William Courtenay (1768-1835), also known as William Beckford's young paramour, Kitty, succeeded his father as 3rd Viscount Courtenay in 1788. In the early 1780s he had sat for his portrait from Romney which had been commissioned by his admirer, William Beckford. Beckford was forced to embark on a decade of travel and social isolation on the continent and is now known as a great collector and bibliophile. Viscount Courtenay fled to America in 1811 to escape his creditors, residing at the Claremont on the Hudson before purchasing the Château Dreveil in Paris in 1825-1826 where he lived in great style until his death. Twelve days before Lord Courtenay's death, the House of Lords revived in his favour the Earldom of Devon which had been considered extinct for nearly three centuries.
Lord Courtenay became one of Cosway's most faithful clients commissioning miniatures and oils of himself and his sisters from 1790 to 1812. Cosway's full length oil depicting Lord Courtenay in Vandyke dress which he had worn during his coming-of-age ceremonies at Powderham in 1790 still hangs in the Music room at Powderham Castle, Devon (see S. Lloyd, Richard & Maria Cosway, Regency Artists of Taste and Fashion, exhibition catalogue, National Portrait Gallery and Scottish National Portrait Gallery, London, 1995, pl. 104). Cosway's bill to Courtenay survives in the muniments room at Powderham where all his commissions are listed from 1790 to 1812 and totalled £1,370.
We are grateful to Dr. Stephen Lloyd for dating this miniature to circa 1793 and for his help with this catalogue entry.