Pictures in Marble Hill House

English Portraiture in the 18th century

There were a number of English portrait painters in the 17th century such as William Dobson, but portraiture in England was dominated by artists from the continent such as Van Dyck, Lely and Kneller. In the 18th century, an important school of English portrait painters developed, which by 1750s dominated this market. It is difficult to ascertain why this development happened. Although it may have been partly due to the first two Georges’ lack of interest in commissioning portraits, in the 18th century the court ceased to be the major centre of patronage. The aristocracy and gentry were growing richer and there was also a large and increasing mercantile class and many of them wished to have their portrait painted and both the landed classes and the mercantile class were quite happy to be painted by British Portrait painters. There were also a number of gifted English portrait painters such as Hogarth, Reynolds and Gainsborough. Most of the leading English portrait painters of this period are represented at Marble Hill.

One of the earliest of English 18th century portrait painters was Charles Jervas (c, 1675-1739), whose painting of Henrietta Howard [1] is in the Dressing Room. He studied under Kneller and succeeded him as the principal painter to the future George II in 1723 and it was possibly because of Henrietta’s connection with George II that Jervas painted her portrait. Alexander Pope commissioned this portrait and one of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu [2] (which is not in the house) , as pendants. There is a portrait of George II [3] by a less well-known artist, Charles Phillips (1708-1747), in the gallery c. 1738. This was probably a memorial painting to Queen Caroline, who died in 1737, as it depicted George II standing by her library in St. James’s Palace.

From the mid 18th century portraiture was dominated by what is known as the Grand Portrait and based on the portraiture of Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641), famous for his portraits of Charles I and his courtiers which suggest both natural grace and authority. There are two copies of portraits by Van Dyck in the Great Room at Marble Hill, one of Charles I [4], which actually only shows part of the original painting, which also portrays his Queen, Henrietta Maria. The second is of Henrietta Maria with her dwarf Sir Jeffrey Hudson [5]. (The first is in the Royal Collection and the second is in the National Gallery of Washington.) Both Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) and Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) were particularly influenced by Van Dyck and based their style on the Grand Portrait. Reynolds founded the Royal Academy in 1768 and was its first President. In Marble Hill there are three paintings by Reynolds. One is in Miss Hotham’s Bedchamber, which is of Lady Diana Beauclerk (c. 1763) [6] who in her later years lived at Little Marble Hill, which was demolished in the 19th century. The other two are in the Gallery, one is of Lady Juliana Penn (1729-1801) c. 1767 [7]. She was married to Thomas Penn (1702-1775) who was the son of William Penn the founder of Pennsylvania. Secondly there is a relatively early painting of an Unknown Man (c. 1748) [8], which lacks the grand style which Reynolds is generally known for. In the Gallery, there is also a portrait of the Rev. Joseph Amphlett c. 1758, by Gainsborough [9]. The portrait was almost certainly painted when Gainsborough was relatively unknown, just before leaving Suffolk for Bath in 1759, where his career took off and his success enabled him to set up his studio in Pall Mall in 1774 as one of the country’s leading portrait painters

In the Dressing Room, there are beautiful pendant portraits of Abraham Ackworth [10] and Margaretta Ackworth [11] by Thomas Hudson (1701-1779) dated 1745, which are almost certainly painted at the time of their marriage. Hudson is not so well-known today, but was famous in his own day and Reynolds was briefly apprenticed to him. William Hogarth (1697-1765) is represented by a modest painting of the Rev. Sir Robert Pye (c. 1731) [12], which is also in the Dressing Room. Hogarth is of course very well-known for his portraits and series of “moral” paintings and also for running St. Martin’s Academy, our first art school, from 1734 until his death in 1765, which played a major part in developing the Rococo style in England. In the Gallery there is also a painting by Allan Ramsay (1713-1784) of Admiral Bridge c. 1747 [13]. Ramsay came from Scotland but worked primarily in London and was appointed painter-in-ordinary to George III and painted his famous coronation portrait.

John Moses
Writing for the Marble Hill Society


  1. Charles Jervas (c.1675-1739) : Henrietta Howard

Date painted: 1724
Oil on canvas, 97.2 x 117 cm
Dressing Room, Marble Hill House

  1. Charles Jervas (c. 1675-1739) : Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

Not in Marble Hill House
Oil on Canvas, 75.5 x 63 cm
Collection: Chawton House Library

  1. Charles Phillips (1708-1747) : George II (1683–1760) in the Library of St James’s Palace

Date painted: c. 1738
Oil on canvas, 112 x 86 cm
Gallery, Marble Hill House

  1. Anthony van Dyck : Charles I (1600–1649) and Prince Charles (1630–1685)

Date painted: 1632 – copy of original which is in the Royal Collection, Windsor Castle
Oil on canvas, 233.5 x 147 cm
Great Room, Marble Hill House

  1. Anthony van Dyck : Henrietta Maria (1609–1669) with her Dwarf, Sir Geoffrey Hudson

Date painted: 1633 – copy of original which is the National Gallery of Art, Washington
Oil on canvas, 236 x 143.5 cm
Great Room, Marble Hill House

  1. Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792): Lady Diana Beauclerk (1734-1808)

Date painted: 1763–1765
Oil on canvas, 127 x 101.6 cm
Miss Hotham’s Bedchamber, Marble Hill House

  1. Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792): Lady Juliana Penn c. 1767
    [Image not currently available]
  2. Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792): Portrait of a Gentleman (c. 1748)

Date painted: 1748
Oil on canvas, 76 x 63.5 cm
Gallery, Marble Hill House

  1. Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788): Rev. Joseph Amphlett (c. 1758)
    [Image not currently available]
  2. Thomas Hudson (1701-1779): Abraham Ackworth (1719–1781)

Date painted: c.1745
Oil on canvas, 127 x 101.6 cm
Dressing Room, Marble Hill House

  1. Thomas Hudson (1701-1779): Margaretta Mabella Ackworth (1727–1794)

Date painted: 1725–1750
Oil on canvas, 127 x 101.6 cm
Dressing Room, Marble Hill House

  1. William Hogarth (1697-1765): Sir Robert Pye Bt (c. 1696-1734)

Date painted: c1731
Oil on canvas, 42.9 x 33.7 cm
Dressing Room, Marble Hill House

  1. Allan Ramsay (1713-1784): Admiral Bridge (c. 1747)

Date painted c1747
Oil on Canvas, 72.5 x 60.5 cm
Gallery, Marble Hill House