Home and Away: Joshua Reynolds’s Portrait of Frederick, 5th Earl of Carlisle

Essay by Helen Brett, Martin Myrone and Mark Searle

Paintings departing from country house collections to which they have historically belonged may be subject to a version of what the art historian David Carrier has dubbed ‘museum skepticism’ – the longstanding anxiety surrounding the removal of art works from their traditional contexts (churches, public buildings, palaces) to other settings which seem, from this perspective, far less appropriate and may actually be destructive. As Carrier outlines, ‘According to these museum skeptics . . . museums preserve old objects, but fail to preserve the works of art constituted by those objects’.1 In its removal from the context of the country house, with its historic lighting and hanging schemes, rich architectural environment and decoration (and lack, generally speaking, of interpretative materials), to the probably artificially lit, relatively austere and, generally speaking, didactic setting of a museum or gallery, the object supposedly loses its authentic character and spirit. The Old Master or classic British painting becomes a fish out of water and all the museum may be able to do is feebly to recreate its original setting with approximations of wall colours and coverings, the tokenistic introduction of a console table or some ornamental objects of roughly the right kind.

Carrier offers an extended commentary on this point, and is sceptical about the sceptics. He emphasises the value as well as the distinctiveness and potency of the kind of museum spaces which emerged at the end of the eighteenth century (and which remain normative today). A complementary point would be to consider how those traditional environments which the museum sceptics have so cherished and sought to defend are themselves rather less static, stable and organic than the sceptics might insist. The recent history of Reynolds’s portrait of the 5th Earl, largely painted in 1769, delivered to Castle Howard in 1775 and installed there ever since – and, thanks to an arrangement made with HM Government in 2016 by which the painting has been accepted in lieu of tax and joins the national collection of British art at Tate while remaining, under normal circumstances, on display at the house, where it will stay – offers an intriguing case study in this regard (fig. 1). The arrangements of 2016 may be the most dramatic change in its ownership status in the picture’s history, breaking the descent of the painting through the Howard family and moving the work from private to public ownership, but nor may it be right to cast this break in the sceptical terms of a shift from the natural to the artificial, the proper to the inappropriate. The history of the painting, in terms of its genesis, and the longer history of physical display and reception which has shaped its appearance and status is more complex than that. The technical examination and conservation of the painting in 2018, prior to the picture’s redisplay for the first time in the context of the national collection of British art shown at Tate Britain, has been an opportunity to reassess this history.

1769. Oil on canvas, 240 × 147.5 cm. Tate (T14646).

Figure 1.
Joshua Reynolds, Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle (following conservation treatment), 1769. Oil on canvas, 240 × 147.5 cm. Tate (T14646).

Digital image courtesy of Tate. (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The modern literature confidently dates the painting to 1769.2 We know that there were a series of sittings with Reynolds in that year, between May and December, the last on 30 December. It seems highly unlikely that Reynolds put down his brush on that last date and declared the painting finished, because the painting and its frame were not paid for until September 1775, after which the framed picture was sent on to Castle Howard. At that point, some mishap occurred which meant that the painting was returned to the studio for lining and then repaired by the artist. We know of this from Reynolds’s letter to Carlisle on 2 November 1775:

I am extremely sorry for the accident which has happened to the Whole-length Picture. The circumstance of the Bar getting loose never happened to me before. The damage that is done can only be reme[died] by lining the Picture; for which it must be sent back again to Town, lining the picture is pasting it on another strong canvass, and if it were full of Holes will not be perceiv’d. The Painter being luckily still alive he can restore it to its original –

I am sorry of the disappointment which it occasions. The best way I think will be to send it rolled up. Tho it cannot be returned in that manner when it is lined3

Technical examination has revealed what seems certainly to be evidence of a tear to the canvas caused by this mysteriously detached stretcher bar, as well an early impact to the canvas which, in tandem with subsequent drying problems, has caused a large circular crack pattern in the area of Carlisle's beloved dog Rover, disrupting the image (fig. 2). A cynical reader might detect a certain archness in the tone of Reynolds’s letter. To judge from a letter sent by George Selywn to Carlisle on 17 October 1775, Carlisle (who lost fortunes through gambling at this time) had been chased by the painter for payment and had been reluctant to receive the pictures: ‘The debt to Sir Jos[hua] Reynolds does not weigh much with me; we know that it was contracted long ago, and as to appearances I think they are better served by the pictures being in your own house than in his’.4 The same letter indicates that the painting may have only recently been completed or, rather, that the question of payment had been put directly on that basis only relatively recently and rather to Carlisle’s surprise: ‘You ask’, wrote Selwyn, ‘if he had any orders to finish these pictures? None that I know of, but perhaps that he took that for granted’.5

Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle

Figure 2.
Joshua Reynolds, Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle, detail of the paint surface in the area of Rover the dog, before treatment, showing extensive crack patterns due to an early impact and problems with the paint drying.

