This spectacular portrait of Lady Frances Marsham, not seen on the market since the late-19th century, is exceptionally well preserved and a superb example of a full length by Reynolds from the 1770s, the decade in which he would secure his reputation as the dominant artistic figure of the age of George III.
Between 1773 and 1779 Reynolds exhibited no fewer than sixteen female full-length portraits of celebrated aristocratic ‘beauties’ at the Royal Academy. The middle years of that decade witnessed some of the artist’s great masterpieces in the genre; in 1776, the year his celebrated portrait of Omai was shown at the Academy, Reynolds also exhibited full-lengths of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (San Marino, The Huntington Art Gallery) and Mrs Lloyd (Buckinghamshire, Waddesdon Manor). The present picture, dated by David Mannings to circa 1775 (loc. cit.), was shown in 1777 alongside portraits of Lady Bampfylde (London, Tate Britain) and The Countess of Derby, a work later destroyed by her husband, Edward, 12th Earl of Derby, after she left him. This portrait of Lady Frances received particular praise from the reviewer of the exhibition for the Morning Post (25 April 1777) who reported: ‘The best portrait of the three being a whole length of Lady Frances Marsham’.
In devising Frances Marsham’s pose, Reynolds echoes an earlier portrait of Mrs Thomas Riddell, whom he had painted in 1763 (Newcastle, Laing Art Gallery). In the Marsham portrait, Reynolds places the sitter slightly off-centre, thereby engendering a sense of immediacy and informality. Lady Frances, who is shown in a satin gown with her powdered hair worn high in the characteristically exaggerated fashion of the day, appears to have just entered the scene, her diaphanous shawl still billowing as she momentarily pauses and gestures towards the open park landscape.
The present picture is in remarkably original condition. The artist was notoriously experimental with materials and techniques, and such was his preoccupation with surface effects – a result of his lifelong admiration for the old masters, particularly Titian and Rembrandt – that many of his pictures needed to be restored during his own lifetime. Many have since suffered from natural deterioration and imprudent restoration. However, in this picture the paint texture and impasto, most notably in the use of lead white for the highlights in the sitter’s shawl, are beautifully preserved. The full breadth of the artist’s masterful handling is wonderfully tangible in the broad gestural brushstrokes, and use of the palette knife in the tree and foliage. This rapid and loose handling of the brush is in striking contrast to the carefully rendered detail of the wild flowers on the woodland floor. The virtuoso execution serves to remind us that Reynolds delighted in the painting of landscapes and found the genre immensely rewarding.
The sitter was the daughter of Charles Wyndham, 2nd Earl of Egremont (1710-1763), and his wife the Hon. Alicia Maria Carpenter. On 30 August 1776 she married Charles Marsham (1744-1811), the son of Robert Marsham, 2nd Baron Romney and Priscilla Pym. The sitter’s husband was M.P. for Maidstone in Kent between 1768-1774 and was later Lord Lieutenant of the county from 1797-1808. In 1799 he entertained King George III at their seat, Moat House, Maidstone, when the king reviewed three thousand of the Kentish volunteers. Succeeding as 3rd Baron Romney in 1793, he was created Viscount Marsham of the Mote in the County of Kent, and Earl of Romney in 1801.
The sitter’s father, who served as Secretary of State in the Earl of Bute’s government, was a significant collector and patron of the arts. Lord Egremont employed Matthew Brettingham, the executant architect of Holkham Hall, at Petworth House, his seat in Sussex, and commissioned him to design Egremont House in Piccadilly. This celebrated London palace overlooking Green Park would house one of the finest mid-18th-century picture collections in England until the house was sold in 1794 by the sitter’s brother, George, the 3rd Earl, and the contents moved to Petworth. The 3rd Earl’s seventy-five year reign at Petworth is regarded as the house’s golden age, and at his death in 1837 there were (and remain) more than 600 pictures in the collection, including twenty portraits by van Dyck and the same number of works by Lord Egremont’s friend, J.M.W. Turner.
