George Thornhill accompanied his elder brother Thomas Thornhill (1735–1800) of Fixby on the Grand Tour in around 1761-64 and commissioned the paintings in Paris, presumably on his return home to England.1 The precise details of the commission are recorded in Vernet’s Livre de Verité (commission and accounts book):
‘199. Pour M. Thornhill cadet, Anglois et de la connoissance de M. Monnet, deux tableaux de 32 pouce de large sur 20 de haut, un doit representer un lever du solleil l’autre un coucher en marine ordonnez le 17e may 1764 et promis pour une année d’après le prix est de 1500 l. les deux.’2
The description of the commissioner as ‘M. Thornhill, cadet’ (cadet meaning ‘the younger’) clearly identifies the commissioner as George rather than Thomas Thornhill and it appears that he paid for the pictures at the time of the commission (at a cost of 1,500 livres), although they were not due to be delivered until the following year. Interestingly the preceding entry in the accounts book (no. 198) is for an imperial size canvas commissioned by ‘milord Temistocle fils de M. le duc de Bedfort’ a month prior to the Thornhill commission, on 18 April, and also promised delivery the following year. A further reference to the Thornhill pictures, confirming receipt of payment, is entered under Vernet’s Livre de Verité, under the heading ‘Argent que Je Reçois’:
‘118. Deux tableaux pour M. Thornhill Anglois 1500.’3
A subsequent entry in the Livre de Verité records the commissioning of two further paintings by a ‘M. Thornhill’:
‘221. Le 24e janvier 1766 M. Monnet m’a demandé pour M. Thornhill Anglois deux tableaux de trois pieds de large, sur deux de demy de haut en marine; un calme et une tempeste. Le prix a 1200 liv. Chaque, promis pour un an d’appresent.’4
Payment for these additional paintings is also recorded under ‘Argent que Je Reçois’ although there appears to have been a delay of some four years between the date of commission and time of payment:
‘147. Le 16e janvier 1770 j’ay recû de M. Monnet 2400 pr prix de deux tableaux que j’ay fait pr M. Thornhill.’5
It is unclear as to whether this subsequent pair of paintings was commissioned by the same George Thornhill (formerly referred to as Thornhill ‘cadet’) or whether they might have been for his elder brother Thomas or indeed another member of the family. The repeated mention of ‘M. Monnet’, who according to the first entry in the Livre de Verité appears to have provided George Thornhill with the introduction to Vernet in 1764, may indicate that this was a second commission by the same patron and member of the Thornhill family, although this has yet to be substantiated.
George Thornhill (1738–1827) of Diddington was son of George Thornhill (1681–1754) also of Diddington and Sarah, daughter of John Barne of London and Kirkby, Lincolnshire. He became High Sheriff of Cambridgeshire and Hunts in 1791 and in 1780 married Mary Anne, daughter of Sir Caesar Hawkins, 1st Bt of Kelston, Somerset.
1 A portrait of Thomas Thornhill by Pompeo Batoni was sold New York, Christie’s, 9 June 2010, lot 101, for $240,000.
2 L. Lagrange, Joseph Vernet et la Peinture au XVIII Siècle, Paris 1864, p. 343.
3 Lagrange 1864, p. 364.
4 Lagrange 1864, p. 346.
5 Lagrange 1864, p. 366.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.