Digital image courtesy of Helen Brett. (All rights reserved)

Looking in the other direction, we can note that there were earlier sittings with the adult Lord Carlisle, dating to 1767 (Reynolds had already painted him as a boy, in 1757–59). Ellis Waterhouse in 1985 concluded that these ‘probably came to nothing’.6 They are now taken as resulting in the head and shoulders portrait (in a private collection; fig. 3).7 The turn of the head and the treatment of the features are close to the full-length portrait, although the sitter is shown in a silk fur-lined jacket, typical Grand Tour costume of the type seen most influentially in the portraiture of Pompeo Batoni. Carlisle had, in fact, discussed being painted by Batoni on his Grand Tour, which commenced with his departure to Paris in the summer of 1767 and continued through to March 1769, when he was back in England (and sitting soon after for Reynolds again). These were important years for both sitter and painter. After a bout of ugly internecine conflict within the London art world, from which Reynolds deftly stayed largely aloof, the Royal Academy was founded in December 1768 and he was anointed as its founding President, receiving his knighthood in April 1769. As Lord Carlisle set out on his Grand Tour in 1767, he was expecting his elevation to the prestigious Order of the Thistle.8 After somewhat protracted arrangements about the delivery of the insignia, involving at one point to Carlisle’s disappointment the recently retired Lord Clive (‘it might as well be sent by a Chelsea pensioner!’), he was invested into the order by the King of Sardinia in Turin on 27 February 1768.9 He had been painted by J.-B. Greuze in Paris in 1767 (now in the Buccleuch estates, Selkirk) but was disappointed with the result, which he considered excessively sober and bourgeois (‘Creuze [sic] has made me look like a Common-Councilman’).10 Already, in January 1768, Selwyn, to whom Carlisle had sent his portrait, was writing expectantly of a more obviously glamorous likeness, one which would reflect his newly elevated status: ‘If you sit to Pompeio [Pompeo Batoni] I shall hope to have a better, and with your Order’.11

Frederick Howard 5th Earl of Carlisle

Figure 3.
Joshua Reynolds, Frederick Howard 5th Earl of Carlisle, 1767. Oil on canvas, 76.2 × 61 cm. Private Collection.

Digital image courtesy of Art Heritage / Alamy Stock Photo. (All rights reserved)

Carlisle and Reynolds were friends, so Reynolds was perhaps bound to make special efforts with this work. But he was with this ambitious picture also actively affirming his professional supremacy in the British art world at this point, signalled most forcefully by his contributions to the first exhibition of the Royal Academy, held in the spring of 1769 just as Carlisle sat to him.12 The pale blond light, palatial architectural setting, steep, low perspective, the glitter of gold and deep green, evoke in a determined manner the examples of Veronese and Titian. And, above all, there is in Carlisle’s gesture, famously seen already in Reynolds’s breakthrough painting, his first full-length portrait, of Admiral Keppel in 1753 (National Maritime Museum) and famously, inevitably, associated with the gesture seen in the canonical classical sculpture of Apollo Belvedere (fig. 4). Recent research has suggested that the pose was mediated by seventeenth-century sculpture, where the hand is positioned lower and pointing (so unlike what is seen in the Apollo).13 The important point is that this gesture would have been associated with social power and authority.14 Such would have suited a young man of elite status, fresh from the Grand Tour, donning his new robes and seeking a rather more dynamic and determinedly aristocratic image than Greuze had been able to provide for him in 1767. The investment of painter and subject in this work is clear not only in the grand (arguably grandiose) treatment of the sitter but also in the frame, which is almost certainly original to the painting and therefore the frame which was paid for in September 1775.15 This is of a Carlo Maratta form, popular in the late eighteenth century and frequently used for Reynolds’s paintings, and in its structure and joinery has been well preserved and apparently untouched.16 Aside from the quality of the original carving, most striking is the subtle use of gilding techniques. Although partly obscured by restorations, it is notable that different surface finishes in the gilding of the different decorative elements of the frame were utilised to great effect. The frame’s front hollow was burnished to an almost mirror finish, which reflects light onto the portrait.17 This is contrasted with the matte oil gilding of the leaf and shield ornament to create interesting textural and optical differences. As an ensemble, picture and frame were designed to sit among an exceptional collection of Old Masters at Castle Howard. As an aristocratic visitor to Castle Howard noted in 1796: ‘although surrounded by the best works of the most pre-eminent masters, [it] stands the test of a situation so trying’.18

1752-1753. Oil on canvas, 239.0 × 147.5 cm. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection.

Figure 4.
Joshua Reynolds, Captain the Honourable Augustus Keppel, 1752-1753. Oil on canvas, 239.0 × 147.5 cm. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection.