Acquired by Lord Burton for Chesterfeld House, this portrait of Lady Romney, his most expensive purchase during a sustained period of collecting, was paired with another exceptional full-length female portrait by Reynolds of Lady Sunderlin (fig. 1; Berlin, Gemäldegalerie) as the principal over-mantels in the Ball Room. A three-quarter-length version of the present picture, painted for Lady Frances’s sister and her husband, Lord Carnarvon, and described by Mannings as ‘a studio replica’ (loc. cit., p. 328, no. 1224), is in a British private collection.
Portrait of Lady Frances Marsham, later Countess of Romney (1755-1795), full-length, in a yellow dress and pink shawl, in a park landscape
Oil on canvas
Please note the additional literature reference for this lot:
M. Hallett, Reynolds: Portraiture in Action, New Haven and London, 2014, pp. 267 and 270, fig. 250.
PROPERTY OF THE BURTON PROPERTY TRUST (LOTS 67-70)
Michael Arthur Bass, 1st Lord Burton (1837-1909), was by any standard a remarkable man. The elder son of Michael Thomas Bass (1799-1884), who transformed the brewing business founded at Burton on Trent by William Bass in 1777, Bass was educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge, before working in his father’s firm, the annual business of which in 1882 was some £2,400,000. His father, a committed liberal, was Member of Parliament for Derby from 1848 until 1883 and he himself held Staffordshire seats as a Liberal from 1868 until 1886. Both father and son were munificent benefactors of Burton on Trent. Michael Thomas Bass selected Butterfield to design the church of All Saints (1867-8) at Rangemore, some four miles from Burton where he lived in the relatively modest Georgian house that was to be rebuilt for his son: he was also a major benefactor at Derby. He was ‘extremely simple in his tastes and habits’, refusing both a baronetcy and a peerage: his son was appointed a baronet in 1882 and elevated, on the recommendation of his friend W.E. Gladstone, in 1886 as Baron Burton, of Rangemore and Burton on Trent (the order was reversed in 1897 when a second peerage was granted with a remainder to his daughter and her male descendants). In 1869 he had married Harriet Georgiana, daughter of his neighbour, Edward Thornewill of Dove Cliff, Stretton: their only child Nellie Lisa was born in 1873.
As astute a businessman as his father—by the time of his death in 1909 the annual turnover of the brewery was of the order of £5,000,000—and with an equal commitment to philanthropy, Burton was a man of altogether more expansive tastes. Rangemore was vastly enlarged in campaigns of 1879 and 1900: he acquired a house in Scotland, Glen Quioch, and in 1885 bought one of the greatest 18th-century houses in London, Chesterfield House (fig. 1), from the financier Charles Magniac. While he never neglected the management of his business and in his will asked that his successors should spend at least four months a year at Rangemore, Burton was much more sociable than his father; thus he was a personal friend of King Edward VII, who visited his houses and appointed him a K.C.V.O. at Balmoral in 1904.
Burton’s pictures were assembled with the needs of Chesterfield House and Rangemore in mind. And catalogues respectively of 1902 and 1904 record those he assembled for the two establishments. The houses were very different in character. Rangemore, on the margin of Needwood Forest near Burton on Trent, was a sprawling modern mansion in an uncompromisingly eclectic Tudor style mostly designed by the relatively obscure R.W. Edis. Chesterfield House, by contrast was an exceptional London mansion, built for Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield (1694-1773) by the Palladian architect Isaac Ware. This was sold by his successors in 1869-70: the new owner, Charles Magniac, proceeded to demolish the wings and compress the flanking colonnades. But nonetheless the house as bought at the time of his elevation by Lord Burton was one of the most celebrated mansions in London: his main alteration to the structure was to add bedrooms above the two great rooms that projected from the garden (east) side of the house. The acquisition of Chesterfield House transformed Burton’s collecting: and significantly he spent a total of £194,446 on pictures and furnishings for this, while at rangemore, a very considerably bigger establishment which he clearly regarded as the seat of his family, less than half that sum, £82,566, was expended. The contrast in character between the pictures acquired for the two houses was marked.
