FEATURE image: Joshua Reynolds, Richard Eliot (1733-1746), 1743-44, 48.2 x 43 cm, Private Collection. See no. 4 below for the painting’s story.
Notes by John P. Walsh
Reverend Mr. Thomas Smart was Vicar of Maker when, in 1735, 11-year-old Joshua Reynolds painted his portrait. It was the same year the sitter died. This print is a much later derivation of the oil on canvas in a private collection. With art materials provided by George, 1st Earl of Mount Edgcumbe (1720-1795), it is traditionally believed to be Reynolds’s first painting.
Reginald Pole (1717-1769), son of a Devon clergyman and his wife, married a woman whose brother was painted by Reynolds. The 26-year-old sitter wears a blue velvet coat.
The sitter was an attorney in north Devon at Bideford who helped Reynolds secure an apprenticeship to English portrait painter Thomas Hudson (1701-1779). This picture is identified as a young Reynolds’s work based on an August 1743 letter from his father to Cutcliffe.
The attentive young subject is a midshipman in the British navy.
Richard Edgcumbe, son of Sir Richard Edgcumbe, became at 22 years old MP from Plympton where he served for 32 years. He was a reliable ally to long-serving British prime minister Sir Robert Walpole (1676-1745). Edgcumbe married in 1715 but six years later was a widower. Reynolds’ painting was destroyed by bombing in World War II.
Reynolds’ blood uncle’s wife’s sister. Though called “Mrs.,” the sitter never married.
An early example of the artist’s use of the profile. Mary Fletcher married Walter Kendall of Cornwall in 1740.
The identity of the sitter in a blue dress is uncertain. She may be an in-law of Walter Kendall.
Part of a collection of 6 or 7 Kendall family portraits painted in 1744 when Reynolds was 21 years old.
Walter Kendall was Plymouth Dock’s town clerk.
Elizabeth Murray married John Kerley, a town official of Plymouth. Their son became a captain in the Royal Navy.
Edward Eliot was MP for Cornwall and a life-long friend of Reynolds. Described as lively, very clever and most agreeable, 50 years later he was a pall-bearer at Reynolds’ funeral.
Wife to Rev. Josiah Foote, Rector of Antony and Kingsteignton in South Devon, the sitter is also the mother of Captain John Foote.
Rosse was an Irish peer whose portrait was painted in London likely. He married Olivia Edwards in 1754. The composition is derived from a portrait of James Stuart, Duke of Richmond and Lennox, c. 1634–35 by Anthony van Dyck (Flemish, 1599–1641). The van Dyck hangs today in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Clotworth Skeffington’s portrait was painted in London perhaps. It was Reynolds’ most ambitious painting to date.
Sir William had his portrait painted other artists. In Italy in 1729 and 1730 he collected Canalettos. In 1731 he married Lady Lucy Wharton. They divorced in 1738. In 1741 he married Anna Bury. In 1745 Reynolds painted Sir William wearing a brownish silk tunic and grey cloak with a red velvet hat lined in fur.
Family tradition identifies this as a young girl who married in 1769 and died in childbirth soon after.