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Sir Joshua Reynolds, P.R.A. (Plympton 1723-1792 London)
Sir Joshua Reynolds, P.R.A. (Plympton 1723-1792 London)

Portrait of the Hon. John Tufton (1773-1799), full-length, in green classical dress, playing with a spaniel in a landscape

Sir Joshua Reynolds, P.R.A. (Plympton 1723-1792 London)
Portrait of the Hon. John Tufton (1773-1799), full-length, in green classical dress, playing with a spaniel in a landscape
oil on canvas
56 ¼ x 44 3/8 in. (142.9 x 112.7 cm.)
Painted for the sitter’s father, Sackville, 8th Earl of Thanet (1733-1786), and by descent to,
Henry James Tufton, 1st Baron Hothfield (1844-1926).
Henry Hirsch; Christie's, London, 12 June 1931, lot 18 (1,995 gns.) to the following,
Lieutenant-Colonel Evelyn William Thistlethwaite, and by descent to his nephew,
Frank-Hugh Pakenham Borthwick-Norton, who married,
Eva Sardinia Borthwick-Norton; (+) Christie's, London, 19 November 1988, lot 146 (£44,000).
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 30 June 2005, lot 85 (£98,400).
with Philip Mould, London, from whom acquired by the present owner.
W. Cotton, A Catalogue of the Portraits painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, P.R.A, London, 1857, III, p. 75.
A. Graves and W.V. Cronin, A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, P.R.A., London, 1899, III, p. 991.
W. Armstrong, Sir Joshua Reynolds, London, 1900, p. 233.
E.K. Waterhouse, Reynolds, London, 1941, p. 69.
D. Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds: A Complete Catalogue of his Paintings, London, 1900, I, p. 450, no. 1776; II, fig. 1201.
London, British Institution, 1833, no. 36.

Lot Essay

This lively portrait of the young John Tufton was painted in circa 1776 when Reynolds was at the height of his powers and during the decade in which he secured his reputation as the dominant artistic figure of King George III’s reign.

Reynolds’s ‘Pocket Books’ (his ‘Sitter Books’) record a single appointment with Master Tufton on 3 February 1777. Although the artist’s ‘Pocket Books’ for the period 1774-76 are missing, the absence of any record for further sittings in 1777 would suggest that the portrait was largely executed the year before. Reynolds had already painted portraits of two of the 8th Earl’s children for a double portrait now at Petworth House, Sussex, a work dated by Mannings to circa 1766-67 (op. cit., p. 450, no. 1777), which Ellis Waterhouse speculated (Reynolds, London, 1941, p. 70) was of the Earl’s illegitimate children by the courtesan Nelly O’Brien, who herself had sat to the artist on several occasions, most famously for the portrait now in the Wallace Collection, London. The present sitter’s mother, Mary, Countess of Thanet, also sat to Reynolds in 1770-71 for a full-length portrait, now in a private collection.

The sitter was the third son of Sackville Tufton, 8th Earl of Thanet (1733-1786) and his wife Lady Mary Sackville, daughter of Lord John Philip Sackville and sister of John Frederick Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset. He was educated at Westminster School and Jesus College, Cambridge. In 1796, he was elected M.P. for Appleby in Westmorland, a seat he held until his early death, aged 25, in 1799. Between 1793 and 1798 Tufton had a distinguished cricket career. The cricket historian Arthur Haygarth wrote of Tufton, in his Scores and Biographies (published by Frederick Lillywhite between 1862-1895), that ‘his performances both as a batsman and as a bowler may be said to have been very good, if the early age at which he died is taken into consideration’. Remarkably, Tufton was the first player ever to be recorded as being given out leg before wicket (lbw) when playing for an England XIII against a Surrey XI in August 1795 at Moulsey Hurst, Surrey, the site of Richard Wilson’s celebrated picture: Cricket at Moulsey Hurst (1780; London, Marylebone Cricket Club; fig. 1). Tufton achieved his highest first class score of 61 runs playing for Marylebone Cricket Club against a Hampshire XI in August 1797, which included a significant partnership with Lord Frederick Beauclerk, the outstanding and controversial cricketer and cleric. Later that month, Tufton produced his best bowling performance when he took six wickets in a return match against the Hampshire XI at Lords Old Ground, the cricket venue established by Thomas Lord in 1787 on the site of what is now Dorset Square, London. Over the course of his career he scored 1,049 runs from his 94 innings, averaging 12.34. He held 31 catches and is recorded as having taken 14 first-class wickets as a fast underarm bowler.

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