Burton did not begin entirely from scratch: Michael Thomas Bass is known to have bought a picture given to Bonington ‘by the advice of Mr. William Russell’, and presumably commissioned Eddis’s portrait of himself, soberly dressed in black and grey. These hung at Rangemore, as one must assume did many of Lord Burton’s own earlier purchases, some obtained locally and others bought from Agnew’s, from whom Burton began to make significant acquisitions in 1884; and the catalogue of 1904 shows how the collection was selected and arranged. There were five pictures in the Entrance Hall, Graves’s portrait of Lady Burton, commissioned for 500 guineas in 1874, portraits of Victor Emmanuel, Prince of Naples and future King of Italy and of his wife by Vincenzo Caprile presented to Lord Burton ‘by their Majesties The King & Queen of Italy’, a large Roberts of the Grand Canal, Venice which was bought at the Londesborough sale at Christie’s, 10 May 1884 for 940 guineas with a 5 per cent commission to Agnew’s and was Burton’s first significant transaction with the firm, a Rosa Bonheur that cost 3,900 guineas at the Graham of Skelmorlie sale at Christie’s, 30 April 1887, and a marine by Edward Wake Cooke from the Burnand sale, 25 February 1888, both bought through Agnew’s on the same terms. The latter was the last acquisition Burton made through Agnew’s for a considerable period: in April and May 1888 his fellow brewer, Sir Edward Guinness, 1st Bt. later Lord Iveagh, made the first of a series of major acquisitions from the firm, and Burton quickly sensed that his rival was being given first choice where major portraits were concerned, at exactly the time he needed pictures of the kind for Chesterfield House.
The Drawing Room at Rangemore contained pictures by Lee and Cooper, Landseer, Muller and Philip, as well as Stanfield’s Tilbury Fort, for which Agnew’s had charged an impressive £3,500 on 16 June 1884 and Frith’s Dolly Verdun, bought at Christie’s on 2 June 1888 for 740 guineas by J. Walker, evidently acting in association with F.B. Henson who succeeded Agnew’s as Lord Burton’s agent. A similar taste was expressed in the Boudoir, with four Landseers, three of which were bought for Burton by Henson at the Wells of Readleaf sale at Christie’s, 10 May 1890, while the fourth, with a second Philip which he had acquired at Christie’s in 1892 and a Stark at £2,000 were acquired from J.B. Gooden, who followed Henson as Burton’s agent of choice. Widening horizons are implied by the selection of pictures in the Library, which included half-lengths by Gainsborough and Romney, the latter displaced from Chesterfield House, as well as pictures by Muller and Patrick Nasmyth. Portraits given to Hogarth, Jackson and Nattier, the last also moved from Chesterfield House, were placed with pictures by Samuel Scott and William Collins in the Oak Room.
Thus far the visitor to Rangemore might have thought that Lord Burton’s taste was typical of many collectors of his time and relatively restrained. Two full-length portraits, however, expressed the more ambitious taste which he developed as a result of his experience at Chesterfield House. The Dining Room must have been dominated by the only picture in this room, Hoppner’s deceptively simple whole length of the Countess of Oxford and one of her children from Brampton Bryan, acquired rather inexpensively from Sargent’s patron Asher Wertheimer for £1,400: in 1913 Lockett Agnew was to offer Burton’s widow £20,000 for this. Although Gooden was called in to value his pictures in 1905, Burton returned, albeit indirectly, to Agnew — who had not sold a significant picture of the type to Guinness since 1891 — for a last major purchase: Gainsborough’s whole length of Captain Wade. Unsold in 1903 at £2,205 when the Bath Assembly Rooms Company sent it to King Street, this was sold by Agnew’s to Wertheimer on 28 July 1905 for £2,200, but cost Lord Burton £4,750. Clearly there was no space to accommodate the picture in London, so it was placed in the Morning Room at Rangemore: the picture remained in the Burton Collection until 1988 when it returned to the Assembly Rooms at Bath as a result of a private treaty sale negotiated by Christie’s.
