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Portrait of Edwin, 2nd Baron Sandys (1726-1797), half-length, in a pink and green velvet waistcoat and jacket

Portrait of Edwin, 2nd Baron Sandys (1726-1797), half-length, in a pink and green velvet waistcoat and jacket
oil on canvas, unlined
29 7⁄8 x 25 in. (76 x 60.5 cm.)
Commissioned by Henry (1728-1781) and Hester Thrale (1741-1821) in 1773 for the library at Streatham Park, Surrey; sale, on the premises, George Squibb, 10 May 1816, lot 56, where acquired by the following,
Mary, Marchioness of Downshire and 1st Baroness Sandys (1764-1836), and by descent to her second son,
Lieutenant-General Arthur Hill, 2nd Baron Sandys (1792-1860), and by inheritance to his younger brother,
Arthur Marcus Sandys, 3rd Baron Sandys (1798-1863), and by descent in the family to,
Richard Hill, 7th Baron Sandys (1931-2013), Ombersley Court, Worcestershire.
A. Graves and W.V. Cronin, A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, P.R.A., London, 1899, III, p. 866.
J. Grego, Inventory of Pictures: Portraits, Paintings, etc., Ombersley MS., 1905, where listed in the Library.
ONM / 1 / 2 / 7, journal entry for a visit to Ombersley Court, 25 August 1950, Oliver Millar Archive, Paul Mellon Centre, London, p. 29.
Ombersley Court Inventory, June 1963, annotated Ombersley MS., where listed in the Boudoir.
M. Hyde, The Impossible Friendship: Boswell and Mrs Thrale, London, 1972, p. 58.
M. Hyde, 'The Library Portraits at Streatham Park', The New Rambler. Journal of the Johnson Society of London, C, 1979, pp. 14, 15, 21 and 23.
N. Tscherny, 'Reynolds' Streatham Portraits and the Art of Intimate Biography', The Burlington Magazine, CXXVIII, no. 994, January 1986, p. 4, no. 7.
D. Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds, A Complete Catalogue of his Paintings, New Haven and London, 2000, I, p. 404, no. 1574; II, p. 436, pl. 1086.
M. Hallett, Reynolds: Portraiture in Action, New Haven and London, 2014, pp. 288, 290, 305 and 306, fig. 269.
Ombersley Court Catalogue of Pictures, undated, Ombersley MS., p. 20, where listed in the Rose Boudoir.
London, National Portrait Gallery, Mr Boswell, 1967, no. 52.

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Adrian Hume-Sayer
Adrian Hume-Sayer Director, Specialist

Lot Essay

Painted in 1773, this unlined and exceptionally well-preserved canvas was one of the first portraits to be executed for the artist's 'Streatham Worthies' series, a commission that constitutes one of Reynolds' most innovate achievements as a portraitist.

Reynolds' portrait of Sandys formed part of the commission from the sitter's friend Henry Thrale, the son of a wealthy London brewer, and his wife Hester Thrale, the celebrated diarist and literary hostess. Painted between 1772 and 1781, the series of portraits were hung in the library at Streatham Park, the Thrale's residence a few miles outside London, and depicted the circle of literary, musical and artistic figures who came to be known as the ‘Streatham Worthies’. Reynolds first met his patrons in 1766 and was a frequent guest at Streatham Park, along with other friends from their circle, notably Dr Samuel Johnson, the great eighteenth century man of letters, who became 'something like an intellectual-in-residence within the Thrale's own household' (M. Hallet, 2014, op. cit., p. 298).