Digital image courtesy of National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The head and shoulders of 1767 and the full length dated to 1769 have been treated as distinct works but there is a question of what closer relationship they might have enjoyed. X-radiography of the latter picture at Tate has revealed several significant changes in the painting which together suggest that the original was differently conceived (fig. 5). The setting was originally a landscape, or at least dominated by landscape features, with open sky running behind the figure where now there is a wall. Carlisle stood on the ground rather than descending steps, his feet positioned much more like those of Keppel in the earlier portrait. To the left, an ornamental urn originally topped the balustrade where now can be seen the Order of the Thistle hat, and the pilasters above the sitter’s arm had an Ionic capital. To the bottom right, where the fluffy black form of Rover now sits, there are indications of a dog’s rear legs, hinting at the form of a dog jumping up on his master’s leg. Curved pillar bases and possibly a statue were also here, in front of the arched gateway. And there is a suggestion of an acorn finial at the bottom of the balustrade. What this adds up to is a different kind of portrait, showing Lord Carlisle not as a statesman but as a gentleman in nature, pawed by a favourite pet.

Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle

Figure 5.
Joshua Reynolds, Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle, X-ray image, showing adjustments to the legs and feet of the subject and many alterations in the background of the portrait, including vestigial dog, bottom right.

Digital image courtesy of Tate. (All rights reserved)

Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle

Figure 6.
Joshua Reynolds, Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle, detail taken during removal of the upper varnish layer, revealing the extensively cracked passages behind the figure.

Digital image courtesy of Tate. (All rights reserved)

Reynolds’s full-length male portraits only relatively infrequently feature dogs but they were a stock feature of the portraiture of Batoni, and the position of the original dog’s legs appears close to that seen in the portrait of the Honourable George Venables Vernon by Reynolds’s rival, Thomas Gainsborough (Southampton Art Gallery), which had been exhibited at the Society of Artists in London in 1767.19 So the painting as first conceived showed Carlisle as a country gentleman, still a figure of authority but of a different order, situated within a more open landscape setting but with indications of architecture, parkland rather than palace.20 If the image which Reynolds finalised is rather formal, stately portraiture, conceived, painted and framed with the intention of being imposing, the figure of Carlisle’s beloved dog Rover is rather incongruous. The front edges of the stone steps show through Rover’s form, which has become more transparent with age. The x-radiograph confirms that he was an addition, introduced certainly after the architectural setting of the steps had been finished. Rover had died in Paris in 1768, run over by a carriage, having survived an accident in Florence earlier that year. Reynolds’s painting was, then, posthumous, painted over a resolved architectural setting and over an earlier dog.

Had the first version of the full-length even been on the cards in 1767, giving rise to the sittings and to the head-and-shoulders portrait? This would probably have been executed directly onto the canvas, with no preparatory studies.21 If so, might that surviving portrait be properly considered as a study towards the full-length portrait? Had this larger painting already been conceived at that earlier date, using the head-and-shoulders portrait as a reference image? The idea of showing Carlisle in his Thistle robes was already in play at the beginning of 1768, so it would be odd for a new portrait on a grand full-length format to be commenced without that aim after that date. For his part, Carlisle was well aware that once a portrait likeness was established (as had been the case with Reynolds, in 1767), the conception of a portrait could be overhauled quite drastically. Writing of that disappointing Greuze portrait to Selwyn, he noted: ‘if the face is like, there will not be much trouble in altering the dress’.22

This remains speculation but it is clear that the painting had a more complex genesis than we have hitherto realised, even if that genesis was restricted to the period of the sittings of 1769 or, as seems more likely, it occupied a more extended period from 1767 to perhaps even 1775, with the painting undergoing several significant revisions over that time.23 In addition, there are indications that the painting was suffering from visible intrinsic deterioration even within the 5th Earl’s lifetime. James Northcote, one of Reynolds’s pupils, stated that he had seen the portrait ‘at Jackson’s’, reporting that it was ‘in a shameful state; it was cracked and faded from the varnishes and nostrums [quack medicine] which Sir Joshua had made use of’.24 When Reynolds was chasing Carlisle for payment in 1775, the Earl’s friend Selwyn quipped to him: ‘I hope that if he puts any false colours on your conduct towards him, that they will be like all his other colours, of a very short duration’.25 The strict accuracy of Northcote’s comment about fading might be questioned, though, for the flesh tones of the face, which in other paintings by Reynolds have been subject to fading,26 appear well preserved, as too the deep green of the robes. Perhaps rather than fading, Northcote was noticing discolouration of the oil medium, which would have been heightened by resin additives. However, the painting does display the extensive cracking which is characteristic of Reynolds’s work, occurring as the paint dried (fig. 6).27

The Orleans room at Castle Howard

Figure 7.
Mary Ellen Best, The Orleans room at Castle Howard, 1832. Watercolour, 25 × 32 cm. Private Collection.

Digital image courtesy of Private Collection. (All rights reserved)

Whatever damage might have been done in 1775 and whatever the appearance of the painting in the early nineteenth century, there were certainly further changes as the century progressed. In the earlier nineteenth century the painting hung in the Orleans Room, apparently over the fireplace which is where it appears in Ellen Best’s 1832 watercolour (fig. 7). It is notable that there is cracking and degradation of the bottom strip of painting; similarly, the frame was dirty with loose dust and a heavily engrained soiling layer, particularly on the lower member, surely both as a result of this position. The paint was also found to be light-damaged, surely reflecting its many years on display at Castle Howard on walls facing the windows, in its various room settings, in the Drawing Room in the later nineteenth and early twentieth century, in the Tapestry Room at mid-century and most recently in the Turquoise Drawing Room (fig. 8).

