Godfrey Kneller, The Hon. Thomas Townshend (1701–1780)

Photo courtesy of Tom St Aubyn (All rights reserved)


Country House
Raynham Hall
The Hon. Thomas Townshend (1701–1780)
The Morning Room
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 104 cm, Overall width: 148 cm
Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723)
Catalogue Number
  • Inscribed bottom left: ‘Thomas Townshend/ 3 Son to Ld Viscount/ Townshend’


The Honourable Thomas Townshend (1701–1780) was the third son (second surviving) of Charles, 2nd Viscount Townshend and his first wife Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Pelham, 1st Lord Pelham of Laughton, Sussex. Born on 2 June 1701, he married in 1730 Albinia, daughter of Colonel John Selwyn of Matson, Gloucestershire, who was his father’s banker. They had two daughters and three sons of whom one, Thomas, was created 1st Viscount Sydney. 

Thomas Townshend served as MP for Winchelsea from 1722 to 1727 and for Cambridge University from 1727 to 1774. This marked the transition from a tradition of Tory representation of Cambridge to a long period of Whig dominance at the university. Reputed to be a man of great charm, he also served as under-secretary of state (1724–30), teller of the exchequer (1727–80) and secretary to the Duke of Devonshire, lord lieutenant of Ireland (1739–45).

Townshend’s pose and clothing relate to a portrait of c.1704 of his father by Godfrey Kneller, now in the National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG 1363; see also RN1). Kneller also painted his older brothers Horatio and Charles (RN48 and British Museum 1850,1214.115). The face in the present portrait is, however, more finely painted than is commonly found in Kneller’s portraits, prompting Oliver Millar to observe, during a visit to Raynham in 1995, that the style is close to the French artist Charles d’Agar (1669–1723), who came to England in 1681 and painted the portraits of prominent members of the aristocracy, including the Duke of Buccleuch and Lord Bolingbroke. The attribution to Kneller is retained here, although the possibility that RN47 may be by d’Agar, or an artist in his circle, is worth bearing in mind.

RN47 was originally a standard 50 x 40-inch half-length and has been altered twice. First, it was cropped at the top (and possibly bottom) and extended right in order to fit the ornate overmantel frame in the Dining Room, where it can be seen in an old photograph (Witt Library, Courtauld Institute of Art, London). At some point after 1928 it was cropped again from the top and extended left in order to be framed as a set with those of his siblings William (RN4) and Elizabeth (RN6).

by Amy Lim


James Durham, The Collection of Pictures at Raynham Hall, [publisher not identified], 1926, p. 26 (as by ‘Jervase’)

Prince Frederick Duleep Singh, Portraits in Norfolk Houses, ed. Rev. Edmund Farrer, vol. 2, Norwich : Jarrold and Sons, 1928, vol. 2, p. 230, no. 32 (‘HON. THOMAS TOWNSHEND LL.D.’)

Paul Mellon Centre Archive, Oliver Millar, 'Notes on a Visit to Raynham Hall', ONM/1/22, 8 April 1995, p. 25 (as ‘near d’Agar’)

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