Portraits: British 18th C 19 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.

1 attachment
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.

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