Completed London: Artists and Subjects, Portraits: British 18th C, Portraits: British 19th C 102 Who is this sitter shown with a coronet?

Unknown Man
Topic: Subject or sitter

The coronet on the table should help to identify this sitter – a specialist on such matters should be able to correct my suggestion that this is an Irish Baron. Could it have been painted to commemorate the sitter's elevation or perhaps his appearance in it at a coronation? Its date cannot be as early as 1780.

Martin Hopkinson, Entry reviewed by Art UK

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Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. The sitter has been identified as Charles Cocks, 1st Baron Somers (1725–1806) and the portrait dated to c.1790–1800.
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.


Cliff Thornton,

The sitter appears to be holding a small wooden object in his right hand. Could the collection please provide a close-up of this object ?

Marcie Doran,

Are you able to supply a close-up of the object in the sitter’s right hand, Martin? I am assuming it is a stamp for sealing wax that he would use on the document on the table.

Osmund Bullock,

Even on the normal Art UK image (attached, slightly enlarged) I think there's little doubt it's a seal - probably carnelian set in gold. The small size suggests a personal one, rather than that of an official office.

He's definitely a Baron (colloquially just 'Lord') - the view of his coronet is slightly cheated, but that was normal in art and heraldry to show four of the six 'pearls' (i.e. balls) with which it was set. But I'm a bit puzzled by the 'Irish' bit, Martin - it may be my ignorance, but I wasn't aware of any differences between the coronets of equally-ranked peers from England & Wales, Scotland and Ireland, before or after union.

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Jacinto Regalado,

The painter was in London from 1781 until 1808, when he left for Bath, Bristol and Liverpool, then settled in Manchester. He returned to London in 1824 and died there in 1831. It does not appear that he worked in Ireland.

Jacinto Regalado,

The picture is too late for the coronation of George III and too early for that of George IV. It is more likely related to the sitter's elevation to baronial status.

Martin Hopkinson,

This was submitted so long ago , I cannot remember my reasoning at all!

Jacinto Regalado,

Also, if this was related to a coronation, he would be in full regalia.

Marcie Doran,

I had assumed that the word “EIRE” was on the coronet below the ‘pearls’. The spacing of letters there seems odd.

Jacinto Regalado,

There are no letters on the coronet, only markings to suggest the gleam of the metal band.

Osmund Bullock,

Thanks, David, but that is the coronet in both close-ups, one being the more extended view already posted in the intro. Did you mean to attach one of the hand/seal?

It's nothing to do with a coronation - as Jacinto says, the sitter would be in parliamentary robes - and it may or may not commemorate the creation or inheritance of his barony. As demonstrated in another thread here about an unidentified C18th earl, there are countless examples of peers being portrayed with the 'tools of their trade' long after they came to their title.

Mather Brown normally signed his works in small red letters. David: I don’t suppose that your file image shows anything of this kind?

The portrait is very probably later than the assigned date of 1780.

Two resources that may help with this discussion. The first is the book by Dorinda Evans, ‘Mather Brown: early American artist in England’, which I hope to look at next week. The second is the collection of Mather Brown drawings in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, some of which were reproduced in an article in the 'Burlington Magazine' but not coinciding with our portrait. It would be good to check out the remaining drawings.

Osmund Bullock,

Brilliant, thanks - but as you say, tells us little more than already concluded. It seems to be of the fob type that gentlemen once hung from a chain or ribbon attached to their watch (which sat in a little pocket in their waistcoat or the top of their breeches), rather than a desk seal which had a handle. Either way it takes us no further. alas.

Jacinto Regalado,

What does the collection know about provenance? What is the connection, if known, between this picture and this collection?

Mark Wilson,

I couldn't find any indication as why this should be the portrait of a Baron (as the four visible 'pearls' indicate) from Ireland in particular as there doesn't seem to be anything that distinguishes those from other Barons, But if this picture dates from around 1800, as the dress and the artists career might show, then it's not unlikely.

In 1800 the Parliament of Ireland was abolished (effective from the start of 1801) and incorporated into that of what now became the UK. After much pressure, bribery etc the Parliament of Ireland had agreed to its abolition ( As part of the deal the peers of the Irish House of Lords were to elect 28 of their number to the UK successor. This could be one of those 28 marking his move to Westminster. But actually only 4 of the 28 were Barons:

(Rossmore, Longueville, Callan, Tyrawley) the rest were Earls, Marquesses and Viscounts. So the list is quite short.

But as part of the general bribery and corruption there had also been quite a few peerages created with 14 Barons created in the Peerage of Ireland between 1796 and 1801 ( (not counting subsidiary titles). Also there were a number of Baronies in the GB/UK Parliaments given to existing Irish peers in the same period and after, which enabled them to sit automatically in the combined House of Lords. Though these might be less likely to be commemorated as most already had higher-ranking titles.

There are other new Baronies at the same time of course to both pre-1801 GB ( and post-1801 UK (, especially those awarded for service in the Napoleonic Wars, but there are a lot of Irish ones.

Jacob, if you look on the attachment bottom left the vertical edge of the canvas ends abruptly, suggesting an area at the bottom that has been cropped. There appear to be several red marks along the bottom of the image strip. I will ask the Collection if they are in a position to check, David

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Kieran Owens,

David, in spite of the white blemish on the canvas, can you post a better image of the sitter's left hand, as he appears to be holding some object in it?

Kieran Owens,

Also, might there be any decipherable words on the parchment under his left hand?

Kieran Owens,

Many thanks, David. He is more probably not holding anything and there is definitely no writing.

Kieran Owens,

Additionally, could a more detailed view of the building in the distant landscape be posted?

