Pompeo Girolamo Batoni (Lucca 1708-1787 Rome)
Pompeo Girolamo Batoni (Lucca 1708-1787 Rome)

Portrait of Thomas Fortescue, M.P. (b. 1744), three-quarter-length, in a gold brocaded green coat, a tricorn in his left hand

Pompeo Girolamo Batoni (Lucca 1708-1787 Rome)
Portrait of Thomas Fortescue, M.P. (b. 1744), three-quarter-length, in a gold brocaded green coat, a tricorn in his left hand
signed, inscribed and dated 'POM: BATONI/PINXIT ROMAE/ANNO 1767' (lower left)
oil on canvas
39 x 29¾ in. (99 x 75.5 cm.)
Presumably by descent to the Ruxton family, Red House, County Louth, Ireland.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 22 April 1983, lot 87.
with Colnaghi, London.
Ann Getty, London.
Anonymous sale, Christie's, London, 16 December 1998, lot 72 (£111,500), where purchased by present owner.
A.M. Clark, ed., E.P. Bowron, Pompeo Batoni, A Complete Catalogue of his Works, Oxford, 1985, p. 309, no. 311, pl. 286.
J. Ingamells, A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy 1701-1800, compiled for the Brinsley Ford Archive, New Haven and London, 1997, p. 373.

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Lot Essay

Thomas Fortescue (b. 1744) was the eldest son of Chichester Fortescue of Dromiskin and the Hon. Elizabeth Wellesley, eldest daughter of Richard, 1st Earl of Mornington, and great aunt of the 1st Duke of Wellington. Married successively to the Hon. Mary Packenham, second daughter of the 1st Lord Longford, who died in 1775, and to Mary, daughter of Edward Nicholson, he was elected to the Irish House of Commons as a Member of the Borough of Trim -- a constituency controlled by his mother's family, in 1768 and held the seat until 1778. Political interests ran in his family and his grandson, Chichester Fortescue, 1st Lord Carlingford, the Liberal politician, was to be a close friend and correspondent of the English artist Edward Lear. Fortescue's Grand Tour is inadequately documented, but he is known to have been presented at the Court of the Grand Duke of Tuscany by Sir Horace Mann in January 1767 -- the year in which the present portrait was made -- and to have been invited to dine by the Grand Duke (letter of 24 January 1767 from Mann to Horace Walpole, The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole's Correspondence, ed. W.S. Lewis, XXII, p. 482).

Many of Batoni's earliest British patrons were from Anglo-Irish families: the 1st and 2nd Earls of Milltown, of Russborough; Joseph Henry, of Straffan; Ralph Howard, later 1st Viscount Wicklow, of Shelton; Thomas Dawson, later 1st Lord Cremorne; Robert Clements, later 1st Earl of Leitrim, of Killadoon; and James Caufield, Lord, and later 1st Earl of Charlemont, of Marino; other early patrons, like Henry, 10th Earl of Pembroke, also had considerable Irish estates. The pattern set in the years around 1750 was to be maintained for over thirty years and the builders of many of the great Irish houses of the period, including for example Headfort, commissioned portraits from Batoni. It may not be a coincidence that two other Irish sitters, Sir John Parnell, later 2nd Bt., and James Stewart of Killymoon, were also painted by the artist in 1767-68.

A fine example of Batoni's controlled classicism, the present portrait is of the same year as two of the artist's most masterly full-lengths, Sir Sampson Gideon and His Tutor, (Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria) and John, Lord Mountstuart, later 1st Marquess of Bute (Mount Stuart). Employing precise paint strokes and a high level of surface polish, Batoni renders Fortescue's slightly amused expression with subtle vivacity, while the sitter's striking emerald green coat and waistcoat is flamboyant in its flourish of lace and gold frogging -- the artist's control of fabrics never relaxes -- making for a memorable and elegant image of youthful self-confidence.

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