John Vanderbank

A Youth of the Lee Family, Probably William Lee of Totteridge Park


Not on display

John Vanderbank 1694–1739
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1679 × 1068 mm
Purchased 1982

Display caption

This dramatic portrait

probably represents William Lee of Totteridge Park, near Barnet. At the time it was painted Lee would have been around thirteen years old. It is among John Vanderbank’s latest works, showing his characteristic use of brilliant colour and the stylistic influence of Rubens and van Dyck. In addition to his prominence as a painter, Vanderbank played an important role in the formation of an art academy

in St Martin’s Lane during the 1720s. His career was, however, blighted by debt and drunkenness.

Gallery label, February 2010

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Catalogue entry

T03539 A Youth of the Lee Family, probably William Lee of Totteridge Park 1738

Oil on canvas 1679×1068 (66 1/2×42 1/8)
Inscribed ‘Jno. Vanderbank Fecit 1738.’ b.l.
Purchased (Grant-in-Aid) 1982
PROVENANCE ...; by descent to Mrs Benedict Eyre (neé Lee) of Hartwell House, sold Sotheby's 26 April 1938 (27c) bt M. Harris; ...; the Duke of Kent by February 1939; by descent to the Duchess of Kent, sold Christie's 14 March 1947 (58) bt Middleton; ...; Lord Hesketh, sold Sotheby's 21 November 1979 (104, repr.); ...; anon. sale Sotheby's 10 November 1982 (18, repr.) bt by Tate Gallery
LITERATURE W.H.Smyth, Aedes Hartwellianae, 1851, p.96; Kerslake 1977, I, p.166 (for ?the sitter's father)

At the Hartwell House sale in 1938 this was thought to represent William Lee Antonie of Colworth MP (1756–1815), but this is evidently impossible in view of the date of the painting. The subject is more likely to be his father, William Lee of Totteridge Park (1726–78), who would have been around twelve or thirteen at the time this portrait was painted. His father was Sir William Lee of Hartwell (1688–1754), Lord Chief Justice and Privy Councillor from 1737, in which year he also was knighted. It may be significant that he was also painted by Vanderbank in 1738; the original of several copies was in the Hartwell sale of 1938, lot 49, and was also bought by M. Harris (a copy is reproduced in Kerslake 1977, II, figs.458, 489). William was his only son by his first wife Anne Goodwin (d.1729) and inherited the manor of Totteridge, near Barnet, which the Lord Chief Justice purchased in 1748. From 1827, after the male Lee line became extinct, both Hartwell and Totteridge Park were vested in the female line of the Chief Justice's descendants.

It is also possible that the painting could represent one of the sons of the Lord Chief Justice's brother, Sir Thomas Lee, Bart (1687–1749), either Thomas (1722–d.s.p. 1740) or Sir William, 4th Bart (1726–99).
William Lee of Totteridge Park married Philadelphia, daughter of Sir Thomas Dyke, Bart, of Lullingstone Castle, and died on 13 August 1778, aged fifty-two. Both he and his wife are buried in Hartwell Church.
The painting is in a dramatic white and gold frame of c. 1750, decorated with carved swags of drapery and flowers, topped with an eagle, that was en suite with other frames and furniture original to Hartwell.
Vanderbank, who consciously affected the manner of Rubens and Van Dyck, appears to have based this composition on Van Dyck's renowned portrait of Philippe le Roy, Seigneur de Ravels (Wallace Collection, London).

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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