Catalogue entry

T03065 The Schutz Family and their Friends on a Terrace 1725

Oil on canvas 1022×1257 (40 1/4×49 1/2)
Inscribed ‘Ph:Mercier Pinxit. An: 1725.’ b.r.
Purchased (Grant-in-Aid) 1980
PROVENANCE ...;? painted for Baron Georg Wilhelm Schutz of Shotover House, Oxford; by descent to George Vandeput Drury 1839; his creditors' sale (Chancery Court case Spickernell v. Hotham and others) Farebrother, Clarke and Lye, 6th day, 26 October 1855 (663); ...; Dr W.E. Biscoe, Holton Park, Oxford; according to Randall Davies, sold from Biscoe collection before 1907 (but not in Biscoe sale, Christie's 20 June 1896); ...; J. Pierpont Morgan sale, Christie's 31 March 1944 (133) bt Knoedler; ...; Viscount Rothermere by 1946, sold Christie's 22 November 1974 (94, repr.) bt Leger, from whom bt by Tate Gallery
EXHIBITED AC tour 1946 (6, repr.); York and Kenwood 1969 (11, repr.); Old Master Paintings, Leger Galleries 1977 (7, repr. in col.)
LITERATURE Randall Davies, English Society of the 18th Century in Contemporary Art, 1907, p.38; Ralph Edwards, ‘Mercier's Music Party’, Burlington Magazine, XC, 1948, p.308; Waterhouse 1953, pp.141, 148 n.2; John Ingamells, ‘A Hanoverian Party on a Terrace by Philip Mercier’, Burlington Magazine, CXVIII, 1976, pp.511–15, fig.93; Waterhouse 1978, p.188; Ingamells & Raines 1978, p.31, no.85, pl.12a (detail), p.64, no.279, pl.126

The painting is thought to represent various members of the Schutz family of Hanover and their friends, in a setting that is emblematic of the legitimacy of the Hanoverian Succession.
The exact identification of the individual figures remains unclear, but in 1907 Randall Davies cited an undocumented source (possibly an old label, now lost) which stated that the group included ‘Baron and Lady Schutz, Dr Tessier, Mrs Blunt, the daughter of Sir Timothy Tyrell, Mrs Bensoin, Colonel Schutz, and Count Betmere’.

Ingamells (1976 and 1978) identifies them (together with their ultimate appointments at Court) as Augustus Schutz (c. 1693–1757), Keeper of the Privy Purse and Master of the Robes to George II; his wife Penelope, née Madan, formerly ward of General James Tyrrell of Shotover, Lady in Waiting to Queen Caroline; Dr George Lewis Tessier of Celle (naturalised 1705, d.1742), Physician in Ordinary to George II and his Household; Colonel Johann Schutz (d.1773), younger brother of Augustus, Keeper of the Privy Purse and Master of the Robes to Frederick, Prince of Wales; and either Count Hans Caspar von Bothmar (1656–1732), principal Advisor to George I, or his son, who was a close friend of the Schutzes.

There is some difficulty in accepting the suggested identification ‘Mrs Blunt’ as Eleanor Blount, née Tyrell, wife of Charles Blount of Tittenhanger, Herts., as according to DNB sources she pre-deceased her husband who died in 1693. Also, a daughter of Sir Timothy Tyrrell would be likely to be at least in her seventies by the date of this picture, an age difficult to reconcile with the appearance of any of the sitters. For the unidentifiable ‘Mrs Bensoin’ one could, however, suggest Eleanor Benson, second wife of William Benson (1682–1754), engineer and amateur architect, Auditor of the Imprest and briefly, in 1718, successor as Surveyor General to Sir Christopher Wren. Benson was closely associated with the Hanoverian court and was involved in the design of the famous fountains of the Palace of Electors of Hanover at Herrenhausen.

The Shotover provenance lends considerable weight to these identifications, even allowing for the probability that by 1907 they may have become somewhat garbled in detail. The setting was then wrongly identified as Shotover House, Oxfordshire, which passed from the Tyrrells to the Schutzes on General James Tyrrell's death in 1742. Ingamells suggests that the building in the background is a schematic representation of the Banqueting House in Whitehall and stands for the Stuart dynasty. By the same token, the orange tree in the garden urn would symbolise William III and the House of Orange, while the white horse being led forward in the middle distance could represent the House of Hanover, whose device was a horse courant argent.

The picture has also the appearance of being a wedding portrait, with the richly dressed groom in the centre leading his bride, dressed in pink, with white flowers in her hair, from one family group to another. If the couple were, as Ingamells suggests, Penelope and Augustus Schutz (whose exact wedding date is unknown, but is variously put as 1717 and 1727), then it would be possible to see the gentleman standing with them, one hand on the bridegroom's shoulder, the other pointing to the horse and groom, as General James Tyrrell, whose ward and heiress the bride was. He was promoted Colonel in 1709 and Brigadier-General in 1727, so that his military-style scarlet coat could represent the imprecise uniform of his day. The greyhound may be a family device, as a greyhound courant argent was part of their descendants' arms by the nineteenth century (see Burke's Landed Gentry, 1846, under Vere-Drury).

According to Vertue, Mercier came to London in 1715–6 ‘recommended by the Court at Hanover’; he remained closely associated with it until the mid-1730s. He brought with him a small-scale genre style which took its inspiration from France in general, and from Watteau in particular. This, one of his earliest dated paintings, shows its Watteauesque affinities in the drily delicate handling and colour, and is one of his most elegant and complex works on this scale. It is also one of the earliest examples of the informal small-scale portrait group or conversation piece, which was soon to develop into one of the most characteristic native British genres of the eighteenth century.

A red chalk study by Mercier, again very close to the manner of Watteau, for the figure of the seated lady with a book on the extreme left was sold Sotheby's 26 June 1969, lot 45, repr. (see Ingamells & Raines 1978, no.279).


Published in:
Elizabeth Einberg and Judy Egerton, The Age of Hogarth: British Painters Born 1675-1709, Tate Gallery Collections, II, London 1988