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Gainsborough Dupont (1754 - 1797)

On display in:

South Bedroom

Order image © All images subject to copyright

Artist or maker

Gainsborough, Thomas (b.1727, d.1788)

Date

1773

see commentary for dating

Place of production

  • England, United Kingdom

Medium

  • oil on canvas

Type of object

  • paintings

Accession number

346.1997

Oval oil portrait of Gainsborough Dupont as a young man. He is shown in head and shoulders length, three-quarters profile, turned to the left. He has shoulder length curly brown hair. He wears a blue silk Vandyke costume with a lace collar.

Thomas Gainsborough made this portrait of his nephew, Gainsborough Dupont, around 1773, at the end of his time as a portrait painter in the fashionable resort of Bath, just before he moved to London. His close friend and biographer Philip Thicknesse saw the painting and immediately asked Gainsborough for it. Thicknesse admired the speed of execution, apparently painted in one hour with no repainting, and thought it 'more like the work of God than man'.

Commentary

Gainsborough's speed of painting was possible because he used very thin oil paint, which was almost like painting with watercolour. His clients in Bath did not enjoy lengthy sittings, and so this technique allowed him to gain popularity with sitters. Thicknesse presented the portrait to his friend and fellow Gainsborough admirer, Lord Bateman, perhaps as a gift of social reconciliation after one of their quarrels. In 1774, Thicknesse also asked Bateman to promote Gainsborough in London society and the court. The portrait hung in Lady Bateman's dressing room in their house in Park Lane, London. It passed to his cousin twice removed, the 2nd Baron Bateman-Hanbury who owned it in the late 19th century when it was shown at the Royal Academy. By this point, the painting was thought to show Lord Bateman, and it was under this title that it was bought by Alice de Rothschild in 1910 from the painting dealer Charles Wertheimer.

The true identity of the sitter was not discovered again until 2004, when Susan Sloman published firm evidence that this painting was indeed of Gainsborough's nephew and proposed a date of 1773 based on related letters. Gainsborough Dupont, the son of Thomas's sister, was appointed Gainsborough's apprentice in 1772, age 17. He worked as the painter's assistant until his death. In the portrait, Gainsborough shows his hair brown and long. When Dupont moved to London with Gainsborough in 1774, he had to wear his hair powdered or cropped under a wig as befitted a mature professional in the capital.

Gainsborough also shows Dupont in Van Dyck dress, a type of costume worn by young men at the time, but also a reference to the 17th-century Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck who worked as court painter to Charles I. In a related portrait of Dupont (now Tate, N06242), Gainsborough was influenced by Van Dyck's historical portrait of the Stuart brothers (now National Gallery, NG518). He may have had a similar portrait in mind in choosing to show his nephew in a blue outfit and lace collar. Such references helped Gainsborough assert his skill as a painter, comparing his own art to that of his great predecessor.

Phillippa Plock, 2012

Physical description

Dimensions (mm) / weight (mg)

516 x 388 x 14

Signature & date

signed, lower left: TG

Inscriptions

No.38
Inscription
[inscription in blue chalk on reverse of frame]

Right hand of ...[the rest of the inscription is covered by the plaque]
Inscription
[pencil inscription on ‘Royal Academy of Arts Berlin’ label and reverse of frame]

Labels

THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF ARTS BERLIN
Name of artist: GAINSBOROUGH
Object represented: “John, Second Viscount Bateman” (as a youth)
Name of ... [part of the label is missing] Charles W...
... to: 21 Nov...
Signature of owner:
Charles Wertheirer.
Printed label
[fragments of a printed and typed label on the reverse of the frame and stretcher, upper left]

N.B. This Label to be affixed to the back of the frame and not the canvas of the Picture.
ROYAL ACADEMY EXHIBITION OF THE WORKS OF THE OLD MASTERS, 1881
Name of Artist: Gainsborough
Title of Work: Oval Head (blue)
(Please correct if not properly given.)
Name and address
of Proprietor
Lord Bateman
Shobdon Court Herefordshire
Label
[printed and handwritten label on verso, over stretcher and frame]

Lord Bateman
Frame [France?] 8
Label
[two labels with blue printed borders, handwritten in ink on
frame]

F80
Label
[circular handwritten label on frame]

137
Label
[printed label on stretcher]

153
Label
[circular handwritten label on stretcher]

Bedroom Corridor
Outside door leading
to M...[part of the label is missing] bedroom
top
Label
[handwritten paper label on reverse of frame]

Bedroom Corridor
Outside door leading
to Mrs de R’s bedroom
top
Label
[handwritten paper label on reverse of stretcher]

[black paper label]
Label
[on reverse of stretcher]

W2/15/2
Label
[oval hand written label in ball point pen on reverse of
frame]

JOHN 2ND VISCOUNT BATEMAN
T. GAINSBOROUGH, R.A.
Label
[gessoed and painted wooden plaque on reverse of frame]

History

Provenance

  • Given by Thomas Gainsborough to Philip Thicknesse (b.1719, d.1792) in 1773; given by Philip Thicknesse to John, 2nd Viscount Bateman (b.1721, d.1802) in 1773-74; inherited by his cousin twice removed 2nd Baron William Bateman-Hanbury Bateman of Shobdon (b.1826, d.1901); acquired by Charles Wertheimer (b.1842, d.1911) before 1908; bought from Charles Wertheimer by Alice de Rothschild (b.1847, d.1922) for £4,500 on 20 July 1910; then to a Rothschild Family Trust.

Exhibition history

  • 'Works by the Old Masters', Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy, London, 1881, no. 40, lent by Lord Bateman (2nd Baron Bateman), as a portrait of the 2nd Viscount Bateman
  • 'Austellung alterer englischer Kunst', Königliche Akademie der Künste, Berlin, 1908, no. 87, lent by Charles Wertheimer, as a portrait of the 2nd Viscount Bateman

Collection

  • Waddesdon (Rothschild Family)
  • On loan since 1997
Bibliography

Bibliography

  • Philip Thicknesse; A Sketch of the Life and Paintings of Thomas Gainsborough; London; Samuel William Fores; b.1761, d.1838; 1788; pp. 49, 54-55
  • Works by the Old Masters; London; Royal Academy of Arts; 1881; p. 12, no. 40
  • Ausstellung alterer englischer Kunst; Berlin; Königliche Akademie der Künste; 1908; p. 52, no. 87, ill. p. 51
  • Robert R. Wark, Thicknesse and Gainsborough: Some New Documents, The Art Bulletin, 40, 1958, 332; p. 332
  • Ellis Waterhouse; Gainsborough; London; Edward Hulton Limited; 1958; p. 53, no. 48
  • Susan Sloman, 'A Divine Countenance': Gainsborough's portrait of his nephew rediscovered, The Burlington Magazine, 146, May 2004, 319-322; pp. 319-322, fig. 40

Related files

Other details

Subject person

  • Gainsborough Dupont, Sitter
  • John, 2nd Viscount Bateman, Previous identification
  • Anthony van Dyck, Alluded to in image