Louis Musgrove,

Does not the Gold tassell on the coronet denote coronation robes???

Osmund Bullock,

If you think that's right, Louis, then please help us with some evidence; but I think you may have got hold of the wrong end of the stick. As far as I'm aware, peers possess (or used to possess) only one coronet, and this is/was only physically worn at coronations, along with their coronation robes (which are/were different to parliamentary robes).

Which is not to say that this painting must therefore relate to a coronation. Quite apart from the lack of robes to go with the coronet, there were (as Jacinto has pointed out) no coronations in the 60 years between 1761 (Geo III) and 1821 (Geo IV), and it seems unlikely that this portrait is as late as the 1820s. Is that what you're suggesting in a roundabout sort of way?

Far and away the most likely explanation for it is as just a symbol of his title and status, though whether or not the barony it represents had only recently been created or inherited is (in my view) less certain, though perfectly possible.

I agree that his left hand simply rests on the papers under it, holding nothing, but they are not folded for sealing nor is the setting one of a man at a desk dealing with business. That suggests there may be a specific significance to him holding what certainly looks like a portable seal/ signet matrix in his right hand. With the baronial coronet and landscape behind it may just be a matter of marking his elevation to rank, lands, arms etc, but down to the level of a seal being included is a little unusual.

Mark Wilson,

I suspect this isn't a 'real' coronet in the sense that there was actually one sitting on the table when the painting was made. The heraldic coronet of a Baron is "A plain silver-gilt circlet, with six "pearls" of which four are visible" which is what we see here. But to get this is real life would need two of the 'pearls' to be seen from the side which isn't quite here. So it's probably symbolic as an indication of rank and either it wasn't there or its appearance has been distorted to match the heraldic convention.

It could be newly acquired, given the document on the table and the seal and the lack of other robes of the peerage. You would expect a legal appointment to involves a sitter in judges robes and a military or naval one in uniform so a political/administrative role seems more likely.

Tamsyn Taylor,

The sitter is Francis Dashwood, 11th Baron le Despencer, 1708-1781, Second Postmaster General (i.e. there were two of them simultaneously) from 1766-1771. The object that he has in his right hand is the top of a Posthorn which can be seen curving beneath the arm of the chair.

There is a portrait in the National Portrait Gallery by Nathaniel Dance-Holland, showing his beefy face, thick eyebrows, humorous mouth with thin upper lip and thicker lower lip, and natural hair rather than a wig, reddish brown, wavy at the sides, and with a short fringe over the forehead.

Interesting idea that it is Dashwood. He died age 73 in 1781. I don't think our man is as old as that. And I suspect that our portrait is later than 1781.

Jacinto Regalado,

The picture can be no earlier than 1781, when Brown arrived in London at the age of 20 to study/train under Benjamin West; he entered the RA schools in 1782. It seems quite unlikely that he would have gotten a commission from Dashwood immediately upon arrival.

Jacinto Regalado,

What is the basis for the given date of 1780? Is the picture dated?

Kieran Owens,

I do not believe that this could possibly be the same man as Francis Dashwood. The attached shows major differences in the physiognomies, especially the shape of their noses, their eyebrows, and the mild dental underbite of Dashwood.

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Kieran Owens,

Would the City of Westminster Archives Centre have any further information in the file or record relating to the accession number P114?

Scott Thomas Buckle,

I looked through Dorinda Evans' catalogue raisonne of Mather Brown's work a couple of days ago, but couldn't find the painting illustrated, or listed amongst the unidentified sitters. Today I went through the entries for the two hundred identified sitters and found that only one portrait was owned by the City of Westminster, the portrait of Charles Cocks, 1st Baron Somers (1725-1806). On ArtUK only one painting in the City of Westminster Archives Centre is ascribed to Mather Brown - the 'Portrait of an Unknown Man' here discussed, and the dimensions are the same as the Somers portrait listed in the catalogue raisonne. Although she doesn't describe the appearance of the portrait in any detail, Evans also lists a replica in which she states that "the crown is omitted". Based upon the sitter's dress, and Somers' age, Evans' date of c1800 seems about right for the present portrait. Her catalogue was published in 1982, so it is not altogether clear how the identity of the sitter subsequently became detached from the portrait. The Westminster Archive opened in its present location in 1995, so presumably the information got lost in the move.

Jacinto Regalado,

Cocks became the 1st Baron Somers in 1784. The hair may still be a wig, albeit obviously not a powdered one.

Osmund Bullock,

That seems entirely convincing in every particular, Scott: well done.

S. Elin Jones,

If the portrait avove really is the portrait of Baron Somers, then it appears that this may not be the first time that the identity of the sitter has been lost.

The portrait had been identified in 1902 as Baron Somers by Mr Garbett, the town clerk of Marylebone. The painting had been hanging in the Town Hall for many years, it’s identity had “long been a mystery”

The sitter had been identified through ”a diligent search among the old vestry records.”

Kieran Owens,

As a Baron of the second creation, having revived the inherited title from his great-uncle, Charles Cocks (29 June 1725 – 30 January 1806) was raised to the peerage as 1st Baron Somers, of Evesham in the County of Worcester, on the 17th May 1784. If this portrait is of him, the painting must have been executed after that date.,_1st_Baron_Somers

In Christopher Wright and Catherine May Gordon's "British and Irish Paintings in Public Collections" (Yale University Press for the Paul Mellon Centre, 2006), in the list of Mather Brown's works, Westminster City Council are listed as owning the portrait of "Charles Cocks, 1st Baron Somers", with the notes "Evans 1982 no. 175; List 2004, no. 91".

In 1817, Mather's portrait of "the late Lord Somers" was hanging at Eastnor Castle:

I have written to his descendants at Eastnor to ask if they still have Brown's copy of the original.

