Portraits: British 18th C 46 Who is this distinctive-looking man, and who painted his portrait?

Topic: Subject or sitter

This man is so distinctive that someone might be able to identify him. I think it's a rather good painting and close to Wright of Derby.

My suggestion for the sitter is Henry Harington M. D. (1727–1816):


The collection comments: 'The painting is thought to be a portrait of Nathaniel St André by an unknown artist. It was purchased from the Council of the Hartley (now Southampton) University Library in 1904 by Southampton City Council as a portrait of George Frederick Pitt (donor of the Pitt Library).'

Tim Williams, Entry reviewed by Art UK


Joanna Wakefield,

Maybe Sir Isaac Watts. I believe he wrote the music of Southampton Civic Centre bells chime. He has a large nose, which upon looking at other portraits, they also have large noses.

Joanna Wakefield,

It is also the School hymn for King Edward VI School, Southampton, which Isaac Watts himself attended, the peal of the Southampton Civic Centre clock tower and The Laidlaw Memorial School and Junior College, Ketti. Wikkapeadia

Osmund Bullock,

I'm pretty sure Isaac Watts (no 'Sir') was long dead by the time this was painted (?1760s-80s - I agree it could be Chamberlin). There are many images of Watts online, all wearing the bands of a non-conformist minister; and though there is some variability of features, none looks remotely like this man.

Henry Harington is also not possible, Tim, I fear. The portrait on which your print is based was painted by Beach in 1799 (see http://bit.ly/2sbhcVS ), yet shows a far less ravaged face. And there is another c.1815 portrait of him as an old man by Slater (print after it here http://bit.ly/2raSMfK ), exhibited posthumously at the RA in 1819 - this is all too late...and he still doesn't look decrepit enough.

Southampton have rightly concluded that George Frederick Pitt (bap Feb 1766-1835) is too late, and they suggest his natural father Nathaniel St André (d.March 1766 age 96) in old age instead. Portraits of St André (the credulous self-publicist 'rabbit doctor' of 1726) seem to be mainly genetic caricatures, except possibly for this http://bit.ly/2qswDbR ; but even if reliable, it is too early an image to help much. But if the likeness of his supposed son G.F.Pitt in the Royal Collection http://bit.ly/2qptqOk (and see also http://bit.ly/2qwns9u ) is authentic, his aquiline nose and protuberant chin (even allowing for some exaggeration by Dighton) seem unlikely to have emerged from the genes of the man in our portrait. But perhaps the ninety-something year-old Dr St André was as gullible about being the father of his former maid servant Mary Pitt's two bastard sons as he had been 40 years before about Mary Toft being the mother of 15 rabbits. His death shortly after George's baptism meant that he did not live to see some rather surprising facial features grow from his alleged son and co-heir's infant face.

So on balance I feel Southampton's suggestion is still very plausible - certainly it seems to have come from St André's collection, left to Southampton by Pitt; but to prove it will probably be impossible.

Chris Rose,

I have seen that face before in connection with the Lunar Society of Birmingham,Wright had connections them and painted some of it’s members.

Osmund Bullock,

Mikael, it’s not a matter of probability that they are not the same man – they are facially nothing like each other, whatever the age gap. Assuming your comparison link is to one of the many versions/copies of Reynolds' ?1772 (dated elsewhere to c1778) portrait of Johnson (your link is incomplete), Pieter van der Merwe's single reference to the Barry portrait (which is *later*, c1778-1780) seems a very valid comparison. It was painted just 4-6 years before Johnson's death; and short of the man having been struck repeatedly in the face with an iron bar in between, they cannot conceivably be the same person.

I'm attaching a composite of the two images for direct comparison, along with several other late portraits (including one based on his death mask). To keep thing simple, look at the mouth and the nose. All the portraits of the living Johnson show the same prominent, fleshy and almost pouty upper lip, though in the death mask it has collapsed or been pressed flat by the casting; our sitter has a very thin one. And all of them, including the death mask, show the same long, straight nose, with little or no thickening at the tip; our sitter’s nose is significantly shorter, and kicks up into a notably large and bulbous end. I could discuss, too, the eyes and eyebrows (and how they’re held), but I don’t think it’s necessary.