Those who saw Chesterfield House would have recognized immediately that Lord Burton was with Lord Rothschild, Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild and Lord Iveagh, one of the outstanding collectors in the highly fashionable field of English portraiture. Their plutocratic taste coincided with the high watermark of British political confidence and economic power, and presaged that of the first generation of great American collectors. Where Burton was unique among collectors of such portraits was in possessing a great house of his chosen period with a substantially unaltered suite of rooms of appropriate scale.
The circuit of the house began in the Hall with its splendid staircase (fig. 2), the ironwork of which was recycled for Chesterfield from the Duke of Chandos’s princely mansion at Cannons. There were four pictures in the Hall, two by Reynolds, the Masters Gawler bought at the Graham of Skelmorlie sale at Christie’s, 30 April 1887, through Agnew’s for 2,300 guineas with their standard commission, and the Miss Compton supplied by Henson, a sober Gainsborough of Lord Tracy purchased from Gooden for £630 and Hoppner’s Master White, bought from Henson, and so presumably between 1888 and 1892: lent to the Royal Academy in 1894, this is visible in an early photograph to the left of the lower section of the staircase. To the left of the Hall was Chesterfield’s Dining Room, now the Small Dining Room: Gainsborough’s Miss Franks with a Lamb, bought from Colonel Honywood through Henson for £4,200 and two Dutch pictures valued at £1,300, must have been over the chimney, and balanced by the two Fane portraits from Wormsley (Lot 68, by Romney, and Lot 206, the latter then also attributed to Romney) acquired from Agnew’s for £4,000, and half-lengths by Gainsborough and Reynolds: the mixture of portraits of women and children was wholly conformable with contemporary taste.
Behind the Little Dining Room was one of Chesterfield’s most Parisian interiors, the French Room, Burton’s Drawing Room, the boiseries of which with decorative panels substituted by Magniac or Burton for Joli’s original over doors of Italian views are now in the Bowes Museum. Romney’s Richard Newman Harding Newman (Lot 69) replaced a large mirror that appears in an early photograph in the place of honour above the chimney: acquired through Henson from Alfred de Rothschild, this had cost £8,000, marginally more than the most expensive of Iveagh’s portraits by the artist. The picture understandably acquired the soubriquet, the ‘Pink Boy’, as if in emulation of Gainsborough’s ‘Blue Boy’ at nearby Grosvenor House. Opposite this was the Mary, Countess Poulett, bought as a Romney from another remarkable collector, Wentworth Blackett Beaumont, later 1st Viscount Allendale, with a small Reynolds through Henson for £8,000: Gooden valued this for £15,000 in 1905.
From the far corner of the Drawing Room was approached Chesterfield’s Great Room, which projected northwards from the garden (East) front of the central block of the house, with a particularly refined Palladian stucco ceiling. This became Burton’s Large Dining Room. Apart from Peters’s Fortune Teller, supplied by Henson for 800 guineas, above the entrance door, the room could be seen as a homage to Gainsborough: above the chimney was his half-length of Lady Kinnoull; and there were five distinguished full-lengths in the room, the celebrated pair of the Rev. Sir Henry Bate Dudley and his wife, now on loan to the Tate, the pair of Mr and Mrs Peter Drummond, now divided between Montreal and the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, and the portrait of Countess of Sussex and her daughter, Lady Barbara Yelverton. There can be little doubt that the pictures were acquired expressly for the room, and these were all bought from their previous owners through intermediaries: Lady Kinnoull and the Drummonds were bought from Lord Rodney through Wertheimer (£5,000 and £10,750), the Bate-Dudleys from their descendant John Oxley-Palmer through Henson for £11,000 and Lady Sussex from a rather less extravagant collector of British portraits, Alexander Forbes-Leith, later Lord Leith of Fyvie, through Gooden for £12,500 with a commission of £1,000. Shopping on this scale in so specific an area did not pass unnoticed and Agnew must have at times regretted that by giving preference to Guinness, who was primarily interested in portraits of women, he had forfeited a client who would pay more generously for pairs of major portraits at the very moment pictures were needed for Chesterfield House: but nonetheless he clearly took the rational business decision as Iveagh had far wider spectrum of artistic interests than Burton, and spent a total of £563,365 15s 6d with the firm between 1887 and 1908.
