Resplendent in red coat and waistcoat edged with gold braid, Batoni's young sitter is every inch the fashionable traveler. A fur-trimmed tricorn hat under his arm, gloves in hand and with silver topped cane, the sitter is posed in front of a distant Roman landscape. A generic ruin is brushed into the background; closer to the base of a boldly painted fluted column and the roughly hewn stones of a wall set off the bravura depiction of the grand tourist in his finery. While Batoni often used columns, urns, and roman monuments as backdrops to his portraits, the use of a wall as a compositional device is unique within his oeuvre.
The sitter has been traditionally identified as John Sadler. Ingamells (A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy 1701-1800) records no tourist of that name. The Dictionary of National Biography records a prosperous tiler called John Sadler (1720-1789), but there is no reason to connect that individual to this sitter.
Clark (see literature above) dates this portrait to circa 1768, comparing the pose to the Portrait of Otway, 3rd Baron Desart, later 1st Earl Desart and Portrait of Robert Uday, dated 1769 and 1770 respectively. Comparison might also be made with another three-quarter length portrait, that of Thomas Peter Giffard who is depicted holding an identical tricorn hat. The latter is dated 1768 on the back of the original canvas. By the late 1760s, Batoni's reputation as the preeminent portraitist of foreign, and especially British, tourists in Rome had been long established. From this period some of the iconic images of the Englishman abroad derive, among them the Portrait of Peter Beckford (Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen) and the Portrait of Sir Gregory Turner (Manchester City Galleries, Manchester).
This lot is sold with a copy of Anthony M. Clark's monograph on Pompeo Batoni, Oxford, 1985.