Photograph of the painting hanging in the Turquoise Drawing Room

Figure 8.
Photograph of the painting hanging in the Turquoise Drawing Room, Castle Howard.

Digital image courtesy of Wikimedia/Mdbeckwith. (CC BY 3.0)

Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle

Figure 9.
Joshua Reynolds, Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle, detail of the stamp of the liner George Morrill, impressed on the reverse of the current stretcher. Castle Howard.

Digital image courtesy of Tate. (All rights reserved)

There are no records of restoration treatments at Castle Howard but these certainly took place. The upper varnish in place until the most recent treatment of 2018 probably dates from the period when it was lined by the London picture restorer George Morrill in 1857–65, as can be established from the punch in the current stretcher (fig. 9).28 This lining treatment would have involved removing the earlier lining canvas and attaching a new one using an adhesive made from animal glue paste. To bond the two canvases, the paint surface was pressed with a hot iron, which despite protective methods used by the liners frequently caused damage to the paint surface. Close examination of the portrait reveals characteristic squashed and melted impasto and moating.29 Some areas of the upper varnish are tinted and pigment particles can be seen lying in age features, showing that the pigmented resin is certainly not original. There is evidence of earlier restoration too. More than a single campaign of overpaint is present, as indicated by patches and networks of strokes of varying darkness detectable under ultraviolet light.30 Early overpaint and varnish residues were present before the lining and have been embedded in the paint surface due to excess heat and pressure softening the paint (fig. 10).

Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle

Figure 10.
Joshua Reynolds, Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle, detail taken under ultraviolet light during removal of the upper varnish layer. Dark areas indicate where newer material lies over older paint, here revealing extensive networks of retouched cracking.

Digital image courtesy of Tate. (All rights reserved)

Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle

Figure 11.
Joshua Reynolds, Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle, detail of the outstretched hand after removal of the upper varnish later, showing pink and light brown overpaint covering cracks running through the more yellow toned original paint of the hand.

Digital image courtesy of Tate. (All rights reserved)

A sceptical reviewer for The Athenaeum in 1876 wrote disparagingly of the Reynolds paintings at Castle Howard, including Omai, which he judged ‘can hardly have been in its present condition when it left the hands of Sir Joshua in 1775’, Countess Carlisle in what ‘is now a white dress, under another which was originally almost puce’ and the 5th Earl, although the complaint then was not about condition but the choice of pose, ‘that attitude which Sir Joshua employed when he intended to be at once picturesque, stately, and graceful . . . an instance of the failure of vaulting ambition, due to early impressions of the Apollo Belvedere’.31 Notably, that reviewer commented on the mismatch between the colouring of the hands and face of Omai, something which is still clearly visible in the present appearance of the portrait of Lord Carlisle (fig. 11).32

Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle

Figure 12.
Joshua Reynolds, Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle, detail of an area left of the face showing the eroded paint revealed after removal of the upper varnish layer.

Digital image courtesy of Tate. (All rights reserved)

Removal to Tate Britain for display means another context, another display aesthetic. This has raised practical issues around the appearance of the frame and the painting, which would be exposed under the more emphatic and even lighting of a modern gallery, with its sheer painted walls and relatively spacious hang. The overall discolouration and unevenness of gloss, particularly in the background areas, where matte overpaint contrasted with glossy varnish presented a problem for the painting to be exhibited alongside other Tate pictures. The upper varnish layer was carefully removed from the whole surface, revealing that the passages of paint below were in varying states of preservation and appearance. The lower dark areas of the dog and the foreground and staircase were disrupted by tiny cracks, only properly visible under the microscope which on a normal scale served to scatter light and make the paint appear unsaturated.33 The sky at the top right and the area of wall behind the sitter’s head are affected by wide and extensive drying cracks. These had been heavily overpainted with thick strokes of oil paint matched to the khaki colour of the darkened varnish. This final area was hard to analyse and microscope examination was not sufficient to identify with certainty which of the eroded layers could be original paint applied by Reynolds and then damaged by cleaning, and which were overpaint. In some places all the varnish residues and overpaint were missing and a pale crumbly surface was revealed, appearing eaten away by past cleaning methods (fig. 12). The impossibility of cleaning this area further meant that varnish removal was stopped at this point, despite substantial residues of earlier varnish remaining over the portrait. Its appearance overall was much improved and the cool values of the blue areas reinstated, so it was decided that the residues could remain and any unification of different passages be done in the inpainting stage. The opaque and crudely applied overpaint was removed as far as possible, in all cases revealing cracks or damages far smaller in size than the overpaint and which in many cases would not require inpainting. The notion of retaining a ‘patina’ on a painting such as this is problematic, as of course the darkened material on the paint surface is from different sources, few of which are original. However, when paint has suffered such extensive cracking, lining damage and erosion, there is not much to gain by cleaning it completely and the decision to hold back seems justified.

