Richard Boyle, architect, collector and patron of the arts, was the son of Charles Boyle, 2nd Earl of Burlington and 3rd Earl of Cork. He succeeded to his titles and estates on his father's death in February 1704. In 1715, Burlington was made Lord Treasurer of Ireland, Governor of Co. Cork and was sworn of the Irish Privy Council. He was sworn of the Privy Council of England in May 1729 and was nominated as Knight of the Garter in May the following year. Burlington resigned his offices in 1733, however, seemingly on account of King George II's failure to honour a promise to appoint him to a high household office. Burlington was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in November 1722 and a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in February 1724.
Burlington owned four principal houses: his London town house, Burlington House, Piccadilly; Chiswick, on the Thames to the west of London; his country seat at Londesborough in the East Riding of Yorkshire; and his Irish seat of Lismore Castle, Co. Waterford. This painting, which was executed in the mid- to late-1720s, would appear to show Burlington in the grounds of Chiswick. The Chiswick property and the existing Jacobean mansion were acquired by Burlington's great-grandfather, Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Burlington in 1682. The 3rd Earl of Burlington, dubbed 'Architect Earl', embarked on the transformation of the gardens and house at Chiswick, with the assistance of William Kent, on his return from his second Grand Tour, of Rome and northern Italy, in November 1719. Cinzia Sicca Bursill-Hall, Professor in History of Art at the University of Pisa and an expert on William Kent, has suggested, more specifically, that Burlington is standing in front of the southern water basin, that ran along the river before it was serpentinized by Kent in the early 1730s. She describes the terminating structure in the left distance of this picture as 'vaguely reminiscent of the exedra in the secret garden of the Villa Barbaro at Maser'. One slight anomaly in the topography is the building in the right foreground, which would appear to be the back of the Ionic Temple in the Orange Tree Garden, which is situated in another part of the garden. Pieter Andreas Rysbrack (Paris c. 1684-1748 London) painted this southern pond from the opposite end (Chiswick House, English Heritage), and Professor Sicca has speculated that the Rysbrack, which also includes the detail of three figures in a boat, may have been used as the basis for the landscape in this portrait.
James Scott is described as 'Gardener to the Right Honorable the Earl of Burlington' in the list of subscribers to Philip Miller's The Second Volume of the Gardeners Dictionary of 1739 (which was dedicated to Burlington). Payments to Scott are recorded from 1727 in Andrew Crotty's account book at Chatsworth. Scott would appear to be holding a pineapple plant in this picture; his surviving trade card advertises 'Plants and fruit of ananas or pine apple' and gives his address as Turnham Green, the hamlet less than a mile east of Chiswick House and adjacent to another of Burlington's properties, Sutton Court home farm. There is no specific document dating the beginning of pineapple cultivations at Chiswick, but there is ample evidence in the Burlington correspondence at Chatsworth that pineapples were grown in stoves both at Chiswick and Londesborough, and that production was so successful and abundant, particularly in the 1730s and 1740s, that gifts of pineapples were sent to all the Earl's friends in London and in Yorkshire.
Aikman, who was born in Scotland, trained under John Baptist Medina (Brussels 1659-1710 Edinburgh) in London from 1704, before travelling to Italy, Constantinople and Smyrna. He returned to Edinburgh in 1711, before moving to London in 1720, under the encouragement and support of the Duke of Argyll, where he continued to build on his reputation as a portrait artist. Aikman painted a portrait of William Kent in circa 1723-1725 (London, National Portrait Gallery) and was commissioned to execute a portrait of Sir Robert Walpole in 1725.
We are grateful to Professor Cinzia Sicca Bursill-Hall and John Harris for their assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.