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Martin Hopkinson,

Could this be by the same artist who painted Richard Coope in the Royal London Hospital Museum , attributed probably incorrectly, to circle of Arthur Pond?
Coope was involved in 1750 with the hospital's acquisition of Mount Field on the Wentworth Estate on the south side of Whitechapel Road. see the Survey of London

Kieran Owens,

If this is a portrait of Nathaniel St. André, who died in Southampton on the 11th March 1776, perhaps Christie's archive might still have the catalogue from the sale of his household effects, as per the attached notice from the Hampshire Chronicle of Monday 22nd July of that same year. In it there might be a lot for this painting, with its artist's name identified.

Kieran Owens,

However..........attached is a composite of a contemporary satirical depiction of Nathaniel St. André, the celebrated surgeon and anatomist to King George the 1st, set beside our discussion's portrait. André was implicated in the famous rabbit birth fraud, details of which can be read here:


Apart from the downturned mouth and the sartorial similarity of the wide button holes on the jacket, there is not much to positively compare our sitter with the know engraving. That said, perhaps the passage of years resulted in a filling out of the features from the earlier gaunt appearance.

Also attached is an image of George Frederick Pitt, from c.1804. He equally looks nothing like our discussion's sitter.

Kieran Owens,

Sorry Osmund, I was asleep when writing the above and did not intentionally mean to repeat your already-posted images of Nathaniel St. André and George Frederick Pitt.

Tamsyn Taylor,

I want to comment on the images presented by comparison by Osmund Bullock 9 months ago. They are a collection of portraits refuting the suggestion that the image is a portrait of Dr Johnson. I have closely examined these portraits and come to the exactlyopposite opinion. I am convinced that this is indeed a portrait of Dr Johnson.
I want to draw attention here to a very important difference between a painted (or drawn) portrait and a photographic portrait. A photographic portrait, provided that it is a a comparative angle to a similar image, permits scientic measurements of proportions, and a very detailed analysis of wrinkles, the folds of ears, and other such features.
A portrait that is a graphic artwork is essentially a "likeness". It might include features that are most accurately represented, features that are exaggerated, and features that are purely generic. In many cases, "likeness" is achieved, at the cost of accuracy, particularly of proportion.
All the portraits presented her for comparisons are "likenesses" of the man, but five of them are recognised as such, and one is not.
1. In the portrait sketch, by comparison with all the rest, every facial feature has been slightly enlrged by the artist. His nose droops and is quite pointed. Someone arguing from the death mask would discount it immediately.
No 3 makes his face longer and thinner, even than the death mask. Are we to discount this as a "likeness"?
No 4. In this picture many features are like No 1, but the eyes are clearly smaller. Moreover the shortening and widening of the nose cannot be accounted for simply by a slightly different tilt of the head. One or other has used "artist's license".
No 5. This sculpture looks to me as if its creator has been familiar with the sketch of No !. The features are somewhat enarged, and the nose has been made straighter, and more precise, typical of a work created with a chisel.
No 6. The face is smoother out by the process of casting. The jaw has fallen backwards, causing a misalignment of the mouth. The fine details of facial hair have been minimised. It is an accurate representation of a corpse. It isn't a "likeness" of the living man, as others knew him, full of animation.

So what about No 2?
I believe that it shows a most lively and compelling "likeness" that brings the great man alive to me in the same way as No 3, and No 3.
Yes, he does NOT show his full upper lip. The reason is thatin this picture he has a very different sort of expression to all the others. He has his mout shut, while in every other image, it is open as if in speech.
In image No 2, he HAS SPOKEN, and whatever it was that he said, it was certain to the point of being dogmatic. His lower lip juts, his chin draws up to a pucker, his upper lipbulges as he compresses it, and his eyes tell you that he does not suffer fools gladly

What we are seeing here is an amazingly dynamic image. When we compare this portrait with No 3 and No 4, we suddenly get an extended vision into the character of the man himself. This portrait invests hm with a degree of personal power and authority which are not to be seen in the questioning genius and the patient teacher of the other two painted portraits.

