- Museum number
Portrait of Sir Watkin William Wynn in a blue coat; half-length to left. 1772
Coloured chalks, with graphite
- Production date
Height: 231 millimetres
Width: 193 millimetres (oval)
- Curator's comments
- Following text is from 'Intimate Portrait' exh. catalogue (S. Lloyd & K. Sloan, NGS & BM, 2008), no. 112& 113:
Hugh Douglas Hamilton set himself up as a pastel portraitist in Dublin in the late 1750s and soon had a flourishing business producing small oval portraits of the size here. He moved to London around 1764. The thin hatching strokes he started to use to depict faces in the 1770s are visible here. But also visible are blemishes that are the result of damage to the fragile surface of the chalk. Pastels have a very loose surface and are usually kept framed and glazed. There are photographs of these two portraits in the NPG Heinz archive which show them in their original gadrooned oval frames with pearl sights, used by Hamilton at this date in London. The British Museum does not usually collect pastels and when these were presented to the Museum in 1940, they were removed from their frames and put in mounts so they could be stored with the rest of the collection in Solander boxes. Sadly the mounts were not deep enough to protect the surfaces and they were rubbed. They have since been remounted, but their original frames were discarded in 1940 and therefore the way we see them now is not how they were intended to be seen or hung.
Sir Watkin Williams Wynn (1749-89) probably commissioned these portraits to celebrate his second marriage in December 1771 to Charlotte Grenville (1754-1832), the daughter of the former prime minister. Wynn became an MP in 1772 and they lived in their house in St. James's Square in London during the first half of each year, returning to Wynnstay in Denbighshire from late summer through Christmas. Wynn had been on the Grand Tour and Batoni's magnificent group portrait of him with his tutor and his cousin is now one of the great treasures of the National Gallery of Wales. He was wealthy but spent his fortune on concerts, theatre, racing and paintings, commissioning works by Wilson and portraits by Reynolds, Gardner, Morland and the sculptor Charles Hewetson amongst others. The Wynns' town house in St James’s was rebuilt for them by the Adam brothers who would have factored the pictures in the collection into their design. Hamilton created hundreds of small portrait pastels like these for clients all over Britain and Ireland; they would have hung clustered together near the fireplace in the larger rooms or placed in smaller rooms, their relatively simple gold frames setting off the soft colours of the pastels against the soft colours of the walls favoured by the Adams brothers and other neo-classical architects.
Lady Williams was described by a contemporary in 1773 as 'a fine woman, her complexion natural and beautiful roses and lilies…handsome and the picture of good nature and happiness' (A. Roberts, Wynnstay and the Wynns, 1876). These characteristics are caught not only here in Hamilton's small pastel but also in Reynolds's magnificent 1777-9 portrait of her with three of her six surviving children (NG Wales). Sir Watkin died at the age of forty and she took on his debts and ran the estates as a widow for the next forty-three years. KS
SELECTED LITERATURE: Ingamells 1997; P.D.G. Thomas, 'Sir Watkin Williams Wynn', Oxford DNB [article 88771, accessed 26 Nov. 2007]
Another version of this pair of portraits, in better condition and still in their original frames (prov: by family descent to vendor, un-named), were in Sotheby's London sale 9 July 2009, lot 103. They were acquired by the National Museum of Wales with the assitance of the Art Fund.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2008/9 Oct-Jan, Edinburgh, SNPG, 'Intimate Portrait'
2009 Mar-May, London, BM, Room 90, 'Intimate Portrait'
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- For the provenance of the gift of Miss Rachel Leighton, see 1940,0413.59.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number