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    Sale 7448

    Old Master and British Pictures

    7 December 2007, London, King Street

  • Lot 160

    Circle of Arthur Devis (Preston c.1711-1787 Brighton)

    Portrait of Henry Pelham, Prime Minister (1694-1754), three-quarter-length, in a brown coat and white cravat, seated at his desk with his secretary, John Roberts, M.P. (1712-1772), half-length, in a navy coat and gold waistcoat, Esher Place beyond

    Price Realised  

    Circle of Arthur Devis (Preston c.1711-1787 Brighton)
    Portrait of Henry Pelham, Prime Minister (1694-1754), three-quarter-length, in a brown coat and white cravat, seated at his desk with his secretary, John Roberts, M.P. (1712-1772), half-length, in a navy coat and gold waistcoat, Esher Place beyond
    oil on canvas
    30 x 24¾ in. (76.2 x 62.9 cm.)
    to be sold with a print after a similar subject by John Shackleton (d. 1767), engraved in mezzotint by Richard Houston (d. 1775), in circa 1752: a fine impression of this rare print, an early proof before all letters, with the guidelines for the text clearly visible, with the artist's and engraver's name in pencil, inscribed 'Henry Pelham Chan of Exch. his Sec. Jhn Roberts' (in the lower margin). (2)


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    For details on Pelham's illustrious political career please see lot 163. John Roberts was Pelham's secretary from 1743 until 1754. An astute and able man, he was chiefly in charge of making payments to secret agents and it is said that after Pelham's death, King George II destroyed the private record of the recipients' names that Roberts had kept.

    The artist would appear to have taken Shackleton's portrait of the sitters as his starting point, itself inspired by Van Dyck's famous double portrait of Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford, with Sir Philip Mainwaring (private collection, UK), which in turn is based closely on Titian's George d'Armagnac with Guillaume Philandrie (private collection, UK). However, the artist has turned Shackleton's formal composition into a small informal portrait in the Devis tradition. The painting may have been commissioned by John Roberts, commemorating his association with the great man.

    In the background of the composition is the Waynflete Tower at Esher Park on the banks of the River Mole, the seat bought by Pelham in 1729, and modified by William Kent in the 1730s, when a pair of wings and a portico were added to the tower as a means of integrating it into the Gothic mansion. The Tower was built between circa 1475 and 1480 by Bishop William Waynflete of Winchester as the gatehouse to Esher Palace. The estate was later occupied by Cardinal Wolsey, who extended the house in 1528, and by Richard Drake, cousin to Sir Francis Drake. Three Spanish admirals captured after the Armada were confined, in some splendour, in the Tower for five years. The Tower it is the only part of the house and estate that survives, the rest having been demolished by John Spicer, a wealthy stockbroker, in 1805.

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.


    Provenance

    Daniel H. Farr, New York; Christie's, London, 31 May 1935, lot 105, as 'John Shackleton, Portrait of Sir Oswald Mosley' (21 gns. to Pawsey and Payne).
    Later by descent in the sitter's family to the present owners.


    Saleroom Notice

    Please note that the organisers of the William Kent exhibition to be held at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2012 have expressed an interest in borrowing this picture. Please contact the department for further details.


    Pre-Lot Text

    The Property of a Descendant of James Thursby Pelham (lots 160-163)
    (Lots 112-124 in the Old Master & British Pictures sale at Christie's South Kensington on 5 December 2007 are from the same property)


    Literature

    J. Kerslake, National Portrait Gallery: Early Georgian Portraits, London, 1977, p. 209, fig. 619.