Also, the attached, from the Worcestershire Chronicle, of Saturday 22nd March 1902, might be helpful.

And to confuse matters, the link below leads to a c.1900 brochure on Eastnor Castle, where, at the bottom of page 24, a reference is made to a portrait of the 1st Baron by George Romney (1734 - 1802), and, on page 25, one by Mather Brown of Colonel The Hon. Philip James Cocks (1774 - 1857).

Kieran Owens,

Please excuse any duplication of postings made this evening. The earlier ones were not seen until my latest was sent.

Scott Thomas Buckle,

George Romney painted Sir Charles Cocks in 1776-7, prior to his accession to the Somers title (see attached scan from Alex Kidson's complete catalogue of Romney's paintings, Yale 2015). The sitter's distinctive facial features match those of the sitter in the Mather Brown portrait at Westminster, even though the Romney portrait shows the sitter displaying his own receding hair. This portrait is just one of many by Romney in the Eastnor Castle Collection that depicts a member of the Cocks family. These include a similarly sized portrait of Charles's younger brother James (1734-1815), and portraits of Charles's sons, John Somers Cocks (1760-1841) and Philip Cocks (1774-1857). Images/biographies can be found in Kidson Vol.I, pp. 138-140.

Well done all. Adapting Lady Bracknell's line on parents, 'To lose a sitter's identity once may be considered a misfortune: to lose it twice looks like carelessness'.

Clear and lasting labelling on the stretcher is much underrated....

Kieran Owens,

David, many thanks

Attached is a composite, which might be of use in deciding the identity of the sitter as Cocks.

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Jacinto Regalado,

It appears he is wearing a wig in our picture, after all.

Tamsyn Taylor,

What we know about this man is that he was the Postmaster. We know it because he is holding his symbol of office in his right hand.

With regards to the identification as Dashwood, I must point out here that a painting is a "likeness" not a photographic image of the person, and also that some aspects of a person's appearance change over the years. One of the expected changes is the loss of teeth, particularly in the upper jaw, which causes older people to appear to have an overbite.

I believe this to be Dashwood, not Somers.
If you were to turn the faces of the two men in the composite image front on, they would appear very different.

It is probably the attribution to the particular artist that needs revising.

Tamsyn Taylor,

Looking again at the composites... Somers has a short, round face and a nose that turns up. His top lip has a distinct marginal rim, and distinct "cupid's bow" shape. His forehead bony. His complexion is ruddy, and his brows very black.
None of this is like the portrait in question, despite a superficial similarity. The "facial type" is different. The Somers portrait is one of those smooth round energetic people.

Jacinto Regalado,

It is not clear or certain that the seal is held by the right hand, and I tend to think it is not. As Osmund noted, it may be a fob type hung from a chain or ribbon attached to a watch in a pocket of the dress.

Jacinto Regalado,

I expect a high-resolution image of this picture could be helpful.

Osmund Bullock,

Tamsyn, before dismissing in its entirety Scott's well-argued, well-researched and well-evidenced case for Lord Summers, do you not think it might be wise to wait and see if David's request to the Collection about a possible Mather signature bottom left (but largely cropped from our image) bears fruit? And ditto for Kieran's (?)email to Eastnor Castle about their copy?

Quite apart from the disputed question of comparative likenesses - and for what it's worth, I am in agreement with both Scott and Kieran about that - there is clearly a very strong circumstantial case for this being the portrait of Lord Somers by Brown listed by Dorinda Evans. And one might add two more elements to that case - as well as the 'crown'/coronet, the portrait is described by Evans as having a landscape background and a damask-upholstered chair, both of which are present here.

Your hypothesis (surprisingly presented as undoubted fact) is based on just two things: the likeness, as you see it, to Lord le Despencer; and what you believe is a post-horn in the sitter’s hand (a most unlikely symbol of office, I'd have thought, even for an C18th Postmaster General – not least because, unlike many continental postal services, it has never been a symbol of the Royal Mail). But I’m afraid I can't in any case see a horn there at all – though the end facing us of the curved shape arguably has a slight resemblance to the open end of a serpent ( ), it looks quite unlike the wide funnel end of a brass post-horn. I think it is most likely to be a wooden part of the chair, part of the support for the arm, though I acknowledge how it’s constructed is not obvious.

There is also the problem of dating: my feeling is that the cut and detail of the sitter's suit make a date before 1781 unlikely or even impossible, and one of the 1790s or later probable – and such a later date has been the feeling of several others here from the beginning. I won’t be too strident about that, though, as I don’t have the expertise; I would as ever welcome Lou’s view one way or the other.

Osmund Bullock,

Jacinto, I think it’s just possible he’s holding the suspending ribbon of the seal between forefinger and thumb (just visible), with the seal itself almost dangling beneath; but I can’t actually see any sign of a ribbon, so it remains puzzling. Nevertheless, the higher-res close-up posted by David (06/08/2021 17:35) leaves me in no doubt that a seal is intended – I don’t understand how it could be read as the mouthpiece of a horn, if that’s what Tamsyn is suggesting.

I am sure the formal 'sitter' conclusion here will be Charles Cocks, 1st Baron Somers: the circumstantial evidence, the sufficiently close likeness to his portrait by Romney, and Dorinda Evans's documentation relating to Brown making a known copy for the 2nd Baron Somers in 1806 -presumably 'in memoriam' on his father's death - reasonably preclude anyone else.

Evans dates the original 'c. 1800', though I suppose it is possible it might be any time after 1784 (the baronial coronet providing that 'terminus post quem') up to around that date.

