Allan Ramsay, Christopher Hawkins

Photo courtesy of Dave Penman (All rights reserved)


Country House
Christopher Hawkins
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 73 cm, Overall width: 61 cm
Allan Ramsay (1713-1784)
Catalogue Number


Christopher Hawkins of Trewinnard (1694–1767) is one of the most significant figures in the story of Trewithen. A barrister with a successful career in London, in 1716 he married Mary Hawkins (1694–1780), daughter of Philip Hawkins I of Pennance. Christopher’s son, Thomas Hawkins, inherited the Trewithen estate on the death of Mary’s brother Philip II in 1738. At this time Christopher administered the Trewithen estate on behalf of Thomas, simultaneously taking on the responsibility of the electoral management of the Hawkins interest at Grampound. He forged an increasingly hostile partnership with Thomas Pitt of Boconnoc to lend his seats to the opposition. In 1742 he was made vice-warden of the Stannaries owing to his part in returning a voting block in favour of Frederick, Prince of Wales. As such he was part of the political strategy that resulted in the resignation of Robert Walpole, the first Prime Minister. Christopher Hawkins returned permanently to Cornwall in 1750 where he lived at Trewinnard. He died on 28 April 1767, apparently of a fit, and was buried in the family vault at St Erth.1

The present portrait was made in 1748, when Christopher Hawkins was around fifty and at the height of his political power.2 It was made at the same time as the portrait of his son Thomas by Ramsay – also signed and dated 1745 (TN22). At that time the Scot Allan Ramsay had established himself among the leading portraitists in London, having set up his studio in the Great Piazza, Covent Garden. He was also part of a circle of leading connoisseurs and scholars, who met at Dr Richard Mead’s dining club. As Ramsay boasted in 1740, with regard to his Continental rivals in portraiture, ‘I have put all your Vanlois and Soldis, and Ruscos, to flight and now play the first fiddle my Self’.3 Smart has observed that Ramsay’s portrait indicates that Hawkins’s left eye was injured, revealing a large and discoloured eye-socket.4 Its inclusion in the portrait suggests a permanent facial disfigurement. The stylistic disjunction between the face of the sitter and the wig – which is not entirely characteristic of Ramsay’s style – indicates that the wig may have been painted by another hand.

In the inventory of March 1928, when it hung in the ‘Lounge Hall’, the picture was described as: ‘Portrait of an elderly gentleman, XVIII Century, hair poure, brown velvet coat and white cravat in vignette – 30in by 24in – carved frame’.

by Jonny Yarker


Alastair Smart, Allan Ramsay: A Complete Catalogue of his Paintings, ed. ed. John Ingamells, New Haven and London : Yale University Press, 1999, p.133, no. 253


  1. CRO DG/3: MS almanac of the Reverend Edward Giddy, Curate of St Erth, Cornwall, 1767–9, Davies Gilbert Family of Trelissick, Feock. For Christopher Hawkins’s will, dated 1767, see NA PROB 11/930/108.

  2. Smart, 1999, p. 133, who identified the sitter simply as ‘Mr Hawkins’, states that the portrait is signed and dated 1745, although it appears to be 1748.

  3. Quoted in Alastair Smart, Allan Ramsay: Painter, Essayist and Man of the Enlightenment, New Haven and London: Yale University Press for the Paul Mellon Centre of Art, 1992, p. 74.

  4. Smart, 1999, p. 133.


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