Completed Maritime Subjects, Portraits: British 18th C 50 Who is the Royal Naval officer depicted here? Is this certainly by George Romney, or could it be by John Singleton Copley?

Portrait of a Flag Officer, c.1767
Topic: Subject or sitter

Evidenced suggestions would be useful on the identity of this Royal Naval officer, who was at least a rear-admiral when painted in the 1767–83 flag-officer's full dress.

As the National Maritime Museum description states, a portrait of the same man with an inscription identifying him as Admiral Chaloner Ogle (whose d.o. b is variously reported between 1726 and 1738, and who died in 1816) passed through Christie's in 2009 with an attribution as by or after Reynolds.

There is as yet no evidence Reynolds painted Ogle but, as far as the man's features go, the Christie's picture may have been based on the present one, which has a longstanding attribution to Romney. Ogle certainly sat to Romney on four dates in May 1781 and two in June 1782, but what is generally believed to be that portrait has been in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, since 1953:

It is 30 x 25 with an Ogle family provenance to 1928 and clearly shows a different and much sparer man (although in the same uniform, which Ogle would have worn from September 1780). It also bears a later inscription on the back: 'Sir Chaloner Ogle. Brt / Senior Admiral of the Red. / Hs Royal Hs the Duke of Clarence being made / Admiral of the fleet over his head / died 1816' (Ogle had risen to Admiral of the Red by seniority in 1805).

That all looks fairly conclusive (though rather a puzzle that such a small and apparently workaday example by Romney might have taken six sittings over two years to complete). It still however leaves the bigger puzzle of who the subject of this 36 x 28 (kit-kat) canvas might be.

The matter has caused a great deal of confusion already so if there is a discussion, it would be useful to limit it to points of fact (or authoritative attribution) that can be well supported. If it is not Romney (though why not?) might it be Copley?

Pieter van der Merwe, Maritime Subjects, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. The previous attribution to George Romney has been amended to ‘British School’. The title ‘Portrait of a Flag Officer’ has been expanded to ‘A Flag Officer, Previously Thought to be Sir Chaloner Ogle (1729–1816), Admiral of the Red’. The painting description has been updated and the date has been adjusted from c.1767 to 1767–1783.

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.


Elana Messner,

The brushstrokes look too loose to be Copley, IMO. And the softness by the officer's hand is not characteristic, either. Copley's work tends to be tighter, crisper, and glossier. His whites also are bright white, and the white waistcoat here has a myriad of other colors in it.

Kieran Owens,

The London Courier and Evening Gazette, of Wednesday 4th September 1816, carries the following notice:

"On Wednesday last, at his seat at Worthy, in Hampshire, in his 89th year, Sir Chaloner Ogle, Bart., the senior Admiral in the Royal Navy."

"Wednesday last" was the 28th August. Aged 88 in 1816 puts his birth at circa 1728. One genealogical source puts his birth at Martyr Worthy as being on the 2nd January 1726. He was buried at Martyr Worthy on the 2nd September 1816.

Sir Joshua Reynolds died in 1792, when (on the basis of the above) Ogle was 66. Both paintings of him (this discussion's and the Christies sold in 2009) could certainly be of a man in his mid-sixties.

The attached composite does show a similarity between the three portraits in the area of the right-hand-side of the mouth and the strong chin line. Perhaps the passage of ten years or so, from Romney's portrait in 1782, as well as a healthy diet, has added those extra pounds on to the sitter.

1 attachment

Thanks for the composite Kieran, but accepting that Ogle is no. 1 of the three, he could only have worn the uniform shown (which is the same flag-officer's full dress in all of them) in the time slot of September 1780 until a new pattern came in in 1783: in other words we are either looking at two different men, in the same uniform and of whom the more portly (your nos. 2 and 3) could have begun wearing it any time from 1767 on but also only until 1783; or you have to suppose a very remarkable transformation in just one man, within three years, which I don't think is credible.

Osmund Bullock,

Robert, thank you for all your efforts, but in fact Pieter gave us a direct link to the presumed Romney of Ogle at the Met (along with a much higher-res image) in his intro. Since you suggest people may have found it confusing, here it is again:

Kieran Owens,

Pieter, the point is valid only if the sitting took place at different times with different artists. However as in the discussion regarding Lieutenant Henry Butterworth (1783–1860), elsewhere on ArtUK, it has been shown that an older head can be painted on a younger body, for whatever reason driven by family or peer requirements. Thus, in the Challoner composite, the collar worn by the supposed Romney Ogle is identical to that in the third "after Reynolds" portrait, even though it is completely different to that as worn in the second portrait of the three. In the same vein, the lapel button hole embroidery is the same in 2 and 3 but is different in 1 of the three portraits, as is the waistcoat in number 1 and 2, compared to the different design of number 3. In essence, the uniforms are not actually the same in 2 and 3, but all seem to contain elements of the other.