Jacinto Regalado,

I do not agree that this is Samuel Johnson. The sitter's nose has a distinctly and prominently bulbous tip, which Johnson's definitely did not have in any of his portraits or the death mask--his nose was rather the opposite, with a rather pointed or sharp tip. Also, Johnson had fairly prominent cheekbones, and this sitter has relatively sunken ones, certainly on his left cheek. Johnson's eyes also strike me as different from this sitter's, being more distinctive, searching or penetrating, as opposed to drooping and taciturn. In other words, I think Johnson's face had more character, so to speak, no doubt because he was so much of one.

Tamsyn Taylor,

Firstly, I am discounting No. 1 as hard evidence, because it is ery much an exaggerated likeness in which the most identifiable features have been enlarged and exaggerated, by comparison with the two other painted portraits.

Looking at the death mask, as the most "hard evidence" I see that the prominence of the cheekbones, which are visible, but not actually prominent at all, fall in exactly the same position as they do in the portrait in question.
The nose of the death-mask is broader and more bulbous than it is painted in the other two portraits.
The eyes are noticeably small in every image except No 1.
The eyebrows, which I have not mentioned previously, have a very distinctive wing shape about them which has been picked up on by every on of the artists.
The horizontal groove between the eyebrows and the vertical lines above it are the same.
The death mask, the Reynolds portrait and the portrait in question all have a noticeable verticle depression above the right eye.
The fullness, and degree of bulginess below the eyes is a constant, but supressed in the death-mask by the casting process (which applies pressure to the softer parts of the face).

Concerning the difference that you point out in the expression of the eyes, YES, that IS the point that I am making. Here you are seeing the face with a very different expression on it. The expression IS taciturn. They remain penetrating, but in a different manner.
While the expression of the eyes is different, I must point out that the shape of the eyes coincides with the two painted portraits and the small size is indicated in the sculpted portrait and death-mask.

The mouth is exactly as it would be, when that distinctive top lip with a marked cupid's bow was compressed by the lower lip and jaw. Notice that in all the images, other than the death-mask where the jaw has dropped back, the lower lip protrudes further than the top lip, even though the top lip is full. Once that mouth was shut, then it would appear as in the portrait in question.

Basically, apart from the enlargement of the tip of the nose, the features are the same.
As I pointed out before, a painted portrait is a likeness, not a photograph. The artist of the portrait in question has slightly exaggerated a grey shadow and slightly increased a highlight. If ou look for the ame shadow and the same highlight in the Reynold's portrait at No 4, you will find both those details, but less defined. We are not actually looking at a man with a bukbous nose. We are looking at the subtle differences of the way paint has been applied in two pictures.

Jacinto Regalado,

I respect your opinion, Tamsyn, but I cannot share it and still do not believe our man is Dr. Johnson (or rather, my eyes don't). It would be interesting to hear how others feel about the matter.

Edward Currie,

I came across this while watching a repeat of 'Britain's Lost Masterpieces' from Derby (Series 2:2), I am pleased I did. In my opinion, this is Christopher Cass (1678 - 1734). Christopher Cass was a working mason who rose to be His Majesty's Master Mason to the Board of Ordnance. He was one of the very few masons who was expert with working granite in the early 18th century. The clothing and wig fit the period and the face is one of a person who has had an outdoor life. His connection with Southampton was as Master Mason to the Board of Ordnance and where he was commissioned to take charge of the initial development/redevelopment of the Southampton waterside for which he was well qualified as a granite specialist which was the stone of choice for this work. His previous career had been working on fortifications and churches both in London and other parts of the country and until Cass's death in 1734 worked in close partnership with the Scottish architect Andrew Jelfe (perhaps because the Scots were more familiar with granite as a building material). Jelfe was also a member of the Board of Ordnance. My interest in Cass started when I worked near where his granite tomb is in St John the Evangelist burial ground (now a very small public park) at the Lambeth Bridge end of Horseferry Road, London. I have researched him on and off over the years but have never been able to find an extant portrait which is very surprising for a man of his standing. He died at the age of 58 in London and this portrait I would say was painted circa 1725 - 1730. As to the artist I have no idea but it was not Wright who had yet to be born but the artist is certainly an accomplished portrait painter working I would think in London at time.

An intriguing suggestion but apart from Cass having a Southampton connection (which is where the picture is now) what other evidence is there to support that identification (eg other likenesses, or even descriptions of Cass as a notably unhandsome man)?

