Important update - Christmas at Waddesdon.
All tickets Sold Out for Sat 7 Dec 2019. Please only make the journey if you have pre-booked tickets.

Due to our very wet autumn some parking areas are too muddy to use, so over Christmas weekends we are having to limit the number of cars. For remaining Christmas weekends, ALL visitors will need to book their Grounds tickets in advance. This includes National Trust members - who can book for free online.

Whenever you come this Christmas, please wear suitable sturdy and waterproof footwear as there are some unavoidably muddy areas.

Joshua Reynolds, Captain John Hayes St Leger (1756-1799)
Share:

Captain John Hayes St Leger, Joshua Reynolds

Known as ‘handsome Jack’, John Hayes St Leger commissioned this portrait the year he became a captain of the 55th Foot Regiment. The reds and pinks that give glamour to the clothing and sensuality to the face also add to the note of danger in the smoke of battle in the background.

Reynolds engages the viewer’s visual memory to convey aspects of the character and appeal of the sitter. The composition recalls earlier examples of his work as well as antique and modern sculptures. St Leger’s stance is a variation on that of the naval hero Commodore Augustus Keppel, whose portrait of 1752-3 launched Reynolds’s career – one hand on his sword, ready for action, the other leading the way. However, the tilt of St Leger’s head, the smudgy shadows at the corners of his eyes and mouth and the less assertive gesture of his right arm introduce a touch of tenderness to this portrait of a younger man.

Captain John Hayes St Leger (1756 - 1799)
Captain John Hayes St Leger was known as ‘handsome Jack’. He commissioned this portrait the year he became captain of the 55th Foot Regiment (1778). © National Trust / Waddesdon Manor

Recollections of classical sculpture elevate the physical beauty of this rakish soldier, whose stance invokes elements of the Apollo Belvedere, the Capitoline Antinous and the Meleager as well as a modern Apollo by the French sculptor Pierre Legros (1666-1719).

Captain John Hayes St Leger transforms into Apollo Belvedere, after statue in the Vatican Museum, Rome, c 1800-1900
Captain John Hayes St Leger transforms into the Apollo Belvedere, illustrating how his stance invokes elements of this classical sculpture © National Trust / Waddesdon Manor

St Leger was a close friend of George, Prince of Wales (later George IV; 1762-1830), whose portrait by Reynolds’s great rival Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) hangs on the other side of the door. The three female portraits in the room are also by Gainsborough. In 1898 an article in the Daily Telegraph said: ‘nowhere is it more difficult to decide the much-vexed question whether Sir Joshua Reynolds holds his own against his overpoweringly brilliant rival, Gainsborough, or succumbs to the magic of his brush’ – perhaps the subject of conversation among Ferdinand de Rothschild’s erudite house guests.

Reynolds’s great rival, Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), hangs to the other side of the door in Waddesdon's Red Drawing Room (1781)
Reynolds’s great rival, Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), hangs to the other side of the door in Waddesdon's Red Drawing Room (1781) © National Trust / Waddesdon Manor