed with rat-tailed ermine; in his deep-blue belt with red and gold decoration, a gold-handled dagger; on the table covered with a Turkey rug, a paper with drawings of pyramids; on the right a distant view of the minarets and dome of the Hagia Sophia.
Provenanceback to top
‘A Lady of Rank’, sold Christie’s, 11 June 1870, lot 145 (as Lady Mary Wortley Montagu);1 presented anonymously 1923.
1 The anonymous donor still believed in 1923 that it showed Lady Mary (letters in NPG archive).
Exhibitionsback to top
Highmore, Kenwood, 1963 (12); The Dye is now Cast, NPG Washington, 1975 (159); Bicentennial Center Opening, Yorktown, Va., 1976; Beningbrough 1979-.
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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