A similar degree of tact has been applied to the treatment of the frame. This had also been restored more than once and cross-sectional analysis revealed that the level of intervention in the decorative scheme was different depending on its position in the frame’s profile.34 In this vein, the treatment aimed to extend the frame’s life history rather than fundamentally altering it. Therefore, where possible traditional material and methods were used, which corresponded to those utilised in the frame’s original construction. It was also considered important not to alter the frame’s slender profile or hide its original mitre-and-keyed joinery: therefore applying a build-up (wooden addition) to the back of the frame was resisted, which might have been considered in a normal situation when the frame was just being displayed at Tate. The treatment began with stabilisation.35 Next came cleaning. This followed a tailored approach, where the cleaning system used depended on the type of dirt that was being removed and the gilding beneath, which was to be retained.36 With the frame clean and stable, the distracting losses in the decorative scheme could be considered and filled appropriately.37

These technical decisions relate to the new, amphibious status of the painting: both a museum picture, belonging to the national collection, and a picture for display in its historical stately home. But as should be clear even from this sketchy outline, the history of the painting to this point is already far more complex. The picture we see now has mutated and changed appearance more or less dramatically over the last two and a half centuries, during its years in Reynolds’s studio and repeatedly as soon as it had been sent off to Castle Howard. And once at the house, it has been moved and recontextualised repeatedly, positioned in rivalry with Old Masters, aligned with dynastic portraiture, paired with Omai as a masterwork by Reynolds, or a mixture of these. While the considerable merit of maintaining Castle Howard as the primary home of the painting is recognised in the arrangements made in 2016, it is not the case that the stately home context is somehow immutable, any more than any individual painting (least of all a painting by Reynolds) can ever be expected to be.


  • Helen Brett ACR followed her B.Sc. in Chemistry from Kings College London with a M.A. in the Conservation of Easel Painting from the University of Northumbria, graduating in 1993. She undertook an internship at National Museums Liverpool, continuing to work there for the next five years before first starting at the Tate as an assistant conservator in 1999. She undertook a Paul Mellon Fellowship in the Conservation of British Art at the Hamilton Kerr Institute from 2001–2004 and started in her present post at the Tate in 2004. Her main roles are to support the loans programme and the display and exhibition programmes at Tate St Ives. Her practical conservation projects have included many paintings from the British School, both historic and modern. She is an accredited member of ICON, the UK Institute for Conservation.

  • paulmellon-day024304b-1

    [img]As Head of Grants, Fellowships and Networks, Martin has scholarly oversight of the Centre’s Grants & Fellowships programme and the two Networks run from the Centre – the Doctoral Researchers Network and the Early Career Researchers Network. He also acts as Convenor for the British Art Network. Supported by the Paul Mellon Centre and Tate, the Network has a membership of over one thousand three hundred specialists working in the field of British art curating. He is a member of the Centre’s Senior Leadership Team.

    Before joining the Paul Mellon Centre in 2020, Martin spent over twenty years in curatorial roles at Tate, London, latterly as Senior Curator, Pre-1800 British Art. His many exhibitions at Tate Britain have included Gothic Nightmares in 2006, John Martin in 2011, British Folk Art in 2014, William Blake in 2019 and Hogarth and Europe in 2021. His research and publications have focused on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British art, with a special interest in artistic identity and artists’ labour, class, cultural opportunity and gender. His many published works include Bodybuilding: Reforming Masculinities in British Art 1750–1810 (2005) and Making the Modern Artist: Culture, Class and Art-Educational Opportunity in Romantic Britain (2020), both published by the Paul Mellon Centre.

    After undergraduate studies at University College, London, Martin studied art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London. He was awarded an MA in the History of Art in 1994 and his PhD in 1998. He was a long-serving member of the AHRC Peer Review College, has acted as expert advisor to MLA, ACE and DCMS, taught art history at the University of York and the Courtauld Institute and supervised a range of doctoral projects on British art history and theory from the seventeenth century to the present day. He is a trustee of Gainsborough’s House, Sudbury.

    Selected publications

    Books and exhibition catalogues

    With Alice Insley, eds., Hogarth and Europe, Tate Britain, 2021

    Making the Modern Artist: Culture, Class and Art-Educational Opportunity in Romantic Britain, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2020

    With Amy Concannon, eds., William Blake, Tate Britain, 2019

    With Mark Hallett and Nigel Llewellyn, eds., Court, Country, City: British Art and Architecture, 1660–1740, Yale University Press for the Paul Mellon Centre, 2016

    With Ruth Kenny and Jeff McMillan, British Folk Art, Tate Britain, 2014

    ed., John Martin: Apocalypse, Tate Britain, 2011

    ed., Gothic Nightmares: Fuseli, Blake and the Romantic Imagination, Tate Britain, 2006

    Bodybuilding: Reforming Masculinities in British Art, 1750-1810, Yale University Press for the Paul Mellon Centre, 2005