Only a new search in the Marylebone vestry minutes, to relocate whatever W.H. Garbutt found in 1902 - or possibly discovery of a contemporary local press report about the picture when it was delivered - is likely to provide a more precise date and reason it was apparently commissioned by or for them. That might also help explain the apparent seal which Somers holds, depending on what his specific Marylebone interests were.

Really though, we already know enough to confirm the sitter identity - which was the question asked. The greater detail of why he was painted for Marylebone, beyond his general acknowledged interest in its affairs is a more locally-history concern.

Lets leave this discussion open another week. If then there is no new evidence forthcoming we can recommend closure along the lines suggested by Pieter in the preceding post.

Tamsyn Taylor,

Osmund Bullock, I don't believe that this is Charles Cocks because the composite picture shows two very different facial types.

One has a nose that turns markedly up at the end. The other has a nose that has a droopy tip. An artist may diminish or enlarge this distinctive feature, but the nose remains either upward or downward pointing.
Cocks has a narrow bridge to the nose and projecting brow.
The current portrait has a wide bridge to the nose and does not have a beetling brow.
Cocks has florid skin and black/dark brown hair with thick black brows. He would be MOST UNLIKELY to wear a wig of a bright reddish brown. A dandy of 100 years earlier might have done this. I am sure that the man in the Cocks picture would not.

Tamsyn Taylor,

Are we locked into this being by Mather Brown?
The problem with that attribution is that it sets the lower date to his arrival in 1781.
This is a fairly generic sort of a portrait, and not distinctly Brown, who anyway, was young at the time of his arrival and influenced by what he saw in England, particularly Reynolds.
This painting could be by Reynolds, and his busy studio.

Here is Joseph Banks

James Paine and son,_James.jpg

William Hamilton
Note the wall and curtain

Earl of Rosslyn
Note the chair

Charles Fox

Tamsyn Taylor,

Here are some composite pictures of Dashwood for consideration.
The monochrome portrait is of the type that were designed specifically for reproduction by engraving.
The portrait with the black hair is Dashwood satirising Catholic Rites. He is representing Pope Innocent III, and the herme represents his wife.

Osmund Bullock,

Comparison of likeness is not enough to establish identity on its own - unless the looks are, very rarely, so distinctive and so well-known as to be unmistakable. The reason is obvious in two different current discussions here - people's opinions on whether or not the match is a good one frequently differ. That is why in my last post I passed over that aspect fairly quickly, and wrote mainly about more objective evidence. I and others disagree with your analysis of the visual comparison with the two different men, and just repeating your view (even with further comparison images) gets us no further forward: actual evidence is needed.

The only evidence you have so far offered beyond looks is the post-horn you believe you can see in the sitter's hand, and I have expressed strong doubts about whether there is such an object there. Can you explain its strange appearance, which doesn't resemble any post-horn I can find? Can you offer any evidence that a post-horn was a recognised symbol of the Postmaster General's office (which in many cases was really a lucrative sinecure) or even the Royal Mail in general? And bar the Speaker's parliamentary mace, are there any other portraits of politicians of the period you can show us where the sitter is holding some comparable symbol of his office? The last, especially, is a question wholly without prejudice: if there are such things I would be genuinely interested to know.

I should add that if there were no evidence that this is Lord le Despencer, your hypothesis would be interesting, worth noting but still very far from conclusive. But there *is* such evidence, and it is compelling; and that means the onus is on you to find comparable support for your suggestion or you are doomed to remain a lone voice crying in the wilderness.

Clearly by Mather Brown from the portrait's heavy solidity (and apparently signed, see Dorinda Evans' catalogue entry posted on 8 August). Quite unlike Reynolds' work.

Tamsyn Taylor,

1. The horn. It is not a brass post horn. It is a bovine horn.

2. "Quite unlike Reynolds' work" Evidence?

3. I offered Reynolds as a possibility. Could someone with a greater familiarity with portrait painters active in England in the 1700s suggest more options?

4. Put me right if I am wrong, but I understood that this work was NOT signed and that perhaps it was cut down. Have I got the story wrong?

5. "Comparison of likeness is not enough to establish identity on its own - unless the looks are, very rarely, so distinctive and so well-known as to be unmistakable. "

I agree with this statement, in general.
However, there are numerous pictures of Francis Dashwood, and what we can be certain of is the following

* His natural hair was light brown (perhaps with reddish tint) and was wavy. He did not go bald. He wore it in a short fringe over his forehead. This is a fairly distinctive characteristic of Dashwood and clearly made him stand out in a crowd.
* His face was not round, but rather rectangular and heavy about the jowls.
* His nose drooped at the tip. This is a characteristic that becomes much more pronounced in old age.
* His bottom lip was full and projected slightly.
* His top lip was curvy and rather saturnine.
* His expression was alert and rather humorous.

The portrait in questions has all these characteristics of Francis Dashwood

Your Charles Cox answers to none of them, except that it is a male portrait.
His hair is dark. His head is bald. His face is round. His mouth is wrong. His brow is heavy.

Tamsyn Taylor,

....... and unless this Charles Cocks was a total weirdo, there is NO WAY IN THE WORLD that he would wear a wig that allowed him to be mistaken for Francis Dashwood......

Osmund Bullock,

Re your #4, yes, you have misunderstood. Jacob mentioned (06/08/2021 17:53) that Mather Brown “normally signed his works in small red letters” and asked David if the Art UK file image showed anything like this. David replied (06/08/2021 18:20) that the bottom of the painting may have been cropped in their image, and that there appear to be “several red marks along the bottom...”. He attached an image of the bottom left corner that shows this, and said he would ask the Collection if they were in a position to check. We await the result of that request.

