This recently discovered portrait of the writer and politician Lord Lyttleton is a significant addition to the oeuvre of one of the 18th Century's more remarkable Scottish artists.
As Edward Cunningham he had fled with his Jacobite father to Bologna after the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie's rebellion in 1745, where he renamed himself Francesco Calza, an alias meaning 'from Kelso'. Training in Parma, and then in Rome with Anton Rafael Mengs, he travelled throughout Italy before pausing in Paris in 1768 where he painted the King of Denmark, and it was there that his career as a society portraitist took off.
In Italy he had attracted the attention of the Grand Tourist Thomas Lyttleton, later Sir Thomas Lyttleton, 4th Bt. of Hagley Hall, Worcestershire, father of the sitter of the present drawing, who invited him to London. Calza exhibited at the Royal Academy 1770-1773, but his Pall Mall lifestyle bankrupted him and in 1773 he fled abroad again, this time from his creditors, to Russia, but works by F. Calza, 'Il Bolognese' recorded as being exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1777-1781 show that he had soon returned to London. Elusive to the last it is not certain whether he died in Berlin, 28 April 1793, or in poverty in England two years later.
After Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, George Lyttleton, Sir Thomas's eldest son, became MP for Okehampton in 1735, leading the opposition to Sir Robert Walpole. He was also Secretary and advisor to Frederick, Prince of Wales in 1737. He broke with the Opposition to serve as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1756, for which he was ennobled, but writing, rather than politics, was his great love. Observations on the Reign and Character of Queen Elizabeth might be his masterpiece but, particularly at the Prince's enlightened Court, he was a patron as well as a writer. Despite his long and impressive career portraits of Lyttelton are surprisingly rare. A portrait by Calza at Boconnoc House, Cornwall, is believed to have been passed down through the family of the sitter's wife, Lucy, née Fortescue. Known portraits in the collection of Viscount Cobham of Hagley Hall, a descendent of the sitter, were executed by Arthur Pond and Benjamin West, whilst a third, by Sir Joshua Reynolds (dated 1756), was destroyed in a fire at Hagley in 1926 (for further information see Kerslake, op. cit., pp. 173-5).