Collector, Dealer, Connoisseur: The Vision of Richard L. Feigen

Collector, Dealer, Connoisseur: The Vision of Richard L. Feigen

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 28. Portrait of Colonel The Hon. Charles Hamilton (1727-1806).

Thomas Gainsborough, R.A.

Portrait of Colonel The Hon. Charles Hamilton (1727-1806)

Auction Closed

October 18, 03:29 PM GMT


50,000 - 70,000 USD

Lot Details


Thomas Gainsborough, R.A.

Sudbury 1727-1788 London

Portrait of Colonel The Hon. Charles Hamilton (1727-1806)

inscribed upper left: Honble Colonel Hamilton

oil on canvas

canvas: 30 by 24 3/4 in.; 76.3 by 62.8 cm.

framed: 37 5/8 by 32 1/2 in.; 95.6 by 82.5 cm.

By descent to the sitter's nephew, Charles, 8th Earl of Haddington (1753-1828), Tyninghame;
Thence by descent in the family to George, 12th Earl of Haddington (1894-1986);
By whose executors sold, Tyninghame, Sotheby's, 28-29 September 1987, lot 568;
There acquired by Richard L. Feigen. 
E.K. Waterhouse, "Preliminary Check List of Portraits by Thomas Gainsborough," in The Walpole Society, 1948-50, XXXIII, p. 53;
E.K. Waterhouse, Gainsborough, London 1958, pp. 17, 72, cat. no. 340, reproduced plate 27;
J. Hayes, Thomas Gainsborough, exhibition catalogue, London 1980, p. 81, cat. no. 61, reproduced;
J. Lindsay, Thomas Gainsborough: His Life and Art, London 1981, p. 43;
E.K. Waterhouse, Pelican History of Art: Painting in Britain 1530-1790, New Haven and London 1994, p. 250;
H. Belsey, Thomas Gainsborough: A Country Life, New York 2002, p. 64, reproduced fig. 43;
H. Belsey, Thomas Gainsborough: The Portraits, Fancy Pictures, and Copies after Old Masters, New Haven and London 2019, vol. I, p. 435, cat. no. 437, reproduced. 

One of the greatest English painters of the 18th century, Thomas Gainsborough built a long and successful career as an in-demand portraitist across England. He spent his early years in London and his native Sudbury, but in 1752 moved to the seaport town of Ipswich, where his talent and reputation as a gifted portraitist blossomed, prompting him to move to the wealthier and more fashionable town of Bath in 1759 and ultimately settle in London.  His handsome portrait of Colonel The Hon. Charles Hamilton (1727-1806) is an early work from his Ipswich period, when he was establishing himself as an independent artist and portraitist.

Colonel Hamilton sat to Gainsborough as early as 1755 and before September 1756, a dating which can be confirmed both stylistically and given the costume and recorded movements of the sitter in that year. Hamilton is depicted in the uniform of the 1st Dragoon Guards, a troop of nine gentlemen who marched from York to Ipswich beginning on 7 April 1755. Though others departed to Colchester and Bury St Edmunds throughout the following months, Hamilton was one of two troops who remained in Ipswich until the 2nd of September 1756; thus he would have sat to Gainsborough in 1755 or 1756, before he departed. Indeed Gainsborough painted another soldier in a Dragoon Guards uniform that same year; though the painting is monogrammed and dated TG 1756, the identity of the soldier remains unknown.

The third son of Charles Hamilton, Lord Binning (1697-1732) and Rachel, daughter of George Baillie of Jerviswood and Mellerstain, the sitter purchased a captaincy in the 1st Dragoon Guards on 12 March 1755, shortly before he sat to Gainsborough. Along with being an amateur artist himself, Hamilton went on to become a Major and later Lieutenant Colonel in the army. He never married, and ultimately died at Tyninghame in 1806; this painting descended to his nephew, Charles, 8th Earl of Haddington (1753-1828), and remained in the family until 1987 when it was purchased by Richard L. Feigen. 

Colonel Hamilton is depicted here within an elaborately painted stone cartouche, decorated with laurel leaves. The browns of the background and oval bring out the bright red of the scarlet uniform; the blue lapels have darkened over time but the details of the gold embroidery remain lively, and overall the young sitter is presented in a grand and serious manner. There are a handful of pentimenti which are still visible, including in the lapel and the sitter's far shoulder.  

1. Now in a private collection, UK. See Belsey, 2019, p. 914, cat. no. 992, reproduced in color.