Re #2 & #3: would you be interested in the opinion (about Reynolds, Mather Brown and any other possible artists) of the former Curator of 18th century portraits at the National Portrait Gallery (1983–2001), and of the former Chief Curator of the NPG (2001-2011)? If so, you already have it: they are one and the same man, and his name is Jacob Simon.

Anyway, I have nothing more to say. You have shouted louder and longer – in case you didn't know, writing in capitals online is considered shouting – and through sheer, repetitive win. Well done. I work on this forum in great part because I enjoy it, and this is no longer enjoyable.

Tamsyn Taylor,

Osmund Bullock, the use of caps, in this instance, was intended to convey humour. I believe that I have only used them once... and it was with reference to whether any reasonably normal person would wish to be mistaken for Francis Dashwood. I apologise for not making my cynicism sufficiently obvious.

yes, I have been told that I am wrong about it being Dashwood, because of the date.... and that I am wrong about it ....possibly.... being by Reynolds.
I did read that.... bot I do not accept the dismissal of the attribution as Dashwood, because my eyes tell me that this possibility warrants being examined more thoroughly.
I have therefore examined it further and posted my findings.

Concerning the possibility that the work might be by someone other than Mather Brown, perhaps Reynolds:
Being a curator and indeed Chief Curator of a distinguished institution requires in depth knowledge, scholarship and all sorts of fine abilities. These generally would include the ability to communicate knowledge about artworks in a meaningful way.

I have supported my claims with analysis of the visual evidence.
I have asked Jacob Simon to give me back more in response than simply "Quite unlike Reynold's work" and haven't received it.

But, red marks or not, there is a crisp linear quality in the portraits of Mather Brown (a little more in the manner of Gainsborough) which appear to me to be missing in our present portrait. I might be wrong as this could change with cleaning.

Also, the compositional features of wall, pilaster, chair with studs, table, and exterior stormy sky are all typical of certain category of Reynolds portraits. These elements do not appear together as a compositional stage set in Mather as they do, repeatedly, in Reynolds. The examples that I included, above, illustrate this formula.
My suggestion is that artists other than Mather Brown are considered.

Kieran Owens,

As a wise person once said..."Don't raise your voice. Improve your argument."

Osmund, I am sorry to read the final paragraph of your post above. Your participation is vital. My advice to you, and indeed to myself, is to completely ignore those posts on this forum which rely on shouting other people down, whether or not from a position of ignorance. Just pass by such posts as if they had never been made. It is sad that from time to time on Art Detective someone comes along who is not willing to participate in the spirit of the forum.

I would like to repeat Marion Richards' words from yesterday posted on another discussion:

“I hope this discussion will continue in the friendly and collaborative manner that we are used to and that we expect from all contributors.”

“Our Code of Conduct can be found here. .”

Tamsyn Taylor,

Keiran Owens, I wrote above, the caps were used to signify the humour of the situation.
Charles Cocks looks like a rather pompous individual. Why on earth would he wear a wig that allowed him to be mistaken for a man who was notorious as an eccentric, a blasphemer, a womaniser and a drunkard?

You have suggested that I should improve the argument.
You might not agree, but the improbability of Cocks undermining his own credibility and reputation by setting himself up to look like Dashwood seems to me like the best argument yet!

Kieran Owens,

Tamsyn, please present some proofs. Otherwise all you are doing is conjuring up scenarios that never existed in order to prove that they either exist or never existed. This alienating Trumpian argumentative logic is not one that is useful or welcome here.

As for your composites at 13/08/2021 15:14, there is not one of them, to my eye, that presents a convincing positive comparison to show that our sitter is Dashwood, especially when one looks, in particular, at the shape of the noses of both persons. Basing your own dogmatic claim for these composites, that this is Dashwood, is not convincing evidence. It is was, I and other contributors, and more importantly Art UK and the collection, would happily accept your proposal.

Respect and consideration for credible suggestions have always been the hallmarks of the Art Detective experience, allowing contributors to pursue potentially valuable leads or ideas to their inevitable conclusions, be they positive or negative ones. Without the backing of eventual proofs, however, the endless insistence that one's suggestions are the only valid ones smacks of, at best, stubbornness and, at worst, bullying, especially when accompanied by the rubbishing of the contributions from eminently qualified contributors whose long years of accumulated knowledge are voluntarily and generously brought to these discussions.

Regrettably, from your approach so far in this and other discussions, I am afraid that you have already lost the dressing room.

Tamsyn Taylor,

I have looked at the trail of evidence to suggest that the picture is Charles Cocks, and by Mather Brown.

If the trail is followed, then, there seems to me that there are several points along the way at which the identities of two relevant paintings, one of Cocks, and the present portrait, could have been lost and subsequently misapplied.

We know from the research done here, that the identity of a portrait later identified as Cocks was lost.
We know that the identity of the present painting was lost.
Can a definite link between these two, and the catalogue painting be established? Or are there gaps?

Tamsyn Taylor,

I feel the need to defend myself here to the extent of saying that I don't think that I have "rubbish[ed] .. the contributions" of anyone.
I have asked for some more descriptive evidence as to why the picture could not be by, say, Reynolds, or some other painter.

With the lack of a signature, and an apparent lack of continuity of provenance, the establishing of the painter comes down to assessment by someone with the right expertise. And, hopefully, the person who possesses that expertise is prepared to share and elucidate their reasoning.
At the end of the day, one wants to know the reason why that expert accepted one possible candidate for authorship and not another.

I realise that I must seem to you to be a very argumentative sort of person.
Let me explain myself.
You have between you a huge amount of expertise and experience, and research skills and contacts......
What can I bring to the table?
An eye that has been looking intently at artworks, and interpreting them for other people for the last seventy years.

