A significant patrons of the arts, Lord Brooke, later 1st Earl of Warwick, was the son of William Greville, 7th Baron Brooke and his wife Mary, daughter of Hon. Henry Thynne. His father died when he was just eight years old and he was raised by his maternal aunt, Frances Seymour, Countess of Hertford. In 1734, soon after leaving Winchester College, Brooke set off for Italy on the Grand Tour to finish his education. He was away for some five years, though the first record of his journey is in 1739 when, travelling via Florence, he arrived in Rome in April of that year, where Samuel Crisp met him and described him as ‘a very pretty lad’.1 By October he was in Geneva on his way home, and must have visited Paris where he sat to Nattier. This is one of two portraits by Nattier that were the result of that sitting, painted when Brooke was just twenty-one years old, the other being a half-length signed and dated 1740 (Collection of the Duke of Northumberland, Syon House). Depicted seated at a harpsichord, with a sheath of music in his hands, wearing an exquisitely elegant suit of grey silk, highlighted with gold braid, Greville is every bit the genteel milordi. The grandiose setting, with its Doric column and fluttering velvet draperies, recalls the baroque interiors of the great master of late seventeenth-century French portraiture, Hyacinthe Rigaud, whilst the allusion to music is probably more than just pictorial fancy. A keen musical enthusiast, in 1741 Greville was actively involved in helping to stage Italian opera in London.
In 1746 Greville was created Earl Brooke and in 1759 he successfully petitioned for the title of Earl of Warwick when the last member of the Rich family to hold that title died. In 1742 he married Elizabeth Hamilton, the elder sister of Sir William Hamilton, Envoy to Naples. Together they did much to improve the family seat, Warwick Castle, employing Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown as both architect and landscape gardener for thirteen years. Elizabeth was the daughter of Lord Archibald Hamilton and his wife Jane, mistress to Frederick, Prince of Wales. The new dining room that they installed at Warwick, designed by Lightoler in the Gothic style, was decorated with full length portraits of the Prince and his wife Princess Augusts with their son, the future George III, which had probably been a gift from the Prince to her parents. Lord Warwick was also one of the most important patrons of Canaletto whilst the Italian master was in England, and commissioned no less than five views of the estate and Castle from him, as well as a series of drawings. Warwick was probably introduced Canaletto by Sir Hugh Smithson, 1st Duke of Northumberland, who was married to Warwick’s cousin, Elizabeth Seymour, and it seems that he owned several views of Venice by him as early as 1741.2 Warwick artistic patronage extended beyond grand views of his estates, and he commissioned no fewer than three portraits of himself from Sir Joshua Reynolds, as well as sitting to Gainsborough. He and his wife had eight children, including George Greville, 2nd Earl of Warwick, one of the greatest collectors of his generation and a patron of Romney, and the Hon. Charles Greville whom famously became the lover of Emma Hart, later Lady Emma Hamilton.
A copy of this portrait is at Warwick Castle, and a bust-length miniature of the sitter after Nattier was last recorded in the Duke of Northumberland’s collection at Alnwick. In 1754 Nattier also painted a portrait of his wife, Elizabeth, Countess of Warwick (The Frick Collection, New York).
1. J. Ingamells, A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy, New Haven and London 1997, p. 134.
2. D. Buttery, ‘Canaletto at Warwick’, in The Burlington Magazine, vol. CXXIX, July 1987, p. 437.
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