Ric Weeks,

Spotted this at the end of Britain’s Lost Masterpieces a few weeks back.
I have a feeling that this could be James Cooke, Mayor of Winchester and a prominent business man during the early to mid 18th century with merchant interests between Southampton and Holland. The resemblance to the older, less accomplished portrait of him held by Winchester City Council is uncanny, especially the hair, chin & jowls!
Here’s the link to the know image - https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/james-cooke-24221/view_as/list/search/has_image:on--keyword:window/page/30

I have gone back to the Collection today mainly for other matters, but have asked if they have anything now beyond their initial Collection comments that might be able to restart the discussion here.

Marcie Doran,

Southampton Town Council accepted a bust of Mr. Pitt in 1849 that was reportedly "taken from his death mask". Can someone supply an image of that bust in case there is a family resemblance to the unknown man?



George Frederick Pitt made many bequests in his will (dated 17 June 1828), but asked that "all" his "Books Pictures and Drawings" be sold after his death. Several years after he drafted his will, he gave hundreds of books and at least four paintings to Southampton. If this had been an important family portrait, surely Pitt would have bequeathed it to his goddaughter Laura Warner (later Mrs. Frederick Bradburne, d. 1885), his residuary beneficiary.

Will of George Frederick Pitt of Southampton, Hampshire
PROB 11/1846/32


According to the auction notice for the sale of his possessions, Pitt's paintings were to be sold on the second day of the auction – 19 May 1835.


The attached article in the 'Hampshire Independent' of 24 September 1904 shows that a return to the Borough Council of certain items that were located at the Hartley Institution, including this work, was discussed in 1904.


The attached article in the 'Hampshire Advertiser' of 25 March 1905 that mentions this portrait was intriguing ("upon payment of the sum for which it was originally purchased") so I searched for, and found, an article that provides information about the purchase of this portrait and the name of its previous owner. I will post it next.

Marcie Doran,

According to the 'Hampshire Independent' of 28 November 1877, this portrait was purchased for £2 4s by "Mr. Shore at the sale of the late Mr. Lobb's pictures". Mr. Thomas William Shore (abt. 1840–1905) was the Chief Executive of the Hartley Institution.

An auction was held on 12 November 1877 following the death on 10 January 1876 of Joseph Lobb. Mr. Lobb (1799–1876) was Mayor of Southampton three times (1837, 1840 and 1845).

Mr. Lobb would have known Mr. Pitt but Mr. Shore was born after Pitt's demise. Mr. Shore's lengthy and nearly illegible obituary (extract attached) in the 'Hampshire Independent' of 21 January 1905 includes much praise for this antiquarian.

Does anyone know how to obtain the catalogue of the Lobb estate sale of 1876 that was quoted on page 75 of this book about the Lobb family? My guess is that the portrait of Pitt was listed in the catalogue and that was why it was purchased by Mr. Shore on behalf of the Hartley Institute.

Jacob Simon,

Yesterday Marcie posted "Southampton Town Council accepted a bust of Mr. Pitt in 1849 that was reportedly "taken from his death mask". This was very probably William Pitt the younger whose bust was produced in great quantities. Absolutely no resemblance to the painted portrait that is the subject of this discussion.

Osmund Bullock,

You may be right, Jacob - but if so then Richard Preston, the author of the 2008 piece on the Audit House Library at Southampton that Marcie slightly misquotes is the person who got it wrong. See https://bit.ly/3iFPtfZ (page 4). Here is a direct and fuller quote:

"... Within the Audit House, the library was housed in the Council chamber, in two mahogany bookcases made by Richard Perkins, on either side of the door leading into the Magistrates’ room. In May 1849 a bust of Captain Pitt (taken from his death mask) was placed on a bracket over the door, the gift of John Rushworth Keele, Mayor at the time of the original donation. Pictures bequeathed by Pitt adorned the Chamber walls ...".

'Captain Pitt' was George Frederick Pitt (bap. Feb 1766 - 1835), donor of the library and one of the two sons of St Andre's former maid-servant Mary Pitt whom St Andre believed to be his own natural progeny, despite his very advanced years. See my post above at 28/05/2017 23:59.

