Lot 53
  • 53

Attributed to Thomas Gainsborough, R.A.

40,000 - 60,000 USD
137,500 USD
bidding is closed


  • Thomas Gainsborough, R.A.
  • Portrait of Thomas Hanmer, after Anthony van Dyck
  • oil on canvas
  • 40 3/4  by 32 5/8  in.; 103.5 by 83 cm.


William Witter, Tarporley, Chesire;
With Derek Johns, London, from whom purchased by a private European collector;
By whom anonymously sold, New York, Sotheby's, 24 January 2008, lot 69;
Where acquired by the present collector. 


M. Postle, Thomas Gainsborough, London 2002, p. 25 plate 21;
S. J. Barnes et al., Van Dyck: A complete catalogue of the paintings, New Haven 2004, under cat. no. IV.III, p. 518. 

Catalogue Note

This portrait, which Martin Postle dated to the 1770s, is after Anthony Van Dyck's original of 1638, currently in Weston Park, Staffordshire (fig. 1).1  Gainsborough frequently copied works by earlier painters and today we know of at least eight copies after Van Dyck are known.  Gainsborough's copies, however, are not slavish reproductions of the originals, but masterpieces in their own right.  As Gainsborough's contemporary Sir Joshua Reynolds aptly noted, Gainsborough "occasionally made copies from Rubens, Teniers, and van Dyck, which it would be no disgrace to the most accurate connoisseur to mistake, at the first sight, for the works of those masters."2

Gainsborough likely became familiar with the Van Dyck portrait of Sir Thomas Hanmer when he received a commission to paint the gentleman's descendants at Weston Park.  Gainsborough's Hanmer is more muted and more freely painted than is Van Dyck's original.  Gainsborough has eliminated superfluous detail and imbued it with his own aesthetic sensibility, while maintaining the elegance and grace that were synonymous with the court portraiture of Van Dyck. 

Thomas Hanmer was not only a well-connected member of England's aristocracy, but also a prominent horticulturist and writer. He served as Page and Cup-Bearer to Charles I and his wife was a Maid of Honor to Queen Henrietta Maria.  In 1933 Hanmer's horticultural manuscript was rediscovered and published as The Garden Book of Sir Thomas Hanmer.

The present portrait has been previously inspected firsthand by John Hayes, Sir Oliver Millar and Christopher Brown who all confirmed the attribution to Gainsborough.  Hugh Belsey does not support the attribution to Gainsborough based on photographs of the painting. 


1. See S. J. Barnes et al., (under Literature) p. 518, cat. no. IV.III, reproduced. 
2.  J. Reynolds: Discourses on Art (London, 1778); ed. R. R. Wark (London, 1959/R New Haven and London, 1975) [14th discourse].