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

First Previous 2 OF 12 NextLast

Catharine Macaulay (née Sawbridge)

2 of 12 portraits matching these criteria:

- subject matching 'Eminent women tour'

Catharine Macaulay (née Sawbridge), by Robert Edge Pine, circa 1775 -NPG 5856 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Catharine Macaulay (née Sawbridge)

by Robert Edge Pine
circa 1775
54 in. x 41 1/4 in. (1372 mm x 1048 mm)
NPG 5856

This portraitback to top

Cut down from the whole-length composition seen in Caldwall’s engraving of 1778, NPG 5856 now presents a mildly eccentric composition, with the head uncomfortably high within the canvas. It remains nonetheless of interest as a doctrinaire portrait of a remarkable woman.
It was painted in Bath, where Mrs Macaulay, then a relatively wealthy widow, had moved for her health in 1774. She had published the first five volumes of her History of England between 1763 and 1771 (as seen in NPG 5856; the sixth and seventh appeared in 1778 and 1783) and was already a celebrated figure. In Bath she met the widowed Thomas Wilson, absentee rector of St Stephen’s Walbrook and nearly thirty years her senior, who quickly became her champion, giving her commodious lodgings at Alfred House, adopting her daughter in April 1775, pledging an inheritance, [1] and rendering himself ‘truly ridiculous by the unaccountable frolicks of his attachment’. [2] The relationship ended with Mrs Macaulay’s second marriage in November 1778.
Both Macaulay and Wilson were ‘zealous for liberty’ and friends of Wilkes, and so was the artist Pine, who was living in Bath 1772-79. [3] A Spartan picture, NPG 5856 shows Mrs Macaulay in a Roman setting, dressed as a Roman matron but wearing a senator’s purple scarf, attributes synonymous with republican sympathies. [4] In 1772 her younger brother, the radical politician John Sawbridge, had been painted by Benjamin West as a Roman tribune. [5] In NPG 5856 prominent reference is made to her History of England, to Thomas Wilson and to a concept of democracy, through the inscription on the pedestal. The same (unidentified) [6] inscription appears on the scroll in the monument to Mrs Macaulay which Wilson commissioned from J. F. Moore [7]. All of which suggests that NPG 5856, which descended through the sitter’s family, may have been commissioned by Wilson, though that is unproven. Mrs Macaulay’s continued interest in Pine is indicated by a letter from George Washington, telling her of the artist’s activities in Philadelphia in 1787. [8]
Although sold in 1985 as by Pine, NPG 5856 was subsequently attributed to Chamberlin, [9] before reverting to Pine in 1990, [10] A whole-length portrait of Macaulay by Chamberlin, exhibited at the RA in 1774 was then described as

'bold, animated, and a good likeness of the original, but the under parts of the drapery are not cast full enough to give the whole sufficient ease; the general disposition of the picture, however, is very characteristic, she is drawn leaning on a term, supporting the volume of the history of England, on which is the following inscription: GOVERNMENT/A power, delegated for the happiness of mankind,/conducted by/Wisdom, Justice and/Mercy. [11]
An early 19th-century label on the verso of NPG 5856 states it was painted by Chamberlin. [12]

Footnotesback to top

1) As recounted by Hume, 13 May 1776 (Letters, II, 1932, p 321). Wright of Derby painted a double portrait of Wilson and Catherine Sophie Macaulay in 1776 (illus Bath History, VI, 1996, p 138), see also Bridget Hill, The Republican Virago, The Life and Times of Catharine Macaulay, Historian, 1992, p 83 and f.p.114, pl.10.
2) European Mag., IV, 1782, p 332.
3) For Pine’s residence in Bath, see S. L. Sloman, Bath History, VI, 1996, p 139; for his radicalism, see J. Sunderland, Burl.Mag., CXVI, 1974, pp 322-26; by 1772 he had painted portraits of Wilkes and the radical MP Richard Oliver.
4) See the engraved portraits of Mrs Macaulay of 1765 and 1770 described below.
5) Destroyed (but engraved), see H. von Erffa & A. Staley, The Paintings of Benjamin West, 1986, no.694.
6) E.g. Bridget Hill, The Republican Virago, The Life and Times of Catharine Macaulay, Historian, 1992, p 100, quoted without attribution; it is given to Macaulay in the contemporary engraving by Caldwall.
7) He had previously made monuments for the radical William Beckford sr.
8) 16 November 1787 (Notes and Queries, 5/IX, 1878, p 421).
9) See NPG, Complete Illus. Cat., 1981, p 371.
10) B. Allen and D. Solkin, for example, urged the Pine reattribution (letter of 23 July 1990; NPG archive).
11) Quoted by Susan Sloman, Pickpocketing the Rich, Bath (Holburne), 2002, p 21.
12) Catherine Wife of George/Macaulay M. D. & daughter of/John Sawbridge Esqr of Olantigh/Kent. Sister to Mrs Beckingham/Author of The History of England/& other works -/Painted by Mason Chamberlayne. Sloman has speculated on whether Chamberlin was unable to produce replicas of his 1774 picture and Pine produced a similar portrait instead (Pickpocketing the Rich, p 21).

Referenceback to top

Allen 1991
B. Allen in British Portraiture 1660-1960, 1991, pp 200-01.

Physical descriptionback to top

Brown eyes, brown hair with a purple ribbon, wearing a white tunic, a blue-grey dress and the purple scarf of a Roman senator; the paper in her left hand is inscribed: Revd Dr Thos Wilson/Citizen of London/and/Rector of Wallbrook.; a quill in her right hand; five uniform volumes lie on the plinth, the middle with a slip inscribed: History of England; the plinth is inscribed: GOVERNMENT/A/POWER DELEGATED/FOR THE/HAPPINESS/OF/MANKIND; bright red curtain to the left and a dark red curtain on the right.

Provenanceback to top

[Probably commissioned by the Rev Thomas Wilson]; by descent within the sitter’s family to Matthew Fortescue-Brickdale; sold Christie’s, 22 November 1985,1 lot 121, bought in; purchased from Christie’s, 1985.

1 With two other Sawbridge family portraits - of Stephen Beckingham, Mrs Macaulay’s brother-in-law, and Dorothy Sawbridge Beckingham, her niece.

Exhibitionsback to top

Pickpocketing the Rich, Bath (Holburne), 2002 (40).

Reproductionsback to top

J. Caldwell (without artist's name) as whole length with, added to the inscription on the pedestal: /CONDUCTED/BY/WISDOM/JUSTICE/AND/MERCY/C MACAULAY. - presumably the engraving of Mrs Macauly Caldwall exhibited Free Society of Artists, London, 1778 (30); anon. reversed (whole length) with, below, the approximate arms of Sawbridge of Olantigh.1

1 Or, two bars az. each charged with a barrulet dancettée ar., crest a head, bearded and hatted, and motto WISDOM AND FORTIT[UDE]; neither crest nor motto recorded in Burke's General Armory.

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 Catharine Macaulay (née Sawbridge)

Visit From Your Armchair

Self-portrait as My Father from the series Encounter  by Silvia Rosi © Silvia Rosi

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize

An online exhibition celebrating the very best in contemporary portrait photography.

Visit now

Hold Still

Hold Still

Explore our community photography project, which presents a personal record of the UK during lockdown.

Explore the exhibition

Margaret Thatcher by Spitting Images Productions Ltd painted plastic, 1985

Sculptures in 360°

See sculptures and fascinating objects from our Collection from all angles.

View the 360s

David Hockney: Drawing from Life

Watch highlights from our special exhibition, which had to close early in March 2020 due to lockdown.

See the video