    With Michael Rosenthal, eds., Thomas Gainsborough, Tate Britain, 2002

    With Lucy Peltz, eds., Producing the Past: Aspects of Antiquarian Culture and Practice 1700–1850, Ashgate, 1999

    Essays and chapters

    ‘Painting’ in Jeffrey W. Barbeau, ed., The Cambridge Companion to British Romanticism and Religion, Cambridge University Press 2021, pp. 311–330

    With Anna Cooper, ‘The Social Economics of Artistic Labour: A Technical Case Study of Henry Monro’s Disgrace of Wolsey (1814)’, British Art Studies, Issue 16 (June 2020) https://doi.org/10.17658/issn.2058-5462/issue-16/coopermyrone

    'Coda: Romantic Illustration and the Privatization of History Painting’ in Ian Haywood, Susan Matthews and Mary L. Shannon, eds., Romanticism and illustration, Cambridge University Press, 2019, pp. 298–302

    ‘Blake the Artist: at Tate and Abroad’ in Morton D. Paley and Sibylle Erle, eds., The Reception of William Blake in Europe, 2 vols, Bloomsbury Academic 2018, vol. 2, pp. 685–698

    ‘Blake the Painter’, in Sarah Haggarty, ed., William Blake in Context, Cambridge University Press, 2018, pp. 70–78

    ‘William Blake as a Student of the Royal Academy: A Prosopographical Perspective’, Blake an Illustrated Quarterly, 51:2 (Fall 2017) http://blakequarterly.org/index.php/blake/issue/current

    ‘Drawing after the Antique at the British Museum, 1809–1817: “Free” Art Education and the Advent of the Liberal State’, British Art Studies, Issue 5 (3 April 2017), https://doi.org/10.17658/issn.2058-5462/issue-05/mmyrone

    ‘William Blake’s Sodomites’ in Diana Dethloff et al., eds., Burning Bright: Essays in Honour of David Bindman, UCL Press 2015, pp.136–145, http://www.ucl.ac.uk/ucl-press/browse-books/burning-bright

    ‘"Something Too Academical": The Problem with Etty', in Sarah Burnage, Mark Hallett and Laura Turner, eds., William Etty: Art and Controversy, York Museums Trust, 2011, pp. 47–59

    'The Body of the Blasphemer' in Helen P. Bruder and Tristanne Connolly, eds., Queer Blake, Palgrave Macmillan 2010, pp. 74–86

    ‘Henry Fuseli and Gothic Spectacle’, Huntington Library Quarterly, 70:2 (2007), pp. 289–310

    ‘The Sublime as Spectacle: The Transformation of Ideal Art at Somerset House’ in David Solkin, ed., Art on the Line: The Royal Academy Exhibitions at Somerset House, 1780–1836, Yale University Press for the Paul Mellon Centre, 2001, pp. 77–91

  • Mark Searle_crop

    After studying Archaeology and Classics at Edinburgh University, Mark Searle completed a Post-Graduate Diploma in the Conservation of wood, stone and decorative surfaces at City of Guilds of London Art School in 2015. Since graduation, Mark has worked as a frame conservator for the National Trust, National Maritime Museum, City of London and Houses of Parliament. Mark has worked for Tate since 2018.


  1. David Carrier, Museum Skepticism: A History of the Display of Art in Public Galleries, Durham, N.C., and London: Duke University Press, 2006, p. 51.

  2. See David Mannings and Martin Postle, Sir Joshua Reynolds: A Complete Catalogue of his Paintings, 2 vols, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000, vol. 1, no. 946.

  3. Letter from Sir Joshua Reynolds to Frederick, 5th Earl of Carlisle, 2 November 1775, in John Ingamells and John Edgcumbe, eds, The Letters of Sir Joshua Reynolds, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000, p. 58.

  4. Letter from George Selwyn to the Earl of Carlisle, 17 October 1775, Historical Manuscripts Commission, 15th Report, ‘The Manuscripts of the Earl of Carlisle, preserved at Castle Howard’, London, 1897, appendix, pt vi, p. 296.

  5. Ibid.

  6. Ellis Waterhouse quoted in Gervase Jackson-Stops, The Treasure Houses of Britain: Five Hundred Years of Private Patronage and Art Collecting, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, 1985, p. 544.

  7. Mannings and Postle 2000, vol. 1, no. 945. Payment of 35 guineas was recorded by Reynolds in July 1767. This is presumably the likeness by Reynolds referred to by Selwyn in a letter of January 1768 as preferred by Lady Carlisle over another portrait, probably that painted by Greuze in Paris later in 1767; ‘Manuscripts of the Earl of Carlisle’ 1897, pp. 233–4.

  8. While in Paris and then travelling to Italy Carlisle was constantly updated on progress and repeatedly reassured that the investiture would take place. That assurance was finally in place in a letter he must have received at the very beginning of 1768. See letter from Sir William Mulgrave to the Earl of Carlisle, 24 December 1767, noting that George III had ‘signed all the proper instruments appointing you one of the brethren of the Order, so that you are actually a Knight, wanting only the Investiture’; ‘Manuscripts of the Earl of Carlisle’ 1897, p. 223.