There is no point in my buying into your club unless I have something positive to contribute.
I have nothing that you lack, except, sometimes, clarity of vision.
I am not contributing to assist you in doing what you already , between you, have all the skills to do.
I am only here to say "Look again" and "Consider the evidence of your eyes."
This is something which, in my experience, many people, including experienced curators, do not do adequately.
And it leads me into disagreements.

This is the reason why I have only contributed to a small number of these discussions. Not to avoid disagreeing, but simply because most of the time I observe what is done here, and I am impressed. I only chip in when I have something to contribute.


The key document is the attachment posted by Scott Thomas Buckle on 8 August 22:04 in the form of an extract from Dorinda Evans' catalogue raisonne of the work of Mather Brown. This demonstrates for certain that the artist painted a portrait of Charles Cox, 1st Baron Somers, which in 1806 was in the Court House of St Marylebone parish. We can link this portrait to the one under discussion in four interwoven steps:

1. Our portrait is certainly the work of Mather Brown, an artist whose work I know very well, from its solid, almost stolid, appearance. Further, it appears very likely that it is signed, as Dorinda Evans reports The portraits of Sir Joshua Reynolds, a name proposed in this discussion, have more dynamic compositions and more animation in the features. That said, Brown learnt a lot from Reynolds in terms of his compositions as the leading artist of the day

2. The portrait represents a Baron as we know from the coronet. His appearance is sufficiently similar to his portrait by Romney to confirm that our portrait represents Lord Somers despite the interval of time between the two portraits.

3. The appearance of the portrait and the costume suggest a date in the 1790s or thereabouts, although dating the costume of establishment men, who may be conservative in taste, is not a precise matter. In any case, given that the portrait is certainly by Brown, it must be after 1781.

4. The portrait is in the possession of the successor local authority, namely Westminster, to St Marylebone.

On this basis the identification of the present portrait as Charles Cox, 1st Baron Somers, is very satisfactorily demonstrated.

While we should wait a week or two to see if we get responses from Westminster as to the signature and Eastnor Castle as to their copy, there is actually sufficient evidence already to close this discussion.

Kieran Owens,

I have not yet received a reply from Eastnor Castle to my query of five days ago, but as soon as it comes I will alert all to its contents.

And please, Tamsyn, do not be so indignantly righteous as to dismissively describe the well-meaning contributors to these open discussions as being members of a "club". We our a wide community of diverse people who strive to fulfil the objectives of Art UK's Art Detective facility by following mutually accepted standards for rigorous research. We usually only have something to contribute when it can be shown to be of use or value to moving each discussion onwards towards a positive conclusion. Those conclusions are usually only reached after the presentation of proof.

Mark Wilson,

I'm sure we'd all love this to be the wicked Sir Francis. There's a bit of a resemblance and I did even check to see if there might be a family connection, but there's only an illegitimate daughter with an almost equally scandalous life ( But it's not enough given the pretty certain authorship if this is signed, the likely date and the additional information we know from Dorinda Evans. And I think the sitter more resembles the earlier Romney portrait, once you take the change in position, hairstyle and lighting into account.

I suspect the acquisition of a wig may be linked to that of the coronet. If you look at paintings of the House of Commons from the time (eg from 1793) you see that a lot of MPs are wearing wigs (or hats) but many are shown with their own, often scanty, hair just as Cocks is in the 1776 Romney. All are powdered of course in such a formal setting - hair powder only starts to go out of use from 1795 on.

Contemporary pictures of the House of Lords however show a much more uniform use of wigs (eg from 1780). The Judges and Bishops have their own special ones of course, but even ordinary members are nearly all wearing them. The Lords would expect more conservative, old-fashioned, attire and a wig would probably be expected well past 1800 when they were falling out of favour elsewhere. So someone elevated to the Lords would be expected to wear one even they hadn't bothered before.

Charles Cocks is probably best know today as the man who gave his name (or rather title) to Somers Town, the area of London between Euston and St Pancras Stations, which was developed on land he owned (I bet Camden wouldn't have forgotten whose portrait it was). His involvement with St Marylebone Parish and Vestry illustrated by the newspaper cuttings is no doubt linked with the existence and location of this portrait.

The main mystery remaining is the date. The document and seal suggest a picture that was commissioned by the Vestry or its members to commemorate some event or Cocks' long-standing association with them. This might not be his ennoblement in 1784, the coronet might be more a mark of status (and as I said above, not even there). A later date of 1800-ish as suggested by Evans, might be possible and explain the lack of powder, though this doesn't look particularly like a man of 75.

That the family wanted a copy after his death suggests it may have been near to 1806 in date, but it also hints at an unwillingness on Cocks' part to be painted if even the family didn't have a recent portrait. Even the Romney was produced together with those of other family members and with a pose that doesn't express enthusiasm. So it could just be that there were no more recent ones available and an earlier date is possible.

There may well be records linked to the Vestry that could record the picture being commissioned or maybe even newspaper reports. St Marylebone has an active amenity society:

which researches local history and it may well be that they have some knowledge or the ability to find out.

Scott Thomas Buckle,

The replica by Mather Brown, inscribed with the sitter's name, and still in the hands of the sitter's descendants at Eastnor Castle, is an additional piece of evidence in supporting the identification of the sitter as being Charles Cocks, 1st Baron Somers. This, as I have stated in a previous post, is recorded in Dorinda Evans' catalogue raisonne of Mather Brown's work. I e-mailed Professor Evans, asking if she might have an image of the Eastnor replica, or if she might have any additional information about the Westminster portrait that could be added to this discussion, but I have yet to receive a response. Hopefully Kieran's request to Eastnor Castle will be fruitful, but alternatively, I wonder if the sitter's file at the NPG Heinz Archive might hold an image of the Eastnor replica, and perhaps some other comparable portraits of Somers?

