Lot 16
  • 16

Sir Joshua Reynolds, P.R.A.

150,000 - 250,000 GBP
461,000 GBP
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  • Sir Joshua Reynolds, P.R.A.
  • Self Portrait
  • oil on canvas
  • 76.2 by 63.5 cm.; 30 by 25 in.


By inheritance from the artist to his niece, Mary Palmer, Countess of Inchiquin and Marchioness of Thomond (1750–1820),
Her sale, London, Christie's, 19 May 1821, lot 6, for £31.10s., to Foster Cunliffe;
Sir Foster Cunliffe, 3rd Bt. (1755–1834), Acton Park, Wrexham;
By whom bequeathed to his daughter-in-law, Emma Crewe, Mrs Cunliffe Offley;
By inheritance to her niece, Hon. Annabella Crewe, who married, in 1851, Richard Monckton Milnes, 1st Baron Houghton (1809–1885), Fryston Hall, Yorkshire;
By descent to their son, Robert Crewe-Milnes, 1st Marquess of Crewe (1858–1945);
Thence by descent.


London, British Institution, 1813, no. 91 (lent by the Marchioness of Thomond);
London, Grosvenor Gallery, 1883, no. 198 (lent by Lord Houghton);
London, 45 Park Lane, Sir Joshua Reynolds: Exhibition in aid of the Royal Northern Hospital, 1937, no. 95;
Plymouth, City Museums and Art Gallery, and Sudbury, Gainsborough's House, Sir Joshua Reynolds P.R.A. (1723–1792) The Self Portraits, June – October 1992, no. 4.


Manuscript Catalogue of Pictures at West Horsley, 4 vols, n.d., Crewe Ms, vol. I, pp. 20–21 (listed as Crewe Collection); 
E. Malone (ed.) The Literary Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, 3 vols, London 1798, vol. I, p. LXXVIII, no. 45; 
A. Graves and W.V. Cronin, A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, 4 vols, London 1899–1901, vol. II, pp. 793–94;
An Inventory (...) of the Pictures at West Horsley Place, Surrey, the property of the Marquess of Crewe, K.G., 1938, unpublished Crewe Ms., p. 2, 'Self Portrait in the Manner of Rembrandt, 28 ¼ x 22 ½, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, P.R.A.', as hanging in the Morning Room;
E. K. Waterhouse, Reynolds, London 1941, pp. 38 and 119, reproduced pl. 16b;
D. Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792), The Self Portraits, exhibition catalogue, Plymouth 1992, p. 15, no. 4, reproduced;
D. Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds. A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings, 2 vols, New Haven and London 2000, text vol., p. 46, cat. no. 3, plates vol., reproduced fig. 59.

By G. H. Every, 1866.

Catalogue Note

This beautiful early self-portrait, with its sophisticated and subtle use of light and shadow, demonstrates the powerful influence of Rembrandt on the young Sir Joshua Reynolds. Painted circa 1750–52, probably when the artist was in Rome, it almost exactly replicates the pose of the seventeenth century master’s own Self-Portrait Wearing a Hat of 1632 (Private Collection), and depicts him wearing a broad brimmed hat, his face in shadow (so characteristic of many of Rembrandt’s self-portraits throughout his career, see figs 1 and 2), holding a porte-crayon in his right hand. Reynolds spent two years in Italy, mostly in Rome, and on 20 April 1750, shortly after arriving in the city, copied Rembrandt’s Self Portrait as St Paul (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, inv. no. A4050), then in the Palazzo Corsini. That painting (now untraced) is mentioned in Reynolds’ carefully dated list of ‘Copies of Pictures I made in Rome’.1 Further down the same list the words ‘My own Picture’, may well refer to the present painting.2    

Reynolds was much influenced by Rembrandt, an artist he greatly admired, particularly in his use of soft chiaroscuro. Indeed perhaps no other artist, with the possible exception of Titian, had quite such a strong influence on his technique, particularly in the 1760s and 1770s with his use of luscious textural effects of loaded highlights and rich shadows. Much like the seventeenth-century Dutch master’s almost compulsive self-documentation (Rembrandt produced around eighty self-portraits in his lifetime), Reynolds would chart the evolution of his art, and the progression of his own self-image, through a series of insightful self-portraits throughout his career. Mannings lists twenty seven portraits of the artist by his own hand in oil in his catalogue raisonné (see under Literature). Unlike Rembrandt, however, nearly all of Reynolds' self-portraits commemorate an important event or achievement in his life, such as his dealings with the Society of Dilettanti and the Royal Society; the mayoralty of his home town of Plympton in 1769; his Doctorate of Civic Law at Oxford in 1773; and a request for a portrait from the Florentine Academy in 1775.3 This enigmatic early portrait can be compared to the similarly Rembrandt-esque Self Portrait of the artist aged about twenty-four in the National Portrait Gallery, London (fig. 3), in which he also casts his eyes in shadow, shaded by his raised left hand. The latter was painted just before Reynolds left for Italy, and the increased sense of self-assurance that is evident in his direct gaze and cool demeanour in this portrait demonstrates the growing confidence of a young artist who is now consciously aligning himself with one of the greatest portraitists in western art. Whilst later self-portraits may have been designed to celebrate milestones achieved, this is a declaration of ambition and a statement of future greatness to come.    

The late Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe (1915–2014) was the daughter of Robert Offley Ashburton Crewe-Milnes, 1st Marquess of Crewe (1858–1945), and his second wife, Lady Etienne Hannah ‘Peggy’ Primrose, daughter of Archibald, 5th Earl of Rosebery (1847–1929). A god-daughter to King George V, in 1935 she married George Innes-Ker, 9th Duke of Roxburghe at Westminster Abbey. Bobo, as he was known, was the finest shot in Scotland and their union secured an extraordinary coming together of two of Britain’s greatest aristocratic dynasties. In 1953, after eighteen years of marriage without issue, however, the couple divorced when the Duke unexpectedly tried to evict his wife from the family home, Floors Castle. The case shocked society and Mary barricaded herself in a wing of the castle for six weeks without telephone, electricity or gas until a settlement was brokered by a neighbour, the Earl of Home, later Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home. With the death of her elder brother, Richard Crewe-Milnes, Earl of Madeley, in 1922, Mary had become heir to the Crewe-Milnes estates, and in 1967, following her mother’s death, she inherited West Horsley Place, the spacious 16th-century mansion which had been purchased by her parents in 1931, and its contents.

1 W. Cotton (ed.), Sir Joshua Reynolds’s Notes and Observations on Pictures, London 1859, p. 1.

2 See Mannings 1992, p. 46.

3 See R. Wendorf, Sir Joshua Reynolds. The Painter in Society, Harvard 1996, p. 37.