Joseph Highmore

A Gentleman in a Brown Velvet Coat


Not on display

Joseph Highmore 1692–1780
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1265 × 1005 mm
Purchased 1925

Catalogue entry

N04107 A Gentleman in a Brown Velvet Coat 1747

Oil on canvas 1265×1005 (49 3/4×39 1/2)
Inscribed ‘Jos: Highmore pinx: 1747’ l.r.
Purchased (Florence Fund) by the National Gallery 1925; transferred to the Tate Gallery 1949
PROVENANCE ...; anon. sale, Robinson's 27 June 1912 (105) bt Knoedler, sold by them to America the same year and bt back 1923, sold to the National Gallery
EXHIBITED Kenwood 1963 (22)
LITERATURE Mrs Steuart Erskine, ‘Joseph Highmore’, Studio, XCIII, 1927, p.86, repr. p.88; J.W. Scobell Armstrong, ‘Joseph Highmore, Painter and Author’, Connoisseur, LXXXVI, 1930, p.213, repr. p.247; Charles R. Beard, ‘Highmore's Scrapbook’, Connoisseur, XCIII, 1934, p.296; Davies 1946, p.65; C.H. Collins-Baker, ‘Devis, Scott and Highmore’, Antiques, 67, 1955, p.46; David Mannings, ‘A Well-Mannered Portrait by Highmore’, Connoisseur, CLXXXIX, 1975, p.116, fig.1; Lewis 1975, II, pp.531–2, no.231, III, fig.144

One of Highmore's most elegant and successful three-quarter lengths, it is posed, as has been pointed out by Mannings, in a classically well-bred eighteenth-century attitude which ‘... will permit the right Hand to place itself in the Waistcoat easy and genteel ...’, as prescribed in F. Nivelon's The Rudiments of Genteel Behaviour, published in 1737. This particular stance is described in minute detail and illustrated in plate 1 of this booklet, along with many others which can be observed in one form or another in most early eighteenth-century portraits. That such modifications reflected genuine habits of deportment can be seen in the popularity of stock poses such as this, which Highmore used repeatedly as, for instance, in the portrait of Samuel Richardson, dated 1747, belonging to the Worshipful Company of Stationers. The pose and dress is repeated, fold for fold, in the portrait of ‘Mr Freeman Flower’, signed and dated 1747, except that either the picture or the composition has been cut about 12in. (305mm) at the bottom (exhibited Agnew, March–April 1978 (50)).

Beard's (1934) suggestion that the portrait represents the lexicographer James Harris is not tenable. A companion portrait of ‘A Lady’ in the 1912 sale (lot 104) remains untraced.

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


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