The Property of a Nobleman

Charles Jervas

Portrait of Sir Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford (1676-1745) as Chancellor of the Exchequer, standing three-quarter-length, in a black velvet coat, wearing the Star and Riband of the Order of the Garter

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December 5, 03:23 PM GMT


30,000 - 40,000 GBP

Lot Details


The Property of a Nobleman

Charles Jervas

County Offaly, Ireland 1675 - 1739 London

Portrait of Sir Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford (1676-1745) as Chancellor of the Exchequer, standing three-quarter-length, in a black velvet coat, wearing the Star and Riband of the Order of the Garter

inscribed on the letter: To the Rt Hon.ble / Sir Robert Walpole

oil on canvas

unframed: 126 x 103.2 cm.; 49 5/8 x 40 5/8 in.

framed: 146.7 x 121.4 cm.; 57 3/4 x 47 3/4 in.

Possibly commissioned by the sitter in 1725, for his friends, Nicholas (d. 1767) and Dorothy Bacon, Shrubland Manor, Barham, Suffolk;
By descent to their son, Reverend Nicholas Bacon (d. 1795), Shrublands Manor, Suffolk;
Sir William Fowle Middleton (1748-1829), Shrublands Hall, Suffolk, upon purchasing the estate in 1795;
By descent to his son, Sir William Fowle Middleton (d. 1860);
By descent to his nephew, Admiral Sir George Nathaniel Broke Middleton (1812-87);
By descent to his daughter, Jane Ann Broke Middleton, later Lady de Saumarez (1853-1933);
Thence by inheritance to her grandson, James Victor Broke de Saumarez (b. 1924), Shrublands Hall, Suffolk;
By whom sold, London, Sotheby's, 18 November 1964, lot 19 (as Sir G. Kneller), for £240 to Agnew;
With Thomas Agnew and Sons, London, from whom acquired for £400, in 1965, by
Sir John Plumb (1911-2001), Christ's College, Cambridge;
His posthumous sale, Cambridge, Cheffins, 14 May 2002, lot 15 (as Charles Jervas), where acquired.

J.H. Plumb, Sir Robert Walpole, vol. II, The King's Minister, London 1972, p. 101, note 1;

J. Kerslake, Early Georgian Portraits, London 1977, vol. I, p. 201, reproduced vol. II, fig. 586 (as attributed to Kneller);

E. Bottoms, 'Charles Jervas: Walpole and the Norfolk Whigs', in Apollo, February 1997, p. 44, reproduced p. 45, fig. 2 (as on panel);

A. Matikkala, The Orders of Knighthood and the formation of the British Honours System 1660-1760, Woodbridge 2008, p. 348, partially reproduced in colour, plate XIII.


John Simon.

This portrait is one of the earliest known of Sir Robert Walpole, Britain's first 'Prime Minister' and one of the country's greatest statesmen. Walpole was a Member of Parliament for over forty years, from 1701-42. He was expelled from the House of Commons after the Whig downfall of 1712, but upon the Party's return to power, became First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer between both 1715-17 and 1721-42.

Walpole revived the Order of the Bath in 1725, in which both he and his son were installed, and the following year he became a Knight of the Garter. The present portrait is an important record of both these occurrences. Jervas originally depicted the sitter as Chancellor of the Exchequer with the embroidered silk purse of the Chancellor's seal, wearing the crimson sash of the Order of the Bath (still visible below the end of the white lace collar), but subsequently altered this to the more prestigious Order of the Garter, changing the colour of the sash to blue, and adding the star of the Garter.

This portrait is possibly one of three that Walpole is known to have commissioned from Jervas for his friends in 1725.1 The fact that it descended in the De Saumarez collection strongly suggests that it was previously in the ownership of the Bacons, supporters of Walpole, whose estate subsequently passed into the Middleton and then De Saumarez families (see Provenance). Jervas painted other portraits of Walpole, one of which still hangs at Houghton Hall, Norfolk;2 he became the 'King's Principal Painter' in 1723, thanks in large part to Walpole's influence. Jervas also advised on and acquired works for Walpole's famous collection at Houghton, which was subsequently sold en bloc to Catherine the Great of Russia.

This portrait was formerly in the collection of the late Sir John Plumb, historian and Walpole's biographer. He hung this painting in his rooms at Christ's College, Cambridge.

1 The single surviving document in the Walpole Papers of 1725 (Cholmondeley (Houghton) MSS Vouchers, 1725, Cambridge University Library) relates Jervas' association with Walpole and records three commissioned portraits, though for whom they were intended is not detailed.

2 See Kerslake 1977, vol. I, p. 201, reproduced vol. II, fig. 584. Another portrait, very similar to the present work, is known through an engraving by Henry Robinson, recorded in the collection of Thomas Walpole in 1829 (its current whereabouts are now unknown, however):