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William Shenstone

William Shenstone, by Edward Alcock, 1760 -NPG 263 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue

William Shenstone

by Edward Alcock
1760
59 3/8 in. x 39 1/4 in. (1508 mm x 997 mm)
NPG 263

This portraitback to top

Shenstone was sitting to Alcock by 7 December 1759 [1] and the portrait is several times mentioned in letters as, for example, in the detailed description to Graves, 8 January 1760. [2] By 9 February it was 'in a manner finished' but not content to leave well alone, the artist, according to Shenstone's letter to Graves, 2 May 1761, 'By way of improving the picture I meant for Dodsley ... has made it infinitely less like, and yet it must go to London as it is, for God knows when he can be brought to alter it.' [3] A version painted by the artist for Graves himself, referred to in the same letter, may be the portrait now in the City Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham.

Footnotesback to top

1) M. Williams, The Letters of William Shenstone, 1939, p 537, citing letter of that date.
2) Ibid, pp 542-44.
3) Ibid, 1939, p 579.

Physical descriptionback to top

Grey eyes, light brown eyebrows, plump face and figure, florid complexion, grey hair or wig to shoulders; white cravat and cuffs, greenish-blue coat over cream waistcoat edged with gold lacing, light gold-brown breeches, white socks, black gold-buckled shoes; yellowish-grey masonry background, left, a pedestal with allegorical bas relief representing the Stour and on it, volumes of Virgil, Horace and Theocritus; an arch, right, with distant view of the 'ruinated Priory' in the grounds of Leasowes, [1] the village of Halesowen, blue sky and grey clouds beyond; floor of chequered blue and white tiles, a seated dog (whippet?) foreground left.

1) M. Williams, The Letters of William Shenstone, 1939, p xii.

Conservationback to top

Some wrinkling of the paint surface on shoulders, arms of coat, and curtain, left; surface cleaned and varnished 1895 and 1897.

Provenanceback to top

Bought, 1868, from Henry Graves & Co; with H. Rodd of Great Newport Street, 1824; bought by a Mr Street and subsequently by a Mr Cribb by whom sold to James Watt, FRS, of Aston Hall, Birmingham; Aston Hall sale, 17 April 1849, lot 44, bought Norton, and later owned by Charles Birch; intervening history not known.


This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Kerslake, Early Georgian Portraits, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1977, 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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