Any slight apparent uniform variations, whatever the cause, are a distraction: the uniforms are all the same pattern (the 1767-83 full dress).

The issues are simply: who is the sitter in 2 and 3 (who are not the same man as no. 1) and who are the artists involved in them, allowing 3 is a copy 'after': the only thing obviously Reynoldsian about it is that he did occasionally paint sea officers with the lapel-flap of the uniform unbuttoned as shown. I've not ploughed through Reynolds looking for the face of no.2/no. 3, primarily because if he ever painted the man shown I don't think the matter would be the mystery it is. No. 2 certainly isn't by Reynolds and given the similarity with 3, apart from the floppy lapel, I doubt the latter is after him either.

As I said at the start, this matter has caused much confiusion already and will not be resolved by improbable stretching of sitter appearances or the very clear date parameters set by the uniform. The identity of the Met canvas as Ogle, painted by Romney in 1781-2, appears sound: the others are of someone else. The attribution to Romney of no 2 is questionable, but it -or at least a missing prime version if it too is a copy - could have been painted any time from 1767 up to the uniform change of 1783 (unless the hairstyle suggests a narrower range within that span).

Osmund Bullock,

Kieran, thanks for finding an image of the Christie's version. The lot is not on their website in the 2009 sale's results, so it was unsold (and in any case there are no images from that sale).

Even without Pieter's decisive input I could not have accepted these as being the same man - apart from the weight, they have, inter alia, a different visible ear (look at the lobe), a quite different nose, and very different eyes & eyebrow lines. My own comparison of the faces attached.

1 attachment
Osmund Bullock,

Pieter, I was writing at the same time as you, so some overlap, sorry. Looking at the higher-res image from the NMM website ( ), I'm afraid that I doubt this version of the mystery sitter is by Romney or Copley or anyone else of note. The face is, to my eye, unimpressive - there's a marked lack of deftness and detail, and subtleties of light and shade, especially in the nose and the awkward far eye. Overall it seems bland and workaday, and the hanging/pointing hand is very unsatisfactory (see attached). It looks like a copy, and not a very good one - possibly worked up into a three-quarter-length from the Christie's work's original (assuming it to be a copy), or the Christie's copy may have been reduced to an oval half-length from a 3/4L. The latter does look quite Reynolds-ish to me, and I wouldn't be surprised if there is or was an original by him - but as you say, not of Ogle.

By contrast I am more impressed by the Met's portrait than you are, or at least were - perhaps studio, but there is real and impressive character there, and in many ways the more you enlarge the face the better it gets.

I am not particularly fazed by the rear identification on the Christie's as Sir Chaloner - on the NMM website you say that it's on the lining canvas, so probably not very old and maybe conjectural. Did the NMM or Ms Ammundsen try to get in touch with vendor (who may still have it) via Christie's? - it would obviously be helpful to see an image of the inscription, to see more detail of the face, and to learn if there is any provenance. We should perhaps be looking for someone connected to Ogle or his descendants by marriage/ancestry, and with whom he could have been confused.

1 attachment
Elana Messner,

How was JS Copley decided upon as a possible painter? I seem to have missed something in this thread.

Kieran Owens,

His name is proposed in the initial question that opened this discussion.

Kieran Owens,

From what I understand, Chaloner Ogle was promoted to Rear-Admiral of the Blue on 26 September 1780; Vice-Admiral of the Blue on 24 September 1787; Vice-Admiral of the Red on 1 February 1793; Admiral of the Blue on 12 April 1794; and Admiral of the Red in 1805.

If this portrait's sitter is Ogle, he would, therefore, be wearing the flag-officer's full dress (that was permitted between 1767 and 1783) as a Rear-Admiral of the Blue.

Unless the flag-officer's full dress could be worn by someone of a lesser rank than Rear-Admiral, for this painting to be of Ogle it must have been painted between 1780 and 1783 (when Ogle was c.54 and c.57 respectively). Does this painting look like a man of 57?

It could turn out that this, and the Christie's 2009 sale piece, is the portrait of Ogle as painted by Romney (as recorded in the latter's diary in May 1781 and June 1782), if the Met's portrait is not of him. If correct, this raises the question as to who is the sitter in the Met's collection. After all, why would the Met's attribution be correct and Christie's incorrect. Can the provenance of both portraits (as well as this discussion's) be laid out for consideration?

