Karen Taylor Fine Art is delighted to announce the sale on behalf of a client of a recently rediscovered portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds to a charitable trust. The portrait of Peregrine Bertie, 3rd Duke of Ancaster (1714-1778) was discovered in a house sale at Plas Gwyn in Anglesey where it was very dirty (but in marvellous original condition under the mire) and mis-catalogued. Its misattribution had occurred by the 1950s when it was included in John Steegman’s book of paintings in Welsh houses as the work of a follower of Reynolds. This picture was also recorded as ‘untraced’ in David Mannings catalogue of Reynolds’ paintings. It was engraved by Richard Josey in 1866.
Plas Gwyn, Pentraeth, Angelsey was the house of Thomas Panton, the sitter’s father-in-law to whom he probably gave the portrait, and the painting remained there until its recent sale.
Peregrine Bertie, 3rd Duke of Ancaster succeeded his father in 1742. Reynolds painted him gazing slightly wistfully into the distance wearing an elegant red coat and sumptuous green waistcoat embroidered with gold thread, standing under a tree, with the sky beyond. He married first, in 1735, Elizabeth, nee Blundell, widow of Sir Charles Gunter Nicoll who came with a dowry of £70,000. His second marriage, in November 1750, was to Mary Panton, (?1735-1793), illegitimate daughter of Thomas Panton (1700-1782).
The Duke was a Privy Councillor and Lord Lieutenant of Lincolnshire from 1742 to his death in 1778. In 1745 he raised and led a regiment against the Jacobites and rose to Major General in January 1755; Lieutenant General in February 1759 and General in May 1772. He was Lord of the Bedchamber from 1755-65; Lord Great Chamberlain at the coronation of King George III in 1761 until his death and Master of the King’s Horse from 1776-78. The Prime Minister Lord North called him ‘a very egregious blockhead, who is besides both mulish and intractable’. He was also president of the charitable Lock Hospital, London’s first venereal disease clinic.
Although apparently paid for by the Duke himself the portrait may have been given to his father-in-law, Thomas Panton through whose family it has passed by descent. Panton began as a humble groom in the stables of King George I at Hampton Court Palace and later rose to become Master of the Thurlow Hunt. He was also the trainer of the Duke of Devonshire’s horses and Keeper of the King’s Running Horses at Newmarket after 1750.
It should be noted that at the same time as the Duke was sitting to Reynolds (1757-8) the artist was also painting portraits of both of Mary Panton’s parents, Thomas and Priscilla.
Careful restoration has revealed a portrait of exceptional quality in excellent condition and with great richness of colour. Many of Reynolds’ paintings are not in very good condition, often due to the experimental nature of his work and his use of bitumen.