Crossing back across the Drawing Room the visitor reached the smaller Red Room, with two three-quarter-lengths by Reynolds (one has not stood the test of time), the smaller Lesbia from the Proctor-Beauchamp collection, bought from Alfred de Rothschild through Agnew’s on 21 May 1885 for £3,500, another Sir Joshua of the same format, as well as a half-length Romney. Beyond, through the small room that had been Chesterfield’s Dressing Room, was his celebrated Library, in an extension that balanced that with the Great Room. When Burton bought the house the room must have looked very bare, for the twenty-five plaster frames in which Chesterfield had placed his collection of literary portraits had been stripped when these were transferred to Bretby. With characteristic assiduity he assembled appropriate pictures for these spaces, including a portrait of Chesterfield himself: literature was represented by Gay and Pope, Dr. Johnson, Gibbon, William Hayley and Joanna Baillie, who will have seemed particularly relevant because of her connection with the family of Burton’s son-in-law; artists by portraits of Reynolds and Wilkie. But many of the other sitters were neither of literary nor serious historic interest. Against one portrait, a Kneller of the Duchess of Shrewsbury, Burton noted ‘The 1st picture bought by me of the present C H Collection’: this had cost a mere £50. Of the portraits in the room nine were by Reynolds, two by Opie, two attributed to Zoffany, while Kneller, Richardson, Hogarth, Hoare, Ramsay, Kauffman, Romney, Beechey, Owen, Raeburn and Barbour were represented by single works, not all of the attributions of which stand. Characteristically, Burton respected Ware’s impeccably Palladian interior, but nonetheless he placed landscapes by Constable and Stark that would have been equally at home at Rangemore on easels in the room.
The palatial Staircase at Chesterfield House led to equally distinguished rooms on the first floor. Here Burton, in deference to the domestic priorities of his time, threw what had been the Drawing Room and the smaller Music Room together to form a Ball Room that ran the full depth of the house. The original oval overmantel of the Music Room had been supplied by Canaletto. Burton was fortunate enough to find two exceptional female whole lengths by Reynolds that served perfectly when paired as his overmantels. Both were acquired from fellow collectors. The Lady Sunderlin, now at Berlin, bought directly from Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild for £7,350 took the place of the Canaletto, while Lady Romney (Lot 67) dominated the larger section of the room. This was acquired from William Denison Beckett, who died in 1890, through Henson for £10,850: Burton presumably knew the vendor, who was the younger brother of the architect Lord Grimthorpe whom he had employed at Burton. Beckett had been an extravagant buyer, notably at the Hamilton Palace sale, and the portrait was the single most expensive of Burton’s acquisitions. Two other portraits were placed on the opposite, south, wall, Gainsborough’s confident Colonel Bullock, bought after it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1892 from Gooden at a valuation of £2,300, and Reynolds’s Snake in the Grass, acquired from Lord Rothschild through Henson for £8,000.
When the Ball Room was created the central first floor room on the garden front, originally Lady Chesterfield’s Dressing or Sitting Room became the Ante-Room to the Ball Room. The most distinguished picture in this was Cotes’s Master Smith (lot 70), obtained from the dealer Martin Colnaghi by Henson for £1,400. Burton’s aim as a collector was of course to adorn his two houses. He occasionally weeded out the odd picture in part exchange for other pictures. Two Hondecoeters apart, there were no old masters at Chesterfield House after the Nattier portrait was moved to Rangemore, and Burton traded in his only Dutch landscapes, by Both and Potter, when buying Gainsborough’s Miss Franks. But so far as can be ascertained, he only sold one major picture, the whole length by Romney of Lady Beauchamp-Proctor, bought from Agnew’s on 29 June 1885 and lent to the Royal Academy in 1888: this subsequently passed to the financier E.L. Raphael. It is tempting to suppose that this was displaced by the Reynolds of Lady Marsham, which is not dissimilar in disposition and made a far more satisfactory pendant to the Sunderlin portrait.
