Property from an English Private Collection
SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS, P.R.A.
Plympton, Devon 1723 - 1792 London
Portrait of a gentleman, said to be General Conway
oil on canvas
75.5 x 63 cm.; 29¾ x 24¾ in.
Sir Albert James Bennett, Bt. (1872–1945), Kirklington Hall, Nottinghamshire;
His sale, New York, American Art Association, Anderson Galleries, 16 November 1933, lot 5, to D.K. Hackett;
With Rayner MacConnal (according to a label on the reverse).
E.K. Waterhouse, Reynolds, London 1941, p. 47;
D. Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds. A Complete Catalogue of his Paintings, New Haven and London 2000, text vol. p. 144, cat. no. 409 (where the identity of the sitter is doubted), reproduced plates vol., fig. 490;
J. Ingamells, Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760–1790, London 2004, p. 114 (listed under 'Doubtful Portraits').
Mannings (see Literature) dates this portrait to circa 1760 and points out that the sitter’s identity is uncertain. The suggestion that it depicts General Conway originated from the sale catalogue in New York in 1933. Henry Seymour Conway, the celebrated soldier and statesman, was made Major General in 1756 finally rising to the rank of Field Marshal in 1793. There is a portrait of him by Reynolds from circa 1763 which has descended through the family at Ragley Hall and which does not closely resemble the sitter in this portrait, who is also depicted in civilian dress. Mannings points to references in the artist’s Pocket Book to appointments with 'Mr Conway' on April 3rd, 9th and 11th of 1760, but he doubts that these relate to the present portrait.
The portrait belonged to Albert Bennett, who served as M.P. for Mansfield (1922–23) and for Nottingham Central (1924–39). In 1896 he married Caroline, daughter of the American brewing magnate Jacob Backus, which would account for the sale of the picture in New York.