  9. Letter from the Earl of Carlisle to George Selwyn, 3 February 1768, in John Heneage Jesse, ed., George Selwyn and his Contemporaries with Memoirs and Notes, 3 vols, London: Richard Bentley, 1843–44, vol. 2, pp. 249–50.

  10. Letter from the Earl of Carlisle to George Selwyn, 16 December 1767, ibid., p. 208. See also Brinsley Ford, ‘Portraits of the English Abroad in Countries Other than Italy’, Studies in the History of Art, vol. 25, Symposium Papers X: The Fashioning and Functioning of the British Country House (1989), p. 101.

  11. Letter from George Selwyn to the Earl of Carlisle, 15 January 1768, ‘Manuscripts of the Earl of Carlisle’ 1897, p. 229.

  12. See Mark Hallett, ‘The Academy Quartet: Joshua Reynolds in 1769’, in Sarah Monks, John Barrell and Mark Hallett, eds, Living with the Royal Academy: Artistic Ideals and Experiences in England, 1768–1848, Farnham: Ashgate, 2013, pp. 25–52.

  13. Martin Postle, ‘An Early Unpublished Letter by Sir Joshua Reynolds’, Apollo, no. 141, June 1995, pp. 11–18.

  14. See David H. Solkin, ‘Great Pictures or Great Men? Reynolds, Male Portraiture, and the Power of Art’, Oxford Art Journal, vol. 9, no. 2 (1986), pp. 42–9. See also Mark Hallett, Reynolds: Portraiture in Action, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2014, pp. 98–104.

  15. Reynolds noted payment of 150 guineas for ‘Lord Carlisle, whole length’ on 6 September 1775, with a note ‘Frame Pd.’; Mannings and Postle 2000, vol. 1, no. 946.

  16. On Maratta frames see Paul Mitchell and Lynn Roberts, A History of European Picture Frames, London: Merrell Holberton, 1996, p. 65.

  17. Cross-section shows that in this area the bole layer (the clay-based underlayer to the gilding) is very thick: this would have provided extra cushioning to allow for the gilding to be highly burnished.

  18. Visitor in 1796 quoted in Mannings and Postle 2000, vol. 1, p. 266.

  19. If so, this would repeat the situation detected by Waterhouse in Reynolds’s portrait of Philip Gell with a dog, exhibited in 1763, ‘a deliberate answer to Gainsborough’s William Poyntz’ shown in 1762; Ellis Waterhouse, Reynolds, London: Phaidon Press, 1973, p. 23, but see also Mannings and Postle 2000, vol. 1, no. 713, who question the chronology and point to a common source in Van Dyck’s full-length of Algernon Percy, 10th Earl of Northumberland. In his recent studies, Mark Hallett has argued that Reynolds made knowing use of ‘temporal sequencing’ in the public display of his portraits, relating his own works to one another in successive exhibitions as well as setting out to rival his contemporaries; ‘Reynolds, Celebrity and the Exhibition Space’, in Martin Postle, ed., Joshua Reynolds: The Creation of Celebrity, exh. cat., London: Tate Britain, 2005, pp. 35–7, and Hallett 2014.

  20. A reference point for such a portrait conception would be Reynolds’s contemporary portrait of Sir Richard Piers Symons (1769–70); Mannings and Postle 2000, vol. 1, no. 1729.

  21. Mannings notes that there are records of portraits in this smaller format being undertaken in this way, according to the first-hand account of a sitter of 1754 ‘without making any previous sketch or outline’; ‘Reynolds’s Oil Sketches’, The Burlington Magazine, vol. 133, no. 1061 (August 1991), pp. 491–2. That painting was his portrait of Robert D’Arcy, 4th Earl of Holdernesse (Mannings and Postle 2000, vol. 1, no. 472), which is of the same dimensions as the 1767 portrait of Carlisle.

  22. Lord Carlisle quoted in Jesse 1843–44, vol. 2, p. 208.

  23. Mannings and Postle note further appointments in 1772 and 1773, although they do not regard these as sittings and imply that they may be related instead to the double portrait of the Earl with Selwyn; Mannings and Postle 2000, vol. 1, no. 947. Lady Carlisle sat for her portrait with Reynolds in 1770–72, that portrait being paid for in September 1775 together with the full-length of her husband; ibid., no. 955.

  24. Ernest Fletcher, ed., Conversations of James Northcote RA with James Ward, London: Methuen & Co., 1901, p. 75. Jackson was John Jackson, portrait painter, who moved to London from Yorkshire in 1804. The reference indicates that the painting had been moved down to Jackson’s studio for him to copy. His partial copy, a three-quarter length, is at Eton College; http://collections.etoncollege.com/object-fda-p-59-2010 (accessed 19 July 2019). On Reynolds’s technique and studio practice see M. Kirby Talley, Jr, ‘“All Good Pictures Crack”: Sir Joshua Reynolds’s Practice and Studio’, in Nicholas Penny, ed., Reynolds, exh. cat., London: Royal Academy of Arts, 1986, pp. 55–70; Joshua Reynolds in the National Gallery and the Wallace Collection, National Gallery Technical Bulletin 35 (2014); Lucy Davis and Mark Hallett, eds, Joshua Reynolds: Experiments in Paint, exh. cat., London: Wallace Collection, 2015.

