John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich
(13 November 1718 – 30 April 1792)
Attributed to George Knapton (1698-1778)
Dressed in the Turkish manner, standing full-length above the Bosphorus, Constantinople
Previously considered to be Jean-Etienne Liotard (22 December 1702 – 12 June 1789) however following the Liotard show at the Royal Academy, the gathered and current experts superseded the traditional attribution to Liotard of all of these Constantinople full-length portraits and has firmly attributed them to George Knapton.
Oil on canvas
71 x 54.5 inches
80.5 x 64 in. (inc. frame)
John Montagu, the eldest son of Edward Montagu, Viscount Hinchinbroke and his wife Elizabeth Popham of Littlecote, succeeded to the title of his grandfather Edward, 3rd Earl of Sandwich when he was eleven years old. After his education at Eton and Cambridge, he set off in July 1738 for a tour that took him through Italy to Greece and Turkey. He travelled from Rome with Lord Duncannon and the painter Jean Etienne Liotard who has until recently been considered to have painted him in Turkish dress.
From Constantinople, he went to Egypt, Malta, Lisbon, Gibraltar and back to Genoa. The trip was a great success and is described in a book published after his death that purports to be his journal (but may have been written or corrected by his tutor) entitled ‘A Voyage performed by the late Earl of Sandwich round the Mediterranean in the years 1738 and 1739’.
On his return to England, Lord Sandwich took his seat in the House of Lords and plunged himself into party politics. In subsequent years he had various portraits made of him in Turkish dress, including one known to be by George Knapton for the Dilettanti Society in 1745 and one by Joseph Highmore which shows him sporting a narrow mustache as in this picture. In later life, he was painted by Reynolds, Gainsborough and Zoffany.
Lord Sandwich held diplomatic, military and naval appointments, rising to be First Lord of the Admiralty in 1748-51, 1763, and 1771-1780. He was often the focus of controversy, both for scandals in his private life for allowing corrupt practices beneath him. However, he was a man of great charm and artistic interests, liked by his subordinates, and his house was said to be “filled with rank, beauty, and talent, and everyone (was) at ease”.
Mr. Roethlisberger (author of the authoritative catalogue raisonne) says that FOLLOWING THE ROYAL ACADEMY SHOW OF LIOTARD, the experts, including himself, have now decided that Liotard could not have painted all these very large portraits but that they were instead painted by Knapton.
This change of heart came about after the big exhibition of Liotard in London last year, where he said they had several of the very large portraits together with the smaller works and it became apparent that the hand was not the same in the monumental pieces.
From a stylistic point of view, Richardson might also be considered through gesture and touch etc however Knapton as his great pupil was bound to be influenced by his master and is known to have been patronised by the Dilettanti members.
GEORGE KNAPTON (1698–1778)
George Knapton (1698–1778) was an English portrait painter and the first portraitist for the Society of Dilettanti in the 1740s. He became Surveyor and Keeper of the King's Pictures from 1765–78.
Knapton was born in Christchurch, Hampshire, the son of William Knapton Esquire of Brockenhurst, Hampshire. He studied art under Jonathan Richardson, then at the St. Martin's Lane Academy. He spent some years in Italy where he became known as a sound judge of the works of the Old Masters. An account of his visit to Herculaneum was published in the "Philosophical Transactions" of 1740 (no. 458).
He painted many members of the Society of Dilettanti – mostly in fancy dress – including the Duke of Dorset, Viscount Galway, Sir Francis Dashwood, the Earl of Holdernesse, Earl of Bessborough and Sir Bourchier Wray. Knapton resigned his position at the society in 1763.
In 1750, the then Prince of Wales commissioned Knapton, together with George Vertue, to produce a catalogue of the pictures at Kensington Palace, Hampton Court and Windsor Castle. In 1765, he succeeded Stephen Slaughter as Surveyor and Keeper of the King's Pictures; he was also in charge of Lord Spencer's collection at Althorp, Northamptonshire.
Knapton's largest painting was that of the widowed Princess of Wales and her family (1751). He also painted portraits of the Earl of Upper Ossory (with his brother and sister), the Earl of Burlington, Admiral Sir John Norris, Francis, Fifth Duke of Leeds, Admiral George Vandeput, Archibald Bower, Nicolas Tindal, Hildebrand Jacob, Admiral Edward Hawke, and the singers Carestini and Lisabetta du Parc.
Knapton assisted his brother James, a book publisher in London in the production of several publications including works by Thomas Birch and The History of England by Nicolas Tindal and Paul de Rapin. James was born in 1701 in Christchurch, Hampshire. John and Paul Knapton succeeded to and extended their father's business.
Knapton died in Kensington in December 1778 and was buried there on the 28th of that same month.
The Society of Dilettanti (founded 1734) is a society of noblemen and scholars which sponsors the study of ancient Greek and Roman art, and the creation of new work in the style. It was the Catalyst for great intellectual and cultural improvement. This portrait predates Knapton official residency and may in fact have contributed to his gaining that position.