caption

Charles Jervas, Children of Charles, 2nd Viscount Townshend and Dorothy Walpole

Photo courtesy of Tom St Aubyn (All rights reserved)

Details

Country House
Raynham Hall
Title(s)
Children of Charles, 2nd Viscount Townshend and Dorothy Walpole
Date
1723–4
Location
The Morning Room
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
Overall height: 174.5 cm, Overall width: 262 cm
Artist
Charles Jervas (1675-1739)
Catalogue Number
RN49
Inscription
  • Inscribed bottom left: ‘The Family of Charles/ Ld Viscount Townshend by his second wife’

Description

Charles, 2nd Viscount Townshend married Dorothy Walpole, sister of his friend and political ally Robert Walpole of Houghton, in 1713. They had at least eleven children, Dorothy giving birth almost yearly until her early death in 1726. Six survived into adulthood and this picture, painted in 1723–4, shows all children living at the time. They can be identified as, left–right: Dorothy (b. 1714; not Henrietta Paulet, as she has previously been mistakenly identified), Henrietta or Lucy (b. 1722 or 23), Horatio (b. 1717), Augustus (b. 1716), George (b. 1715), Mary (b. 1720) and Edward (b. 1719). 

Charles Jervas worked extensively for the Townshend family in the 1720s and early 1730s and this painting was painted around the time of his appointment in 1723 as principal painter to George I. It was commissioned by Dorothy, Lady Townshend and is referred to in a note to a 1733 bill from Jervas as ‘The Children’s great Picture with 7 figures [which] I took but half price for, as my Receipt in full to my Lady will shew’.1 Jervas painted many half- and full-length portraits but this group painting is significant in his oeuvre for its unusually large scale, though not unique: he also painted Elizabeth, Duchess of Bedford with her children in 1713. It is also notable for its informality, especially the three egg-thieving brothers that form the central group. This is a significant departure from earlier, formal groups of children such as those by John Closterman in the 1690s, for example The Children of John Taylor of Bifrons Park, National Portrait Gallery (NPG 5320), being closer instead to the ‘conversation pieces’ that gained popularity later in the eighteenth century. The Townshend grouping, however, does not form a harmonious whole and appears to be a composite of three individually posed groups.

by Amy Lim

Bibliography

English Ancestors: A Survey of British Portraiture 1650–1850, ed. Clovis Whitfield, London : Colnaghi, 1983, p.36


Paul Mellon Centre Archive, Oliver Millar, 'Notes on a Visit to Raynham Hall', ONM/1/22, 8 April 1995, p.23


Caroline Pegum, 'The Artistic and Literary Career of Charles Jervas (c.1675–1739)', master's dissertation, Birmingham : University of Birmingham, 2010, p.83


Footnotes

  1. Raynham Hall Archives, Raynham Hall, no. 353; see Object in Focus, Amy Lim, ‘Charles Jervas: A Memorandum of 1733 at Raynham Hall’.

    1

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