Osmund Bullock,

Scott, I think it highly likely that the boxes at the Heinz will hold a photo of the Eastnor replica or indeed the Marylebone / Westminster original...or both. Either would do.

Unfortunately the Heinz Library has been closed since the start of the pandemic, and their website is still showing the same message that has been up there since March 2020. No updates, plans for re-opening or any other information have been given there at any time; no attempt was made to re-open when things temporarily relaxed in the summer and autumn of last year; and the response to enquiring emails is an auto-reply stating what we already know - that they are closed because of Covid-19. To say the situation is frustrating is an understatement - even the National Art Library (otherwise closed till at least December) is offering some onsite appointments from September. Mrs Heinz must be turning in her grave.

My suspicion, which gets stronger every week, is that they will take the opportunity to save money by not re-opening until the main gallery does so in 2023. Jacob, while emphasizing he has no insider knowledge, is or was confident that is not so. I have seldom wished so earnestly that I am wrong about something, and been so depressed at the thought that I may be right.

Osmund Bullock,

An excellent find, Marcie! Allowing for a minor artistic tweak at the top of the back, I think that's the same chair (presumably a studio prop) - as the page Scott posted from Dorinda Evans' monograph relates, Mather Brown wrote that "... I never paint out of my own house ...". So much for the bovine post-horn.

S. Elin Jones,

It’s possible that the information mentioned by Dorinda Evans as the source of the “Date:based on Marylebone Vestry minutes ” was from an entry from the Vestry minutes of March 1st, 1806.

During the efforts to identify the artist and sitter of this painting, it was once considered that it could have been a portrait of Lord Harley. A photograph of the portrait was sent to the Duke of Portland at Welbeck, but he verified that it was not.

i) “Subsequently, on the matter being referred to Messrs. P & D Colnaghi, the well known picture dealers, it was ascertained that the painter of the portrait is Mather Brown, a pupil of Benjamin West..”

i) “With this data to work upon, it ought not to be difficult to discover the original of the mysterious portrait,…”

ii) “The General Purpose Committee reported they had received the following report from the Town Clerk with reference tto the “unknown” portrait in the Council Chamber that diligent search has been made amongst the old records in the possession of the Council, and by the minutes of the Vestry of the 1st of March, 1806, it has been found the portrait is that of Charles Cocks, M.P. for Reigate, who was created a Baronet in 1772,…”

ii) “ I have had further search made in the minutes prior to the date referred to, with the view of finding, if possible, when the presentation of the portrait took place, but without result.”

i) Marylebone Mercury - 15 March, 1902
ii) Marylebone Mercury - 22 March, 1902

1 attachment
Kieran Owens,

Well done Marcie, a suburb find. And to S. Elin Jones. Both have added tangible evidence that brings this discussion nearer to a conclusion.

Tamsyn Taylor,

Marcie Doran,
Most definitely same chair (or one of a set!) I would that as confirming the author of the work (despite other less typical compositional elements).

I have tried twice to post this. I hope it does send multiple copies.

Kieran Owens,

Marcie, it was even a superb (and not suburb!) find.

Tamsyn Taylor,

Jacob Simon,
Thank you for your fuller response.

I fail to be convinced by the Romney Portrait and I'm looking forward to any forthcoming information concerning the Eastnor replica which will surely settle any doubt that I have.

In the meantime,
1. Can we be sure that the Town Clerk identified the correct painting? Is there, or was there another portrait?
Seeing the coronet, the Town Clerk may possibly have assumed it to be the same baron who was also part of the vestry.
2. Concerning the style of clothing worn by the sitter, it is plainly not fashionable indoor dress of around 1780 or earlier. It appears to be a topcoat, and hence lapelled. There is an engraving of Paul Whitehead, of the Hell Fire Club (died 1774) from the frontispiece of his works, with similar coat and almost identical hair (and an truly spaced-out expression) so the costume alone does not rule out the possibility that the painting has a date considerably earlier than around 1806.
I won't attempt to attach the pic because I am having difficulty sending.
3. Francis Dashwood had extensive interests in this area, involving a sizeable building project for the Dilettanti on Cavendish Square and landscaping extending much further to the North. The earlier Marylebone Church was well within his range, and has associations with Hogarth, and John Wesley (of whom Dashwood would surely have approved for his refusal to be locked into the Church's liturgy. ) The present Marylebone Church would have formed an aspect of his vista.... He probably would have approved of that as well.

All this can simply be ignored if the Eastnor replica portrait comes good,

Kieran Owens,

The Eastnor archivist has sent a preliminary reply saying that when she is next in the castle she will follow up on my enquiry. She hopes that that will be within the next ten working days.

Kieran Owens,

Following on from Scott Thomas Buckle's 08/08/2021 22:04 attached extract from Dorinda Evan's catalogue raisonné of Mather Brown's works, and from the 09/08/2021 02:24 posting that mentions the 1817 reference to a portrait by Mather Brown of "the late Lord Somers" hanging at Eastnor Castle, Hazel Hill, the archivist to Eastnor Castle Estates, has very kindly sent to me the attached extract from their inventory book. She has added that their portrait of Charles Cocks hangs in a narrow public bedroom corridor in the castle, a location that makes it particularly difficult to take a good front-on photograph of the painting. This evidence provides 100% proof that the portrait in the collection of the City of Westminster Archives Centre is of Charles Cocks, 1st Baron Somers (1725-1806).

