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    Description

    English School (18th Century)
    Portrait of a gentleman in Turkish dress, traditionally thought to be Edward Wortley Montagu (1713-1776)
    Oil on canvas
    56 x 43 inches (142.2 x 109.2 cm)

    PROVENANCE:
    Frederick William Thomas Vernon-Wentworth (1795-1885), Wentworth Castle, Yorkshire;
    By descent, Thomas F. C. Vernon-Wentworth (1831-1902), his son;
    By descent, Captain Bruce Canning Vernon-Wentworth (1862-1951), his son;
    His sale, Christie's, London, November 13, 1919;
    Archibald Ralph Montagu-Stuart-Wortley-Mackenzie (1892-1953), 3rd Earl of Wharncliffe;
    Thence by descent to the present owner.

    EXHIBITED:
    The South Kensington Museum, London, "Second Special Exhibition of National Portraits commencing with the reign of William and Mary and ending with the year MDCCC", May 1, 1867, No. 406, not illustrated (Lent by F. Vernon-Wentworth);
    Leeds, "National Exhibition of Works of Art", 1868, No. 3168, not illustrated (Lent by F. Vernon-Wentworth).

    This arresting three-quarter-length portrait of a man in a turban, with his scimitar, clothes woven of glinting gold threads, and a radiant red cloak against a dark background evokes the work of Titian and Rembrandt in almost equal parts. The mysterious psychology of Rembrandt's Jan Six (Six Collection, Amsterdam) and the glow of Rembrandt's Self-Portrait of 1658 in the Frick Collection come to mind as Baroque prototypes for this evocative Georgian painting.

    The sitter of this portrait has traditionally been identified as Edward Wortley Montagu, highly eccentric son of Ambassador Edward Wortley Montagu and the celebrated travel writer Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (who herself was equally eccentric, and embroiled in a scandalous bisexual love-triangle with politician John Hervey and Venetian art connoisseur and notorious playboy, Francesco Algarotti). Edward Wortley Montagu was a fine linguist and scholar (admired by art historian Johann Winckelmann) and restive traveler, who settled in Venice in 1773 after years of adventuring in the Middle East. There he lived in the Oriental style, and pretended he was the illegitimate son of the Turkish Sultan, which entitled him to wear the saffron turban of a prince of the Ottoman Empire. In Venice his portrait was painted in 1775 both by George Romney (Private collection, London), and by Matthew William Peters (National Portrait Gallery, London).

    While no artist was attached to this portrait when it was exhibited at Leeds and The South Kensington Museum (see Exhibition entries) in the 1860s, the name of the great Georgian portraitist George Romney was assigned to it for a time beginning in 1922. The circumstances were these: Archibald Ralph Montagu-Stuart-Worley-Mackenzie (1892-1953), 3rd Earl of Wharncliffe, had recently purchased the portrait (owing to the fact it was considered to have depicted his colorful ancestor, Edward Wortley Montagu), and asked William Roberts, co-author of the 1904 Romney catalogue raisonné, for his opinion of it. Roberts knew Romney's masterful likeness of Montagu in his customary Turkish garb that had been painted in Venice in 1775, and knew there had been an autograph copy of it (now Sheffield Museums). Thus, he conflated that work with this one, calling the present painting "a powerful and dignified composition, rich in colouring of the Venetians, and altogether an admirable example of Romney's genius as a portrait painter" [opinion provided to Archibald Ralph Montagu-Stuart-Worley-Mackenzie in 1922]. Contemporary scholarship has reverted to the opinion held during the 1860s, and considers the present work the effort of a skillful but unknown hand (see J. Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, National Portrait Gallery, London, 2004).


    Condition Report*: Wax lined canvas. Old varnish. Painting was selectively cleaned in area of turban, face, beard and part of upper body. Most of the beard has been overpainted in a bright white pigment, which may in fact mask a gray beard beneath (which would make the likeness more similar to George Romney's famous portrait of the same sitter also in oriental attire). UV examination reveals liberal overpainting in the drapery as well as the probability that the painting had restoration work done at different points in its life. Craquelure is deepest in the dark background zones.. Framed Dimensions 60.5 X 50.5 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

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    Auction Dates
    December, 2018
    7th-9th Friday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 5
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