PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF THE EARLS OF WARWICK
Thence by descent.
Wellesley (Mass.), Davis Museum, on long term loan.
W. Kendall, Inventory of Warwick Castle, Ms., 1853, in the Portrait Gallery;
F. E. Warwick, ‘Warwick Castle’, in The Pall Mall Magazine, vol. XI, January–April 1897, p. 41, in the Red Sitting Room;
Anon., Inventory of the contents of Warwick Castle, Ms., 1900, in the Billiard Room Passage;
H. Ward & W. Roberts, Romney, vol. II, London 1904, p. 18;
Anon., A brief account of the Earls of Warwick, together with a description of the castle and some of the more notable works of art therein, Warwick 1959, p. 27, in the Chapel Passage;
D. Buttery, 'George Romney and the Second Earl of Warwick', in Apollo, August 1986, pp. 107–08;
To be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of George Romney's paintings by Alex Kidson.
Lord Brooke’s father, George Greville, 2nd Earl of Warwick, the great collector and antiquarian, was George Romney’s first and most important noble patron. Warwick was the nephew of the great antiquarian Sir William Hamilton (1731–1803), British Envoy in Naples, and Warwick's younger brother, Charles Greville (1749–1809), was another noted antiquarian and collector. It was Charles Greville who introduced George Romney to his then mistress Emma Hart, later Lady Hamilton, who would become the artist’s greatest muse. Warwick, who, it was observed, was ‘little known but by persons of Taste and Virtu’1 is probably best remembered as a collector for his acquisition of what became known as the Warwick Vase, which was discovered in the grounds of Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli in 1771, and purchased from his uncle circa 1778 (Burrell Collection, Glasgow). In truth, however, he was primarily interested in portraits, and amassed an outstanding collection of works by Rubens and van Dyck, as well as paintings by Rembrandt, Reynolds and many of the major names of European portraiture. His most prodigious patronage of a contemporary living artist, however, was the series of portraits of members of his family which he commissioned from George Romney.
The earliest of these was a portrait of his first wife, Georgiana, George’s mother, who died shortly after the birth of her son in 1772 (Courtauld Institute Collection, London). As well as the present painting further pictures commissioned by the Earl from Romney include a portrait of the Mohawk Chief Thayendanegea, known as Joseph Brant, who came to England in 1776 (National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa), portraits of his second wife, Henrietta Vernon (untraced), and her sister Miss Caroline Vernon (untraced), and a portrait of Henrietta and their two children Richard and Elizabeth Greville (The Frick Collection, New York). In 1775 he also bought one of Romney’s finest and most dynamic works; a portrait of a distant relative, the traveller and noted eccentric Edward Wortley Montagu, painted by Romney in Venice earlier that year (see lot 46). Intriguingly Warwick never sat to Romney for his own portrait, and the only recorded likeness of the Earl is a portrait of him as a boy, painted when he was eight years old, which was commissioned by his father.
Warwick is likely to have been introduced to Romney by the dramatist Richard Cumberland (1732–1811), a friend of the artist who sat to Romney for his portrait in 1769 and acted as agent for the Earl. In 1775 Warwick and Cumberland toured northern England with the water-colourist John ‘Warwick’ Smith, and Cumberland’s family had stayed at Warwick Castle in 1774.2 Whilst staying at the Castle Cumberland wrote to Romney, who was in Italy at the time, to tell him that ‘Lord Warwick… intreats the favour of you, if it falls in your way, to buy him a few portraits for a collection he is making’. In the event, however, Romney was unable to procure suitable pictures, and instead sold him the portrait of Wortley Montagu, at once fulfilling the Earls wish for portraits, as well as his desire for a picture of ‘consideration’ for the Cedar Room, the most lavish of the state rooms at Warwick. Later, in the summer of 1775, Cumberland wrote to Romney inviting him, in the Earl’s name, to come and paint at Warwick Castle where he would have use of one of the towers as a studio, in order that he might study the collection of Van Dycks, as Warwick wished to ‘try your [Romney’s] strength in the same bow with the best masters of portrait painting’. Warwick further explained that he had ‘reserved a place in his principal apartment for a companion’, and that the subject should be of Romney’s ‘own chusing and all circumstances about it, only it must be female as I believe it is to companion with Charles the first’s queen by Vandyke’.3 The offer to paint at the Castle was declined, but Romney’s portrait of the Countess and her children, painted in 1789, was indeed inspired by one of the Earl’s Van Dycks, a Portrait of Paola Adorno, Marchesa Brignole-Sale and her son, now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.
1. D. Buttery, 'George Romney and the Second Earl of Warwick,' in Apollo, August 1986, p. 104.
2. D. Buttery, Ibid., p. 104.
3. Rev. J. Romney, Memoirs of the Life and Works of George Romney, London 1830, p. 133.
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