Certainly Nollekens' bust of the younger Pitt was famously taken from a death mask, as Pitt refused to sit for the sculptor; and as Jacob says, numerous copies were carved in marble by his studio in subsequent years (I have one!). It could be that Mr Preston saw a reference to the acquisition of "a bust of Pitt" in 1849, and its placement in the library, and wrongly assumed it must have been of Southampton's benefactor. But even if it *was* indeed of Captain G F Pitt, we already have a lifetime image of the man noted by both me and Kieran: the Royal Collection's watercolour by Robert Dighton http://bit.ly/2qptqOk. This was doubtless a caricature, but the features are so different to our sitter that a genetic connection seems unlikely...but of course St Andre was probably not his actual father. The point is that even a genuine bust of GFP would also not look like our sitter, who may or may not be St Andre.

Jacob Simon,

So, Wm Pitt not intended as Osmund helpfully clarifies. Capt Pitt (see Osmund's post above) is too young to be the subject of our portrait. His reported father, Nathaniel St André, is possible. But it would seem that we have no way either of confirming or dismissing this possiblity, looking at previous posts. Or am I missing something?

Jacob Simon,

Has Maisie seen Osmund's post (25/11/2017) and Jacinto's (16/09/2018)? We can safely dismiss the idea that this portrait represents Samuel Johnson, whose likeness has been closely studied and documented, for the very reason that Maisie identifies, namely that beyond a possible similarity in the noses, their facial structure seems otherwise quite different.

Jacob Simon,

I checked up on Nathaniel St André at the Heinz Archive and Library, NPG. There are no images of this man other than the Rabbit Doctor print already posted (19/03/2018).

After almost six years I fear that it is not going to be possible to take the discussion question, "Who is this distinctive-looking man, and who painted his portrait?" any further.

Jacinto Regalado,

For search purposes, i would suggest "Portrait of an Old Man" as title.

Marcie Doran,

Please see the attached articles that mention a portrait that is on Art UK as 'H. R. Hartley, Aged 9'. Perhaps it could be retitled to include his full name – Henry Robinson Hartley (1777–1850) .


Here is background information about him:



The Wikipedia entry for H. R. Hartley shows that his father was Henry Hartley (1731–1800) and his mother was Susannah Hartley (née Lavender)(1742–1821).

Here are links to their portraits:




The last two of the five ‘portraits of the Hartley family' are here:



Jacob Simon,

I wonder what is the relevance of the preceding post to the portrait under discussion?

Osmund Bullock,

You may well ask, Jacob; it completely baffles me.

Jacinto Regalado,

Louis, that earl died in 1667. The wig is indisputably 18th century; no such wig was worn in the 17th C. What you suggest is impossible.

Louis Musgrove,

Are sure about the wig? I have found several examples of white wigs roughly like this--- from the mid 1650's, without much effort.Agreed they are universal in the mid 17th century.
The dimensions of the painting are identical to many of the canvases used by Peter Lely- --dimensions which do not seem to occur elsewhere until the 20th Century.

Louis Musgrove,

And just to really speculate- I would suggest our sitter is suffering from late stage Syphilis- baldness and facial deformity.

Jacob Simon,

Louis, without wishing to be unkind, I fear that some of your recent posts are so far fetched as to make art detective users sigh.

Jacinto's post is correct. Let me provide feedback on your two assertions. If you really have comparable wigs on dated pictures from the 1650s, please present the evidence. Actually, men were rarely wearing wigs at this date!

Secondly, the size of the painting under discussion is close to the universal size of 30 x 25 ins, bar minor changes in the lining process, a size used over three centuries from the 1630s to the early 20th century. So unhelpful in dating.

Miles Barton,

I have come to this discussion very late. And perhaps it has been exhausted. However the chiaroscuro made me think it could be by an Irish painter such as Nathaniel Hone. However Mason Chamberlain, as Jacob stated in March 2017 is a likely hand.
And for the record nothing about this painting is 17th century - certainly not the wig!

Louis Musgrove,

White peruke wigs started from about 1600 for Gentlemen suffering from syphilis.They were white powdered ,because the scented powder covered up the stench of the weeping sores. When LouisXIIII got syphilis he wore the white wig, and so it became universally fashionable in the whole of Europe.
Here is a link to an article that explains it simply.
https://arizonawigco.com/why-did-people-wear-powdered-wigs/#:~:text=And so, the syphilis outbreak,to hide any funky aromas.