  25. Letter from George Selwyn to Lord Carlisle, 17 October 1775, ‘Manuscripts of the Earl of Carlisle’ 1897, p. 296. See also Matthew C. Hunter’s suggestive arguments regarding the deterioration of paintings being accepted as a risk with positive associations by Reynolds’s patrons; ‘The Cunning of Sir Sloshua: Reynolds, the Sea and Risk’, in Matthew C. Hunter, ed., ‘Liquid Intelligence’, special issue, Grey Room, no. 69 (Fall 2017), pp. 80–107.

  26. As a result of his use of the fugitive pigment carmine, a lake pigment made from cochineal dye which faded away within sitters’ lifetimes, leaving faces looking grey and flat. The most striking and prominent examples of such deterioration may be Reynolds’s portrait of Anne, 2nd Countess of Albermarle (National Gallery, London) and the pair of Beckford portraits at Tate. See Joshua Reynolds in the National Gallery and the Wallace Collection, cat. no. 3, and H. Brett et al., ‘“I can see no vermilion in flesh”: Sir Joshua Reynolds’ Portraits of Francis Beckford and Suzanna Beckford, 1755–56’, in Marika Spring, ed., Studying Old Master Paintings: Technology and Practice, London: National Gallery Technical Bulletin, 2011, pp. 201–8.

  27. These drying cracks appear when the surface of the paint dries and hardens before the lower layers: these latter contract as they dry, pulling apart the dried skin of paint above, forming the characteristic ragged shape of the cracks. This can occur when paint becomes very thick, and can be exacerbated by the use of paint additives which accelerate drying such as metal salt ‘driers’ and resins.

  28. For details of George Morrill and his successors see Jacob Simon’s ‘British Picture Restorers, 1600–1950’, www.npg.org.uk/research/programmes/directory-of-british-picture-restorers/british-picture-restorers-1600-1950-m (accessed 19 July 2019).

  29. Moating is the effect when a piece of hard impasto is pushed into the surrounding paint softened by heat during lining, leaving a depression around the impasto, like a little moat.

  30. As drying oil ages chemically, it yellows due to the formation of species which are fluorescent when viewed in ultraviolet light. This is useful to the conservator, as it makes newer paint appear dark when superimposed on older surfaces.

  31. The Athenaeum, 28 October 1876, p. 566.

  32. Lord Carlisle’s hand is very cracked because Reynolds adjusted its position during painting and the cracks are heavily overpainted. Some of the overpaint is a bright pink in contrast to the orangey paint below and it is possible that this indicates the discolouration of the original paint due to the fading of a red pigment.

  33. These tiny cracks are an example of microcissing, where the paint dried too soon, while volatile materials were still vortexing out, resulting in a cellular pattern of cracks. See R. Jones et al., ‘Observations on Drying Crackle and Microcissing in Early and Mid-Eighteenth-Century British Paintings’, in A. Waller, ed., Painting Techniques: History, Materials and Studio Practice, Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 2013, pp. 174–81.

  34. While the front hollow has its original gilding scheme present, samples taken from the convex top edge revealed that there were at least two earlier gilding schemes under the visible gilding at the surface. These reworkings at the top edge are likely to have been because of this section’s particular vulnerability to damage in handling and use. The present surface was well executed and appears to have significantly aged. Therefore, the restorations may have been very early in the frame’s life-history.

  35. The splits in the wood were adhered in position with fish glue and the flaking gilding was consolidated with a weak rabbit-skin glue applied with a brush. The loose leaf-and-shield carving on the left member was stabilised back in position using brass pins, nailed into the existing nail holes.

  36. The bronze paint was removed with swabs of benzyl alcohol. The engrained dirt on the oil-gilded leaf-and-shield carving was reduced with swabs of 1% (weight/volume) tri-ammonium citrate in deionised water, while the engrained dirt on the water-gilt top edge was reduced with swabs of saliva.

  37. The losses were filled with gesso putty (composed of rabbit-skin glue made into a thick paste with whiting) and sanded flush with the adjacent surviving decorative scheme with abrasive papers. The bole was colour-matched using dry pigments and rabbit-skin glue and the fills were then water-gilded. The aim of this treatment was aesthetic reintegration so as not to be clearly visible between the surviving original and the new fills. Therefore, the fresh gilding was distressed with swabs of wire wool and toned with watercolour and Golden Fluid Acrylic.



by Helen Brett, Martin Myrone and Mark Searle
20 November 2020
House Essay
CC BY-NC International 4.0
Cite as
Helen Brett, Martin Myrone, Mark Searle, "Home and Away: Joshua Reynolds’s Portrait of Frederick, 5th Earl of Carlisle", Art and the Country House, https://doi.org/10.17658/ACH/CHE527