The thirteen portraits hung in a single row above the presses of the newly-built library, the books for which had been selected by Johnson and included volumes by many of Reynolds' sitters for the series. As Mark Hallet has observed (ibid., p. 288), the west end of the library was dominated by three large bay windows, suggesting Reynolds' portraits were distributed across the room's north, east and south walls. In her journal for 10th January 1781, just as Reynolds was finishing the last of the pictures, Hester made a list of the full set of portraits 'in ye order they are to hang'. The present picture leads the list - 'Lord Sandys appears first, at the head of the tribe' - a position no doubt accorded to the sitter on account of his long-standing friendship with Henry Thrale. 'Next to him on the right hand', Hester notes, was the artist's portrait of William Henry Lyttleton (1772; Viscount Cobham, Worcestershire, Hagley Hall), another friend from her husband's days at Oxford. To his right, above the mantelpiece, hung a full-length portrait of Hester herself with her daughter Queeney in a landscape (1777-8; Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, Beaverbrook Art Gallery). Serving as a counterbalance to the Sandys and Lyttleton pictures, this full-length was flanked by two portraits showing the actor and playwright Arthur Murphy (1773-9; Sotheby's, London, 9 December 2009, lot 50) and the Irish novelist, playwright and poet Oliver Goldsmith, the latter a studio version of the portrait painted in 1770 and now in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin. Three further half-lengths are thought to have hung along the east wall; the remarkable Self- portrait as a deaf man (c. 1775; London, Tate Britain), in which the famously hard of hearing Reynolds shows himself cupping his ear while leaning towards the viewer in order to hear the conversation; his portrait of the scholar and lawyer Sir Robert Chambers (1773; private collection); and that of the actor and playwright David Garrick, a studio copy of the picture now at Knole, Kent (National Trust). Hallet suggests the remaining five pictures from the series were distributed across the library's south wall (ibid.). These showed Henry Thrale himself (1777; Cambridge, Massachusetts, Houghton Library, Harvard University); the Italian scholar and translator Giuseppe Baretti (1773; private collection) - one of the artist's great masterpieces of half-length portraiture; the musical historian and composer Charles Burney (1781; London, National Portrait Gallery); the Irish statesman and writer Edmund Burke (1774; Edinburgh, Scottish National Portrait Gallery); and, finally, Samuel Johnson (1772-8; London, Tate Britain), the individual who, along with his hostess, occupied an epicentral role within the circle. It was Charles Burney’s daughter, the celebrated novelist Fanny Burney, who, sometime after their installation in the Thrale’s new library, christened Reynolds’ portraits the ‘Streatham Worthies’ in an allusion to the famous Temple of British Worthies at Stowe, designed by William Kent earlier in the century.

Reynolds' portraits of the Thrale's circle have been long considered as successors to Godfrey Kneller's famous portraits of members of the Kit-Cat Club, painted earlier in the century and hung together in the house of the club's secretary, the London publisher Jacob Tonson. Although Chambers and Burney are both depicted in the dress of their respective professions, Reynolds largely eschews the traditional trappings of conventional portraiture, showing his sitters much as the they might have appeared in the library at Streatham Park, imbuing them with an informality and, in some cases, uncompromising naturalism. This is most strikingly borne out in the artist's own portrait, that of the near-sighted Baretti, shown with a book pressed to his nose, and in that of Johnson, arguably the least decorous of the series, whose ungainly frame crowds the picture plane while his furrowed brow and open mouth suggest the Streatham set’s protagonist is in concentrated conversation.

The sitter was the son of Samuel, 1st Baron Sandys (1695-1770) and his wife Letitia Tipping (see lots 97 and 101), the eldest daughter and co-heiress of Sir Thomas Tipping (see lot 98) and his wife Anne, née Cheke (see lot 99). Edwin's maternal grandfather served as MP for Oxfordshire and became an infamous figure in contemporary society after attempting to marry his ward to a prostitute of his acquaintance (see lot 98). Sandys’ father, who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons, built the present house at Ombersley, designed by Francis Smith of Warwick and completed in 1730. Edwin inherited from his mother a substantial fortune, which enabled him ‘to live very handsomely, hospitably and charitably, which he always did’. After his education at Eton and New College, Oxford, Sandys was a prominent Member of Parliament from 1747 to 1770, when he succeeded his father to the House of Lords, while also serving briefly in 1757 as Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty. Hester Thrale described Sandys as 'versed in many Branches of Learning: and an admirable scholar'. On 26 January 1769, he married Anna Maria King, daughter of James Colebrooke and widow of William Payne King of Fineshade Abbey, Northamptonshire. The marriage produced no children and the estate passed to his niece, Mary, Marchioness of Downshire, later created suo jure Baroness Sandys in 1802, who acquired this portrait at the Streatham Park sale in 1816 (see provenance).

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