John Downman (1750 - 1824)
- Isabella, 2nd Marchioness of Hertford, as Lady Beauchamp
- Black chalk, stump, pastel and wash with white heightening on paper
- Object size: 22.5 x 19.1 cm
Image size: 21 x 16.7 cm, in an oval mount
- Signature: 'JD / 1781'
Inscription: 'P754' Written in pencil
- 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.
Isabella Anne Ingram Shepheard (1760-1834) was the second wife (m.1776) of Francis, Viscount Beauchamp, who became Earl of Yarmouth (1793), and later succeeded as the 2nd Marquess of Hertford (1794). Her only child, who later became the 3rd Marquess of Hertford, was also portrayed by Downman (see P752). She lived in Hertford House (now home to the Wallace Collection) from 1798, and became the confidante of the Prince of Wales (later George IV) in the early 19th century. Her full-length portrait by Joshua Reynolds also dates from 1781 (now in the collection at Temple Newsam, Leeds).
Two replica portraits, both inscribed by Downman as ‘Lady Beauchamp’ (one of which is now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge) indicate that this sitter is the 2nd Marquess of Hertford. However, her identity remains uncertain, owing to the lack of resemblence to other known portraits of her. Furthermore, a third replica of this picture (now in a private collection) was identified by Dr. Williamson in 1907 as a portrait of ‘Miss Way’. Previously, another drawing from the series was thought to be a portrait of the 2nd Marchioness (see P751).