View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
Jonathan Richardson 1667–1745
Mr Drake of Shardeloes
Pencil on vellum or parchment
180 x 140 mm
Inscribed in ink, on the paper on which the vellum drawing has been mounted, ‘Mr Drake of Charlos’; in pencil, on the reverse of the vellum, ‘Mr Drake / 28 Oct. 1734 / JR (monogram)’.
Purchased as part of the Oppé Collection with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund 1996
… ; acquired by A.P. Oppé, June 1925; by family descent until bought by Tate 1996.
If certainly identified, the young child represented here is William Drake (1723–1796), the eldest surviving son of Montague Garrard Drake, MP for Amersham and Buckinghamshire. In 1734, the date inscribed on the reverse of the drawing, William would have been only eleven years old but had inherited his father’s estate on the latter’s death in 1728. Documents among the Tyrwhitt-Drake papers in the Centre for Buckingham Studies show that he was under the guardianship of his mother Isabella, the daughter of Thomas Marshall, a London merchant, and his father’s executors.1 The Drake estate included the mansion of Shardeloes, near Amersham, purchased in 1665, which William was later to remodel according to the plans of Stiff Leadbetter and Robert Adam.
This delicate, carefully executed drawing is typical of the pencil portraits on vellum produced by Richardson, mainly in the 1730s. They were not drawn from life, but based on preliminary ad vivum sketches that had been executed rapidly, usually in ink. Some, however, were copied from drawings or paintings that were several years old. The inscribed date here, 1734, records the date of the pencil on vellum drawing, not necessarily the date of the original from which it was taken or on which it was based.2 In the 1730s there seems to have been a rejuvenated fashion for highly finished, intimate portrait drawings in the manner of David Loggan or Thomas Forster, for which both George White and Isaac Whood found a ready market. Whether Richardson made his detailed vellum portraits as commissions or as gifts, or solely for his own amusement, remains unresolved. He certainly retained a vast number of them in his own collection, many of them self-portraits or portraits of his son, but also of friends and associates.3 In 1731 Richardson’s poetess friend, Catherine Knapp, is recorded as living in Buckinghamshire with a companion, Mrs Drake.4 Whether there is a connection between the latter and the Drakes of Shardeloes is not known.