John Downman (1750 - 1824)
- The 3rd Marquess of Hertford as a Boy
- Black chalk, stump and wash with some body-colour on paper
- Object size: 22 x 17.2 cm
Image size: 21 x 16.5 cm, in an oval mount
- Signature: 'JD 1781'
- Not on display
- The four small oval portraits by John Downman (1750-1824) in the Wallace Collection (see P751, P753 and P754) are typical examples of his work from the early 1780s, when he became one of London’s leading portraitists of the aristocracy. It appears that Downman was commissioned to produce a series of family portraits by the 2nd Marquess of Hertford. Labels on the reverse of the frames suggest they were framed, as a set, in Paris, where they were probably in the collection of the 3rd Marchioness of Hertford, before passing to her son, the 4th Marquess of Hertford.
Downman’s particular technique for these designs – in which he would use graphite, chalks and stump (a drawing tool, used for blending and smudging) to make a sketch of the sitter and then add colour to the reverse of the drawing in chalk or watercolour, which would show through the sheet in softly muted tones – created the distinctive effects for which he is known. His decision to abandon oil painting in favour of chalk drawing was undoubtedly related to the contemporary vogue for pastel portraits, although his particular use of the medium was an innovative development of the conventional practice.
Francis Charles Seymour-Conway (1777-1842), became Viscount Beauchamp in 1793, the Earl of Yarmouth in 1794 and, later, the 3rd Marquess of Hertford (1822). In adulthood he was portrayed by a number of artists, including Thomas Lawrence. Although the identity of the other sitters from the series has been queried (see P751, P753 and P754), in this case, the sitter is sufficiently identified by his age, his red hair (which, combined with his florid complexion, would later earn him the nickname of ‘Bloaters’ (or ‘Red Herrings’)) and the fact that Downman inscribed a known portrait of his mother (the 3rd Marchioness of Hertford): ‘I drew three of this, and her little boy’.