A Gentleman in a Green Jacket
Topic: Artist

This looks as if it could be by Arthur Devis (1712–1787) or at least in his style. Devis often painted outdoor portraits of standing men in a similar pose, although his figures tend to be more slender.

The small size of the picture also fits the work of Devis, as does the doll-like quality of the figure (compared to a "figurine" by Martin Hopkinson in a prior discussion), the rather awkwardly posed stance, and the kind of sitter Devis depicted – members of the landed gentry.

Whether intentional or not, a picture by Devis would "belong" in Manchester because he was a Lancashire artist (born in Preston), and the sitter may well have been from the Preston area.

See below for comparison:

Jacinto Regalado, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. We have been unable to find a convincing attribution for this portrait, but it has been more accurately dated to c.1775–1780 based on details of the sitter’s jacket, waistcoat and wig.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion. To anyone viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.


Whaley Turco,

I do have to wonder though, did Gainsborough steal the cocked hat from him or was it the other way around. Nice to see everything has always been the same.

Jacinto Regalado,

Kieran, the portrait of William Monson and his wife is by Arthur William Devis (1762-1822), the son of Arthur Devis, who was a more accomplished painter than his father (and it shows in this picture, despite the similar male pose, which the son handles more gracefully).

Jacinto Regalado,

As for the portrait of Henry Wilson also linked by Kieran, that does look like the work of Arthur Devis père, and I expect it has been misattributed to the son (unless it is a very early work by the latter). Again, the pose is the same, but the doll-like quality is much more typical of the father.

Jacinto Regalado,

I considered Zoffany, but he did not use this pose much if at all (while Devis used it very often) and this picture fits Devis better.

I expect Manchester will have extensive files on this picture with expert opinions gathered over the years. It is likely that the obvious possibilities have been discounted - I don't see obvious signs of the quality of Zoffany or either Devis. The pose is surely just characteristic of the period.

Jacinto Regalado,

Any input from the collection would be most welcome and obviously relevant, and I hope it is forthcoming. The pose per se proves nothing, but it is highly characteristic of full-length male portraits by Devis, and that was certainly not my only reason for thinking of him. Devis was never on the same level as Zoffany and was long forgotten after his death; his "revival" was due to his limitations, which happen to impart a certain naive charm to his work.

Osmund Bullock,

The portrait's previous discussion on AD is here: https://bit.ly/2RSvyKG

This doesn't look like either Devis to me. Certainly it has little in common with Devis père's works in the 1750s-60s, and I'm not sure comparisons with those help much: in those the figures and their faces were indeed doll-like, but I can't see any of that here myself. As for pose and surroundings, this is a common type for the period, as Andrew says; variations on the theme can be found in portraits by many, many artists - a much larger canvas, but here's a forebear of mine holding much the same one in reverse: https://bit.ly/2RVbgjW

Osmund Bullock,

Sorry, yes - when I opened the thread just now I spotted it immediately, even before I read your post!

Jacinto Regalado,

I considered Mortimer, Louis, but I thought he was better than this picture. The same applies to Francis Wheatley. It did bother me somewhat that this sitter looks more robust than most of Devis's subjects, but there are exceptions. I also considered the rather obscure Edward Haytley (active 1740-1764), who may have come from Lancashire but may be a little too early. Some Haytley portraits below:



Jacinto Regalado,

I suppose there must be a Devis expert who could contribute here.

Naomi Parfitt,

Is there any information on the sitter? And also what are the dimensions of the painting?

Jacinto Regalado,

Dimensions are 60.5 x 50.2 cm. Presumably the sitter is unknown, but we have not heard from the collection as to whatever information they may have in their files, if any.

Naomi, please click 'More information' (above right, beneath title, artist and collection) to see details such as the medium and support, size and acquisition method. If these are known to Art UK, they will be displayed.

Jacinto Regalado,

As has been noted previously, we really do need to know what information Manchester has on this picture in its files if we are going to make any progress. Can the collection be contacted about this?

The collection has been asked for snapshots of the reverse and frame, if possible. There is further information about this picture from the collection in the linked discussion, which suggested Henry Pickering as a possible artist.