Should it be of any use to this discussion, the genealogical history of the Ogle family can be found here:

Kieran Owens,

The NMM description for this painting states that "the portrait in New York is smaller (30 x 24 ins: 762 X 675 mm) and bears an inscription on the reverse: 'Sir Chaloner Ogle. Brt / Senior Admiral of the Red. / His Royal Hs the Duke of Clarence being made / Admiral of the fleet over his head / died 1816'. As mentioned above, Chaloner Ogle was made Admiral of the Red in 1805, 22 years after the flag-officer's full dress had been superseded (in 1783), and was created 1st Baronet of Worthy on the 12th March 1816, five months before he died and 33 years after that uniform change. If the Met's portrait is of Ogle in his flag-officer's full dress, the inscription on the reverse of the work can have been added no less than 33 years after the work was created, certainly opening Osmond's suggested possibility that the said inscription is "probably not very old and maybe conjectural".

On the other hand (contradicting my own suggestion)......I wonder if anyone can share my sense of a facial similarity between the Met's portrait and the known 1850's portrait, by Cornelius Durham, of Sir Charles Ogle, 2nd Baronet (1775 - 1858), who was Sir Challoner Ogle's eldest son. See attached for your consideration.

1 attachment
Kieran Owens,

The entry for the Metropolitan Museum of Art's painting of Admiral Sir Chaloner Ogle, in Katharine Baetjer's "British Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575-1875", is worth reading ( ). Importantly, it gives details of the provenance (for what it is worth) of their work:

"Ex.. Coll.: The sitter (until d. 1816); by family descent (1816 - 1828); Private collection until 1953; Lennen and Newell Inc, New York (1953); Gift of Lennen and Newell Inc., 1953".

Baetjer also writes that for the portrait Ogle wore the uniform of a Rear-Admiral of the Blue.

Additionally, a replica or copy of the painting was sold at Newcastle-upon-Tyne by the auction house of Anderson and Garland on November 30th, 1982, as lot number 424. This sale was, apparently, of Ogle family portraits, according to E. H. H. Archibald, of the National Maritime Museum, London, in a letter of 1982. The company still exists and a copy of the auction catalogue (and/or images of the lot) might still sit in their archives ( ).

If all of this is verifiable, it might conclusively prove that the Met's portrait is of Ogle, and that this discussion's is not.

Perhaps the NMM could search their files to see if E. H. H. Archibald's 1982 letter still exists, as it might provide more details that might help resolve this mystery.

Kieran Owens,

Please forgive me if the arguments above seem to contradict each other. One new thought or piece of information leads to other enquiries and new facts present themselves in sometimes very short passages of time.

Elana Messner,

Could the original poster please share how, of all the artists working in the 3rd quarter of the 18th century, Copley was identified as a possibility?

Back to my original message about not adding to confusions.

The NMM position at present, which includes the past involvement of E.H.H. Archibald (who I knew very well for 25 years), is that the portrait in question is apparently not Ogle, but that the Met's is: Kieran also usefully points out the family likeness of the Met's with Ogle's son. Baetjer's comment about the Met image showing him in the 1767-83 uniform or a Rear-Admiral of the Blue doesn't help because all flag officers at the time wore the same uniform without rank distinctions as to whether rear-, vice- or full admirals. These only started to be made on epaulettes- and only for those three grades, not subordinate squadronal colour - , when these came in as part of the 1795 uniform.

I threw Copley's name in, for no other reason than that while I agree with Elana's early comment about him generally being a much crisper and more 'glittering' painter of uniforms in particular, he was the only other name the NMM portrait brought to my mind. It was only a question and 'no' (unless perhaps a copy of one that I have no reason to assume exists) is fine as an answer.

This is the NMM's Copley of Admiral Clark Gayton, showing him in the same uniform: .My line of speculation was that I could at least imagine Copley doing the pose, which as in the Gayton image is firm and direct; but if its a wild-goose suggestion than let's not chase it further.

Martin Hopkinson,

Romney was better than this - compare the outstretched hand in Long Melford's Admiral Sir Hyde Parker = but could it be a copy by another artist? also look at the hand in Glasgow's Lieutenant Colonel Sir Charles Stuart

Kieran Owens,

Pieter, if you are more inclined to think that the Met's portrait is that of Sir Chaloner Ogle as recorded in Romney's diaries, and that this discussion's portrait is not of Ogle as an older and heavier man, then this discussion's task in to try and inentify both the sitter and the artist. Does the NMM have a definitive list of Flag Officers that were appointed between 1767 and 1783? The Wikipedia list that exists cannot be deemed complete as it does not include Sir Chaolner Ogle (the one who died in 1816), so perhaps it has omitted others. We're there tens, many tens, or even more Rear Admirals, Vice-Admirals and Admirals appointed during the period when this discussion's uniform was the current accepted design?