Lord Burton spent a total of £131,406 on the pictures at Chesterfield House and an annotation in his hand shows that, after Gooden’s valuation was prepared in 1905, placing a total of £223,110 on these, he considered that he had made a ‘profit’ of the difference, £91,704. The pictures at Rangemore cost £53,089 and were valued in 1905 at £60,050. Others were no doubt acquired for Glen Quioch, including presumably two purchases of 1884 from Agnew’s, Landseer’s The Twins (£7,000) and Richard Ansdell’s The Victor, the subject matter of which was clearly suitable to a sporting establishment. Burton clearly hoped that his collections would be retained, as is clear from the provision in his will by which most of his property was entailed to his widow, and then to their daughter, Nellie, who on his death in 1909 succeeded as Baroness Burton in her own right under the terms of the creation of 1897. But an annotation in his hand in the Chesterfield House catalogue is not unrevealing, for he was above all a realist: ‘In case of sale/ No guarantee to be given, purchasers risk’. In the event when Chesterfield House was given up by Lord Burton’s widow, the pictures were not sold but moved to her house near Rangemore, Needwood. She died in 1931. The collection then passed to her daughter, Lady Burton, who sold eight portraits, including three major Gainsboroughs at Christie’s on 4 May 1951. She, like her father who regularly lent to exhibitions, believed that pictures should be seen by the public, and after her death in 1963 much of the collection was lent to the City of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
Not all Lord Burton’s acquisitions were correctly attributed, as he may or may not have realized: but in the main he was excellently served both by his own judgment and by the advice of the successive dealers to whom he turned, Agnew, Henson and Gooden. He concentrated on the two areas he understood, English portraits of the later 18th century and pictures by British artists of the mid-19th century. To have secured two outstanding whole length portraits by Reynolds and no fewer than seven, all of distinguished quality, by Gainsborough placed him as at least the equal of his arch rival, Lord Iveagh in this sphere. And a man who had known Gladstone would have been gratified to know that a significant proportion of his collection would in very different domestic circumstances be displayed at No. 10, Downing Street for a decade from 1972, and thus serve to remind the guests of three Prime Ministers of the ambition and self-confidence of Georgian portraiture.
PROPERTY OF THE BURTON PROPERTY TRUST (LOTS 67-70)
R. Josey, mezzotint, circa 1775
Joshua Reynolds , 18th Century, Paintings, oil, England, Great Britain, Old Master, famous & historical people, landscape, portrait
London, Royal Academy, 1777, no. 285, as 'Portrait of a Lady whole length'.
London, Royal Academy, Exhibition of works by the Old Masters and by Deceased Masters of the British School: Winter Exhibition, 1875, no. 256.
London, Royal Academy, Exhibition of works by the Old Masters, and by Deceased Masters of the British School: Winter Exhibition, 1894, no. 136.
Birmingham City Art Gallery, on loan, 1963-1972.
London, 10 Downing Street, on loan, 1972-1978.
London, Kenwood House, on loan.
London, Spencer House, on loan, 2004-2014.
Old Master & British Paintings
94¼ x 58½ in. (239.4 x 148.6 cm.)
A. Graves & W. Cronin, A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, London, 1899, II, pp. 629-30.
E.K. Waterhouse, Reynolds, London, 1941, p. 67, no. 285, illustrated.
D. Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds. A complete catalogue of his paintings, New Haven and London, 2000, I, p. 328, no. 1223; II, fig. 1142.
By descent to the sitter’s great-grandson, Charles Marsham, 4th Earl of Romney (1841-1906), Leeds Castle, Kent, by whom sold after 1875 to the following,
William Beckett-Denison, M.P. (1826-1890), from whom purchased through F.B. Henson for £10,850, by 1890, by the following,
Michael Arthur Bass, 1st Lord Burton (1837-1909), by whom placed in the Ball Room, Chesterfeld House, Mayfair, and by descent at Chesterfeld House and Needwood.