British School, ? John Prideaux Basset

Photo courtesy of Dave Penman (All rights reserved)


Country House
? John Prideaux Basset
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 120 cm, Overall width: 99 cm
British School
Catalogue Number


The sitter in the present portrait is possibly John Prideaux Basset (1740–1756), the son of John Pendarves Basset (1713–1739) of Tehidy Park,1 Cornwall and Anne Prideaux (1718–1782), daughter of Anne Hawkins and Sir Edmund Prideaux, fifth Baronet of Netherton. Basset, whose father died before his birth, came from one of the wealthiest families in Cornwall, with a fortune derived from minerals and tin mines. It is therefore unsurprising that he is named among the subscribers to William Borlase’s Observations on the Antiquities Historical and Monumental, of the County of Cornwall, published in 1754, where he is listed as subscribing to no less than twenty copies. He died at the age of sixteen, when a pupil at Eton College. An elaborate funeral procession was arranged for the journey by foot from Slough to his place of rest in the family vault at Illogan, Cornwall.2

The identification of the sitter as Basset relies on the similarity of the boy’s features to a portrait by Ramsay of a slightly older Basset in pink ‘Van Dyck’ dress with a whippet, which was at the family home at Tehidy until sold in 1920 (fig. 1). The value the family attached to the portrait, and to Basset himself, is indicated by the mezzotint made from it by John Faber the Younger (fig. 2).

undated. Oil on canvas, 151.2 × 97.9 cm. Private Collection.

Figure 1.
Allan Ramsay, Master John Prideaux Basset, undated. Oil on canvas, 151.2 × 97.9 cm. Private Collection.

Digital image courtesy of Christie’s. (All rights reserved)

1710-1756. Mezzotint, 32.4 × 23.3 cm. The British Museum (1872,1214.353).

Figure 2.
John Faber the Younger after Allan Ramsay, Master John Prideaux Basset, lettered below image with title and 'A Ramsay Pinx.' and 'I Faber Fe[cit]', 1710-1756. Mezzotint, 32.4 × 23.3 cm. The British Museum (1872,1214.353).

Digital image courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum. (CC BY-NC 4.0)

This portrait was on the Middle Staircase in March 1928, when it was described in an inventory: ‘Full length of young boy, Peter Bassett of Tetridy [sic], terrace background, flowing chestnut hair, scarlet breeches and coat, blue and silver long vest holding tricorne hat under arm, ebonized frame, 48in by 54in’. The sitter would appear to be the same child featured in TN75.

by Emily Burns


  1. Tehidy Park was built for the Basset family in 1734 to the designs of Thomas Edwards of Greenwich, who worked at Trewithen. Since destroyed.

  2. Royal Institution of Cornwall, HH/17/163–167: John Prideaux Basset funeral arrangements.


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