Mather Brown, George Townshend, 1st Marquess Townshend (1724–1807)

Photo courtesy of Tom St Aubyn (All rights reserved)


Country House
Raynham Hall
George Townshend, 1st Marquess Townshend (1724–1807)
The Small Dining Room
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 70 cm, Overall width: 56.5 cm
Mather Brown (1761-1831)
Catalogue Number


Mather Brown (1761–1831) exhibited the present portrait of the 1st Marquess Townshend at the Royal Academy in 1801 (‘The Marquis of Townshend [sic]’, no. 251). The portrait was included in the Townshend Heirlooms sale of 1904 and entered the collection of Colonel Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend. It was sold at Christie’s, London, by Colonel Townshend’s widow in 1946, and again at Sotheby’s in 1949, after which it returned to Raynham Hall.1 There is a reduced copy (oil on panel) in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (Acc. No. 1109-4), which, it has been suggested, was made by Brown for a stipple engraving by Mackenzie published in 1808 (National Portrait Gallery, London, D14159).2

Born in Boston, Mather Byles Brown travelled to London in 1781 and the following year enrolled at the Royal Academy Schools. Shortly afterwards, he set up as a portrait painter in London, where he painted several notable Americans, including John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Among other well-known sitters were the prison reformer John Howard (National Portrait Gallery, NPG 97) and the fencing master Henry Charles William Angelo (National Portrati Gallery, NPG 5310). In 1789 he painted a full-length portrait of George, Prince of Wales (Royal Collection, RCIN 405135). His full-length portrait of Prince Frederick Augustus (National Trust, Waddesdon Manor, NT 2830) led to him being appointed as history and portrait painter to his royal sitter, on becoming Duke of York. Brown also increasingly specialised in historical, religious and literary subjects, including the histrionic Louis XVI saying Farwell to his Family, of c.1793 (Wadsworth Atheneum, Connecticut, Acc. No. 1980.2). 

Brown exhibited frequently at the Royal Academy from 1782, when he showed an unknown ‘Portrait of a Gentleman’, to 1831, the year of his death. By 1801, the year in which he exhibited his portrait, the 1st Marquess Townshend had been promoted to the rank of field marshal, the highest rank in the British Army. By this time, however, his public honours and offices had been overshadowed by personal tragedy, for in 1796, his son, Charles, was killed by a pistol shot to the head, by his brother, the Reverend Lord Frederick, who was subsequently found to be insane.

by Martin Postle


Prince Frederick Duleep Singh, Portraits in Norfolk Houses, ed. Rev. Edmund Farrer, vol. 2, Norwich : Jarrold and Sons, 1928, vol. 2, p. 212, no. 96 (‘GEORGE, 1ST MARQUESS TOWNSHEND’)


  1. Townshend Heirlooms sale, 5 March 1904 (58); Lady Townshend sale, Christie’s, London, 3 May 1946 (46); sold anonymously, Sotheby’s, London, 23 March 1949 (52).

  2. National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, (accessed 2 April 2020).


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