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Capability Brown

Capability Brown, by Nathaniel Dance (later Sir Nathaniel Holland, Bt), circa 1773 -NPG 6049 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Capability Brown

by Nathaniel Dance (later Sir Nathaniel Holland, Bt)
circa 1773
29 5/8 in. x 24 7/8 in. (752 mm x 632 mm)
NPG 6049

Inscriptionback to top

Inscribed, lower right: LANCELOT BROWN Eq:/of Fenstanton Hunts./"Capability Brown"/B.1716 D.1783.

This portraitback to top

This is the only authentic likeness of Brown. Brown paid Dance twenty guineas on 2 March 1774, [1] which might indicate that [PG 6041 was painted the previous year. It has otherwise generally been dated c.1769. {n2] There is a good but bland version at Burghley (where Brown was active for twenty-five years on behalf of the 9th Earl of Exeter); an oval copy was formerly with Derek Sherborn [3] and see NPG 1490.

Footnotesback to top

1) Information from Dance’s bank account at Drummonds, supplied by Deborah Turnbull (letter of 2 November 1987, NPG archive). Romney and Wright of Derby, for example, were then charging 15 gn. for a 30 x 25 canvas and 30gns for a 50 x 40 (P. Wills, ‘Capability Brown’s account with Drummonds Bank’, Architectural History, 27, 1984, pp 382-91, confined himself to clients’ payments to Brown).
[2] Cf. D. Goodreau, Nathaniel Dance, exhibition catalogue, Kenwood, 1977, no.27.
3) Acquired in or before June 1954 from Robinson & Fisher, possibly, lot 60, 24 June 1954 (‘A Gentleman, oval, English school').

Physical descriptionback to top

Blue eyes, powdered hair, wearing a blue coat and waistcoat; his chair has dull red damask upholstery.

Provenanceback to top

By family descent from the sitter’s third son, the Rev Thomas Brown (d. 1829), whose granddaughter married 1848 Frederick Morrice; by descent at Brampton Hall;1 lent to the NPG from 1971 by Mrs Margaret Morrice (d. 1985); her nephew Michael Morrice, from whom purchased 1989.

1 Where listed in E. Farrer, Portraits in Suffolk Houses (East), 1921, p 152, no.3.

Exhibitionsback to top

RA 1907-08 (176); English Landscape Gardening, Arts Council, 1951 (21); Nathaniel Dance, Kenwood, 1977 (27); Capability Brown and the Northern Landscape, Newcastle, Leeds, Middlesborough, Barnard Castle, 1983 (1); Beningbrough 1979-.

Reproductionsback to top

J. K. Sherwin c.1783 (after death, with Mason's epitaph; the plate does not exactly match Dance's painting e.g. in the alignment of cuff to buttons).


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.

View all known portraits for Lancelot ('Capability') Brown

View all known portraits for Nathaniel Dance (later Sir Nathaniel Holland, Bt)

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