Jimaa Alaa,

The man looks like Samuel Johnson (1709– 1784)

Osmund Bullock,

A suggestion first made in 2017, several times since, and discussed at length (and generally rejected) by numerous contributors with many authentic images of Johnson posted for comparison.

It's hard to keep track of everything that's been written in these long and dense discussions, I know, but there's simple way to avoid repetition without needing to do so. Before you post something you think is new, take a few seconds to do a 'control+F' search of the page for a relevant word or phrase - in this case 'Johnson' - and bingo!...there you are.

Louis, the supposed reason for the adoption of powdered wigs as a fashion later in the 17th Century is well known...but what has it to do with a portrait of a man wearing a style of wig that is beyond question C18th? Actually no, don't bother to answer that...at least not until you have satisfactorily addressed Jacob's request on the subject (14/02/2023 17:24): "If you really have comparable wigs [to our one] on dated pictures from the 1650s, please present the evidence."

Marcie Doran,

Here’s an article about that bust of G.F. Pitt that is unfortunately missing.


I can’t decide if the photo of G.F. Pitt in an article from 1936 is the portrait we are discussing. The caption does state that it is "from an oil painting in the Central Library” so perhaps the photo was taken from the side? What do others think?

That's a good find, Marcie. By similarly degrading the ArtUK image of the painting the comparison is even clearer (see attached file). This does seem to be the same portrait, called Capt G.F. Pitt in 1936. I don't think any serious alternative identification has been made to upset this long-standing one. Shame about the missing bust.

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Osmund Bullock,

We seem to be going round in circles. Though I agree that the portrait pictured in the 1936 newspaper article is our one, that is no great revelation: the Collection told us in the intro nearly six years ago that it was "... purchased from the Council of the Hartley (now Southampton) University Library in 1904 by Southampton City Council as a portrait of George Frederick Pitt (donor of the Pitt Library)". They have quite rightly now rejected that identity, as Captain Pitt died in 1835 aged 69, and both the style of the portrait (in a painted oval, note) and the clothes and wig of the sitter show an elderly man (probably rather more than 69) of the mid/late C18th - in fact quite likely from around the time that Pitt (bap. Feb 1766) was born. There is also the problem that the only other portrait we have of Pitt (c.1804 by Robert Dighton in the Royal Collection - and see http://bit.ly/2qwns9u), though a caricature, shows a man whose features are surely incompatible with our sitter's, even many years later?

The Collection's alternative suggestion of Pitt's reputed natural father Nathaniel St André (d. March 1766 age 96) in old age is circumstantially far better, but impossible to verify for want of any useful visual comparisons. And besides, there must be serious doubt as to whether Pitt and his brother were really St André's progeny, meaning that looking for a family resemblance between Pitt and St André is probably pointless anyway.

So I am baffled that we need to keep going over this old ground, time after time. While there is good evidence the lost bust showed Pitt, and that in 1848 people thus knew what he looked like, that doesn't in any way authenticate this portrait's believed identity nearly 60 years later - unless the bust was still around for comparison. But was it - what's the last mention of it still being around? Just because an identification is long-standing doesn't make it correct: in 1904 there was a generally far poorer understanding of what people looked like and wore in previous centuries, even in families who owned strings of ancestral portraits from all periods. In this case the identification as Pitt seems manifestly wrong.

Jacinto Regalado,

The wig here is probably c. 1740s, though someone like Lou Taylor would know better than I.

Jacob Simon,

On the dating we are dealing with an elderly man who may have been conservative and old-fashioned in taste. Taking the wig style, the cut of his coat and the appearance of the portrait itself, I’d favour a dating range from the 1750s to the 1770s.

While I still think there is a resemblance to the work of Mason Chamberlin the elder -- see https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/view_as/grid/search/makers:mason-chamberlin-the-elder-17271787 -- as I posted on 23/03/2017, I would only go as far as “attributed to Mason Chamberlin the elder” and I’d be open to a reasoned case for an alternative attribution.

As I said in a recent post (01/02/2023), after almost six years I fear that it is not going to be possible to take the discussion question, "Who is this distinctive-looking man, and who painted his portrait?", any further.

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