The problem about tackling it from that viewpoint is that it could be a rear-, vice- or full admiral, of which there are many in the 1767-83 slot and names alone do not help. It's a question of comparative images: certainly the Anderson & Garland and 2009 Christie's 'after Reynolds' example are things to be double-checked.

The other issue is artist: if not Romney rather than broadly a follower- (and not Copley) and not also 'after Reynolds' (despite the similarity of pose of the head, but not the torso) then who did it -or an original of which it might be a copy of some sort? The size of 36 x 28 is smaller than the general impression suggests.

Osmund Bullock,

Kieran, re your apology a day or two ago, it can indeed sometimes be hard to keep up with your 'stream-of-consciousness' manner of posting - no sooner does one start composing a considered response to one of your cascade of thoughts, when another one appears that takes things off in a different direction! If possible, a slightly more measured pace while you research, compare and reflect on various different bits of the evidence before actually posting would (for me) be easier to digest.

Notwithstanding that, thank you for the link to Katharine Baetjer's "British Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575-1875". Most of the information in it is in the the Met & NMM catalogue entries that we had at the start - but it does mention one significant (probable) fact that comes from the catalogue raisonné in Ward & Roberts' 1904 biography of Romney. Despite the large number of sittings to Romney in 1781/2, the manuscript list drawn up by Romney's son John from his father's diaries (and his own personal knowledge) suggests that the Ogle portrait was a "three-quarters". See . This does *not* mean "3/4-length", as I've mentioned in other discussions, it is the canvas size - the standard English one of approx 30 x 25 inches, i.e. usually what we nowadays confusingly call a half-length (see for more info on this). This is of course the size of the Met's portrait, and also of the 2009 Christie's one with the same sitter as ours - ours, though, is of the somewhat larger kit-cat size (c.36 x 28 in).

Osmund Bullock,

In one of your posts you say that I'd suggested that the rear inscription on the Met's portrait was "probably not very old and maybe conjectural". I'm afraid you misread what I wrote - I was referring to the one on the back of the *Christie's* portrait (which the NMM entry says is on the the [re]lining canvas), and in fact thereby implying the opposite about the Met's! The latter sounds old and authentic - the language and abbreviations used are consistent with an early C19th date. 'Brt' (for Baronet), 'Hs' (for both His & Highness) and 'Admiral of the fleet' (with a small 'f') are not things I would expect to see written in the late 19th or 20th Century. Moreover the clear implication that the Duke of Clarence's promotion to the highest (honorary) naval rank in 1811 robbed Ogle of it carries the tone of someone who knew him well and felt strongly about it - perhaps his widow or son. And would someone writing after 1830, when Clarence became King, have just referred to 'the Duke of Clarence' - or indeed have written such a pointed comment at all when he was, or was about to be, or had recently been the monarch? Despite not having seen it, I would guess that the Met portrait's inscription dates from not that long after Ogle's death. Certainly the Met seem to have no doubts about its authenticity.

So I think it's far beyond being "more inclined to think that the Met's portrait is that of Sir Chaloner Ogle". Taking together the size, the old inscription, the quality of the work (in Romney's style, unlike the others) and the apparent family provenance to 1928, it seems virtually *certain* that the one in the Met is the Romney of Ogle (or conceivably a replica). And the (?)copy/replica we now discover was sold at Anderson & Garland in 1982, apparently from a family source (and presumably identified as Ogle), only strengthens this certainty.

Osmund Bullock,

Pieter has said all along that what he is really after is evidenced ideas for the identity of the other man (who cannot reasonably be Ogle), and/or for the artist(s) who painted him. I've already expressed the view that I don't think anyone very good painted our portrait (noting as Martin does the atrocious hand, inter alia); nor do I believe it's a copy of a Romney (though I suspect it's an expanded/adapted copy of something). The 2009 Christie's portrait may just possibly hold the key, and I would much like to learn about its provenance/inscription - more, in fact, than I want to know about the A&G one.

Unless the NMM has already pursued this in the past, I will approach Christie's Archives to see what they can tell/show us (?image of inscription), and ask if they can forward an email on to the vendor.

Martin Hopkinson,

Has anyone looked at what Alex Kidson has to say, if anything, in his very good recent catalogue raisonne of Romney's paintings?

