J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

Subscribe thru Follow.it


Tuesday, November 08, 2022

Horace Walpole at Ten Years Old

Speaking of Horace Walpole, last week I received a packet of postcards from Strawberry Hill, that gentleman’s British estate, in thanks for supporting a fundraising initiative.

The Antiques Trade Gazette told the story:
The Strawberry Hill Trust appealed for help to buy the painting by William Hogarth (1697-1784). Walpole – the 4th Earl of Orford (1717-97) – lived at the Twickenham house and the portrait was on loan there from a private collection.

The trust had an opportunity to buy the painting from the private collection as it has been offered to the nation in lieu of death duties.

However, the painting had been valued at more than the tax due which meant there was a £230,000 funding gap.

The National Heritage Memorial Fund donated £115,000 and the Art Fund has given £90,000. The remaining £25,000 was raised via the Art Fund’s crowdfunding platform, Art Happens. . . .

The trust said the picture was of “exceptional interest” as it is the earliest surviving oil portrait of Walpole; a rare and significant example of Hogarth’s early mature pictorial work; the earliest-known commissioned picture of an identifiable sitter by Hogarth and his first-known portrait of a child. The painting was commissioned by Horace’s father, Sir Robert Walpole (1676-1745), the first British prime minister, when his youngest son was aged 10 and a pupil at Eton.
The portrait can now be viewed at Strawberry Hill. One day I’ll go there and feel pride in contributing to that display.

At Museum Crush, Richard Moss wrote on article on “Decoding the Hogarth portrait of the young Horace Walpole.” The boy points to a sundial indicating the number ten, his age. One of the many spaniels he loved over his lifetime runs below. And he looks fabulous in his embroidered blue waistcoat.

But that article doesn’t note what might be the most significant aspect of this portrait: it signaled that his father was actually interested in him at last. As Horace was growing up, his parents were estranged. Horace lived with his mother while, from 1723 on, his father kept house with Maria Skerritt, eventually his second wife. According to Lady Louisa Stuart (1757–1851), a daughter of the Earl of Bute, “Sir Robert Walpole took scarcely any notice of him, till his proficiency at Eton school, when a lad of some standing, drew his attention…” And that’s when the portrait was made.

No comments: