Joshua Reynolds, The Right Honourable Charles Townshend (1725–1767)

Photo courtesy of Tom St Aubyn (All rights reserved)


Country House
Raynham Hall
The Right Honourable Charles Townshend (1725–1767)
The Belisarius Room
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 240 cm, Overall width: 146 cm
Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792)
Catalogue Number


The present portrait of Charles Townshend (see RN9) depicts him in robes of the chancellor of the Exchequer, a position he held from July 1766 until his death just over a year later. It was with reluctance that Townshend accepted the role, preferring the more lucrative role he then held as paymaster general. As George III explained to William Pitt, following his interview with Townshend: ‘He left me, uncertain what he should do, but that if he took it, he must say it was by my express commands not his choice; that what he held was more honourable and worth £7,000 p.a., whilst the other was but £2,500’.1

There are eight related appointments for the portrait in Reynolds’s pocket book of 1765. Two further appointments with ‘Mr Townsend’ were recorded by Reynolds on 11 June and again on 10 October 1767, when Reynolds also wrote ‘Downing Street’ after the sitter’s name, a reference to the sitter’s official address. Townshend had in fact died of a ‘putrid fever’ on 4 September 1767, indicating that Reynolds had clearly noted the appointment at some point prior to his untimely death. It was, perhaps, in relation to the enlargement of the portrait and the incorporation of the chancellor’s robes that the further two sittings were arranged in 1767.

 As Mannings observes, and as can be discerned on viewing the picture at a raking angle, the commission began as a 30 x 25-inch head-and-shoulders portrait, which was subsequently enlarged into a full-length – presumably at some time between Townshend’s appointment as chancellor of the Exchequer and his death. Certainly, at some point between 24 February 1767 and 27 July 1768, Reynolds recorded in his ledger a payment of 25 guineas: ‘Rt Hon Charles Townshend a head which is to made whole length’. He also recorded during the same period another payment of 25 guineas by ‘Mr Barwell’ for two other portraits of Townshend.2 It is possible that the copies commissioned by Barwell relate to two head-and-shoulder portraits of Townshend from Reynolds’s studio, at Baddesley Clinton, Warwickshire (National Trust, NT 343159), and in a private collection.3 They may also relate to an unlocated version known from an engraving made in 1770 by John Dixon (British Museum, 1902,1011.760).

 RN62 was exhibited at the British Institution in 1862, at the National Portrait Exhibition, South Kensington in 1867 and at the Royal Academy in 1890. It was included in the Townshend Heirlooms sale of 1904 at Christie’s, London, where it was acquired by Colnaghi on behalf of Colonel Vere Ferrers Townshend.4 It was re-acquired subsequently by the 7th Marquess and returned to Raynham. A full-size copy by the Victorian painter Robert B. Farren (1832–1912), dated 1896, is at Clare College, Cambridge (Acc. No. 36).

by Emily Knight and Martin Postle


Prince Frederick Duleep Singh, Portraits in Norfolk Houses, ed. Rev. Edmund Farrer, vol. 2, Norwich : Jarrold and Sons, 1928, vol. 2, p. 211, no. 90 (‘RT. HON. CHARLES TOWNSHEND’)

Paul Mellon Centre Archive, Oliver Millar, 'Notes on a Visit to Raynham Hall', ONM/1/22, 8 April 1995, p. 25

David Mannings and Martin Postle, Joshua Reynolds: A Complete Catalogue of his Paintings, 2 vols., New Haven and London : Yale University Press, 2000, vol. 1, p. 446, no. 1759


  1. King George III quoted in (accessed 25 January 2020).

  2. Mannings and Postle, 2000, vol. 1, p. 446.

  3. Ibid., no. 1760; (accessed 25 January 2020).

  4. Townshend Heirlooms sale, Christie’s, London, 5 March 1904, p. 25 (91).


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