• Title

Sir Charles Cocks (1725-1806); Baronet, of Dumbleton (1772-1784); 1st Baron Somers, of Evesham (1784-1806); M.P. for Reigate (1747-1784); Clerk of Deliveries of the Ordnance (1758-1772); Clerk of the Ordnance (1772-1782)

• Date

Between 1784 and 1817

Jacinto Regalado,

Obviously, it would be desirable to have the Westminster picture properly cleaned and restored.

Good outcome: before this is formally closed can anyone provide a contemporary obituary of Cocks that might better explain his interest in Marylebone (or why they wanted his portrait)? He's not in ODNB though his basic data are clear enough in his Wiki entry from usual genealogical sources, viz:

Charles Cocks, 1st Baron Somers (29 June 1725 – 30 January 1806), known as Sir Charles Cocks, 1st Baronet, from 1772 to 1784, was a British politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1747 to 1784.
Cocks was the son of John Cocks and his wife Mary Cocks who was his cousin and daughter of Thomas Cocks of Castleditch and was born on 29 June 1725. His paternal grandfather Charles Cocks was the husband of Mary Somers, sister of John Somers, 1st Baron Somers, Lord Chancellor of England. He matriculated at Worcester College, Oxford in 1742 and entered Lincoln's Inn in 1745, where he was called to the bar in 1750.Cocks was elected Member of Parliament for Reigate in the 1747 general election and held the seat until 1784. He was appointed Clerk of Deliveries of the Ordnance for 1758 to 1772 and Clerk of the Ordnance from 1772 to 1782.He succeeded his father in 1771 and the following year was created a baronet of Dumbleton in the County of Gloucester, and on 17 May 1784 the barony inherited from his great-uncle was revived when he was raised to the peerage as Baron Somers, of Evesham in the County of Worcester.Lord Somers married, firstly, Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Eliot and Harriot, natural daughter of James Craggs the Younger, in 1759. After her death in 1771 he married, secondly, Anne, daughter of Reginald Pole, in 1772. There were children from both marriages. Lord Somers died in January 1806, aged 80, and was succeeded in his titles by his son from his first marriage, John, who was created Earl Somers in 1821. Anne, Lady Somers, died in 1833.

S. Elin Jones,

It’s mentioned in the attachment of the post of 15/08/21 that
“Lord Sommers for many years appeared to take a very great interest inthe affairs of the Parish, being elected Churchwarden time after time, and during a long period of years very frequently presided at the meetings of the Vestry”

It’s also noted in the obituary in the Gloucester Journal - 10 Feb, 1806 that he was
“..,Churchwarden for the extensive Parish of Mary-le-Bone”

.....”His Lordship’s remains will be deposited with those of his ancestors, at Eastnor, Herefordshire, on the 11th instant.”

i) Charles Cocks Obituary.

1 attachment

Thank you: curious that he does not appear in the 'Gentleman's Magazine' as well (or even a simple death notice there), at least as far as I can see. The seal he appears to hold -which might be parish related given the context - will probably have to remain a mystery.

Thanks Kieran: must have been either some some electronic quirk or 'pilot error', since I tried Feb to April individually under Somers and Cocks, without success.

I propose to recommend that we close this discussion on the basis that the artist is Mather Brown, the sitter Charles Cocks, 1st Baron Somers (1725 – 1806) and the date of the portrait c.1790-1800 unless there are further helpful contributions in the next week.

Kieran Owens,

If closing the discussion, I once again humbly submit a suggestion for the title:

Sir Charles Cocks (1725-1806); Baronet, of Dumbleton (1772-1784); 1st Baron Somers, of Evesham (1784-1806); M.P. for Reigate (1747-1784); Clerk of Deliveries of the Ordnance (1758-1772); Clerk of the Ordnance (1772-1782)

In my experience as a curator, the preceding is too long for a title of a work. But the text should certainly be used in the biography .

Jacinto Regalado,

It could be put in a descriptive note. The title can be simply Sir Charles Cocks (1725-1806), 1st Baron Somers.

This discussion, “Who is this sitter shown with a coronet?”, has attracted almost 100 comments since it was launched less than a month ago. It has brought to light that the identity had been lost by the City of Westminster but was available in various sources including the book by Dorinda Evans on the artist, Mather Brown (post by Scott Thomas Buckle, 08/08/2021). It has also brought to light valuable information on the sitter, Lord Somers, and his connection to the Marylebone vestry, one of the local government units absorbed into Westminster. For a biography, see post by Pieter van der Merwe, 20/08/2021. The discussion has also shown that Somers appears to be seated in a distinctive chair which may have been a studio prop of the artist (post by Marcie Doran, 15/08/2021). The identification is confirmed by a documented later autograph version of 1806 in the collection at Eastnor Castle (post by Kieran Owens, 19/08/2021).

Subject to agreement by the collection and other group leaders, I recommend that the discussion be closed on the basis that the artist is Mather Brown, the sitter “Charles Cocks, 1st Baron Somers (1725-1806)” and the date of the portrait c.1790-1800. See also my post of 14 August.

Jacob, I have asked the Collection to confirm that they are happy with the findings and for Art UK to update the record for this portrait accordingly. Thanks, David

The Collection have commented: 'We’ve checked the St Marylebone Vestry minutes. We found two relevant entries, dated 21 February 1806 and 1 March 1806. We attach phone snaps. They confirm Jacob’s view but they refer to Mather Brown making a copy of an existing portrait of Somers.'

Ah... real minutes, a case of 'autres temps, autres moeurs': a pity the portrait isn't in equally original condition but that could easily be fixed, and worth doing. Brown was of course an American who, like his second teacher West, came and stayed (his first Gilbert Stuart, came and then went home) but died in neglect amid a pile of unsold paintings from never making it into the status of ARA/RA: very good though, and it would be a happy and perhaps sponsorable conclusion to this case of lost identity re-found.