Kieran Owens,

Osmund, thank you for your guidance. I will henceforth stifle my ramblings and try to hone my postings into more precise offerings.

Kieran Owens,

Attached are images of closely the same as this discussion's uniform, as treated by different artists between 1756 and 1780, for whatever a consideration of the composites might be worth.

2 attachments
Martin Hopkinson,

Jules Prown and William Pressly , as I am sure that you all know, are the two best known recent authors to study Copley in depth
There is also Carolyn J Weekley, Copley.An American painter entirely devoted to his art, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1994 which I have never seen

Kieran Owens,

Would contributors to this discussion be so kind as to offer their opinions as to what, if any, is the significance of the light brown painted border around the edges of this painting? Does it indicate where a frame had once covered that portion of the surface of the painting? It is seen more clearly if the canvas is viewed through the collections own site.

Tim Williams,

From the relining Kieran, will be the edges of the original canvas.

Martin Hopkinson,

Alex Kidson says that, as he has told the National Maritime Museum before, this cannot be by Romney - nor does he believe it to be by Copley

Fine: for whatever reason the 'not Romney' judgement has failed to reach the record as an authoritative view, that can be fixed. Copley I'm also not actively going to chase further, for reasons already given.
Back to square one...: who and who by, with a higher-res image to be provided if possible.

Martin Hopkinson,

Could the artist be a painter who normally worked on a much smaller scale such as Richard Cosway?

Kieran Owens,

Anderson & Garland have kindly replied that the details of the 1982 auction pre-date their computerised records so they are unable to assist in this instance.

Martin Hopkinson,

As the firm is based in Newcastle, copies of their sale catalogues may be in the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle Central Library, Tyne and Wear Archives and Durham University Library [ Copac records 3 of their sale catalogues in Durham University Library]
The National Trust may also just have some of their catalogues [ see libraries curator -

Some of the Ogle family papers may be in public hands - if this is the Flamborough branch there are some in Hull University Archives
The Admiral's will is in the Public Record Office 11/1584/53
There are also some papers of 1780-4 in the Caird Library, which I am sure that Pieter will have perused.

Sorry for the delay - I was on holiday last week and missed seeing your request for a high resolution image. The image in our PCF vault exceeds the size limit and our Digital Content Officer is out of the office, probably until Monday. I hope we can do this early next week.

Jimaa Alaa,

I think this is Admiral Augustus Keppel 1st Viscount Keppel (1725-1786)

I'm afraid not: if it was Keppel the question would never have arisen. He was separately painted about five times by his friend Reynolds from 1749 to his death in 1786.

At some point between the portraits of 1753 (Reynolds's breakthrough full-length of him) and 1765 was mugged by a footpad who broke his originally straight nose as best shown in the 1749 portrait here:

... and gave him the rugby player's or boxer's profile of the later ones, such as here (1779) in the same uniform as our mystery man, whose nose was clearly never straight nor broken that way :

Louis Musgrove,

If you are not happy with it being Admiral Ogle- how about a member of the Royal Family??They were admirals some of the time. I am looking. :-)

It is probably time to close this long stern-chase after a prize that has so far outsailed pursuit.

Both the sitter (not a member of the Ogle family) and artist continue elusive. While the latter is still down as Romney on the NMM database, the general view here is that it is no more than 'Romney-ish' but not good enough, not identifiable from his known sitters and still lacking any view from Alex Kidson (at least that I know of) but which NMM can pursue independently and/or notify any change it currently sees fit to make.

Let me alsofly a flag, in passing, for its current 'post-1800' art curator, Katherine Gazzard's, very handsome 'Naval Portraits' covering highlights of the Greenwich collection, just out -h/b @ £30 - though I don't think this is one!

Unless Jacob has any other recommendation as 18th c. portraits group leader I suggest we leave it a week then close.

Jacob Simon,

A disclaimer. I am not a group leader.

Louis Musgrove,

I was just looking through admirals again- and suddenly noticed that our sitters sword is on the wrong side?????
Also found this painting of Adm Richard Edwards ,whose uniform and "tummy" are a very very good match for our sitter- though the face is wrong, I think.

Louis Musgrove,

Just been chatting with a knowledgeable friend of mine -Johann- and he agrees with my post 10/02/21 -without my prompting- that it looks like a member of the Hannoverian Royal family, but cannot find which one. Ah well!!

Jacob Simon,

I support Pieter's view (25/03/2024) that it is time to close this discussion. As he says, both the sitter (not a member of the Ogle family) and artist, unknown, continue elusive. So, a recommendation to close on this basis.