Manchester Art Gallery,

We do have an image that includes the frame but I don't think that will tell you much. An image of the back is a bigger ask with tier 3 lockdown but I shall see what is possible. We shall investigate the files. Apologies in the delay in joining the conversation.

1 attachment
Jacinto Regalado,

I know this dated c. 1770 by the collection, but it would be desirable to have a fashion expert such as Lou Taylor address the dating.

Jacinto Regalado,

While the head is fairly well done, the body is awkward, especially in terms of anatomical proportions. On that basis, I would certainly exclude Henry Pickering, whose work was clearly better in that respect. Benjamin Wilson is less unlikely but probably not right, either.

Jacinto Regalado,

Given the interest he's shown in the work of Zoffany, for instance, plus the fact he's Group Leader for British 18th century portraits, I should think Bendor Grosvenor could give a relevant opinion here.

Louis Musgrove,

Well- if Bendor is not available- could I point out that the thin shins and small feet( an optical effect) are reminiscent of the work of Gilbert Stuart.

Lou Taylor, Dress and Textiles,

I would suggest a date of c 1775- 80 for this portrait.Style clues are the slimness of the jacket and sleeves, the shorter waistcoat, larger buttons, the shape of the collar- painted here unbuttoned; jacket is wool, breeches maybe silk; powdered wig style matches date of 1775-1780. things informal country wear...

Jacinto Regalado,

Lou's dates tend to exclude Henry Pickering, who died c. 1771. Devis died in 1787.

Dear Manchester Art Gallery

Further to your kind comment on 28/10/20 could I ask if a photograph of the back or further investigation of the files was possible or not in that short window before the second lockdown? Thank you.

Marcie Doran,

Is it possible that the artist was George Romney (1734-1802)? He lived in Kendal and it is only 1.5 hours northwest of Manchester. Could the work be from as early as 1760? I have attached composites for the following two works:

“Captain Robert Banks”
125 cm x 102.6 cm
Abbot Hall, Kendal
Similarities include: the faded background, the foliage at the front right of the portrait, the pose, the collar of the coat, and the stockings.

“Portrait of a Man”
between 1758 and 1760
64.1 cm x 56.8 cm
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Similarities include: the faded background, the pose, the stockings and the shoes. The mystery painting might be the earlier of the two, which would account for the sitter’s small right hand and small left shoe.

Jacinto Regalado,

It would have to be an early work, Marcie. I suppose it is not inconceivable, but it would be hard to prove without more evidence, which would definitely require a Romney specialist.

Jacob Simon,

There have been two discussions on this portrait. In 2014, “Could this work be by Henry Pickering, who worked in Lancashire?” when no conclusion was reached. And now, since 2019, “Could the artist be Arthur Devis?”, to which the general response is rather mixed and often unsupportive. For my own part, I'm hesitant.

Time to close the discussion, once more on the basis that no conclusion was reached?

Manchester Art Gallery,

Dear Art Detectives
I have at long last peered into our file on the work. Sorry for the delay.
I hate to disappoint, but it is flimsy - see my comment on the previous discussion. There is a slip of paper in red biro on which a curator has written, 'Benjamin Wilson? Witt Library - nothing corresponds closely enough - Wilson tends to use a more fussy drapery style.'
There is also a picture inspection report from 1969. It gives the following information on the labels on the reverse:
1 stretcher, label: The Cooling Galleries
2 stretcher, label: biographical note on Zoffany
3 stretcher, label: 3795-6-1149 / R134
4 verso, inscr: A/1536
5 stretcher, stamped and inscr: 9642 CUE/iEE

The report shows that right from its acquisition (in 1968 from Thomas Balston via the Art Fund) no-one has had any ideas about the sitter. He is merely described as 'middle-aged man'.

The picture is unsigned.

Unless that gives anyone any clues, I am content to close the discussion as inconclusive. I will happily take Lou's update of our suggested date for the work and change it on our records from c1770 to c1775-80, if you agree.

Sadly, despite two discussions, no conclusion can be reached as to a convincing attribution for this portrait of c. 1775-80. None of the prominent portraitists of the period seem to be serious possibilities.