26. Choice 16: Tonton’s Snuff-Box

26. Choice 16: Tonton’s Snuff-Box

by Wilmarth S. Lewis

“Walpole escaped to Paris in November 1765, after the most mortifying disappointment of his life, the failure of his friends, especially of Conway, to offer him a place in the first Rockingham Ministry which he had helped to form. He would not have accepted a place, but his pride would have been satisfied by refusing it. ‘Falsehood, interest, and ingratitude, the attendants of friendship, are familiar to me,’ he wrote Mann bitterly; but no Englishman ever went to Paris with more friendly letters of introduction to its great world or enjoyed more of a success when he got there. He wrote Gray, ‘Like Queen Eleanor in the Ballad, I sunk at Charing Cross, and have risen in the Faubourg Saint Germain‘ where he was drawn speedily into Madame du Deffand’s circle. She, whom he described to Conway as ‘an old blind débauchée of wit,’ Duchesse de Choisel, and Madame la Marquise Du Deffand [graphic] : (from the original formerly at Strawberry Hill) / M. Carmontel, del. ; W. Greatbach sculp.became infatuated with him although twenty years his senior. Forty years earlier she had been a mistress of the Regent Orléans and that gave her a certain panache even though the connection had lasted only two weeks. To her Walpole was a radiant newcomer who exorcised the devil ennui that possessed her. Before long they were meeting daily. His delight in her company and his pride in having made a Platonic conquest of the wittiest woman in Paris fused with his indignation at the ‘barbarity and injustice’ of those who ate her suppers when they could not go to a more fashionable house, who laughed at her, abused her, and tried to convert her nominal friends into enemies in what she called their ‘société infernale.’

Lewis then describes the journal Walpole kept of his five visits to Paris from 1765 to 1775, now at Harvard, cites typical entries, quotes from “the final entry in Mme du Deffand’s last journal, which she left Walpole and which is now at Farmington,” and recounts the episode of the pretend letter that Walpole sent to Rousseau supposedly from the King of Prussia which ended up destroying the friendship between Rousseau and Hume.

“When Walpole returned to England in 1766 he and Mme du Deffand began the correspondence which went on until she died fourteen years later, some 850 very long letters on each side. Walpole got her to return his letters and presumably directed Mary Berry, his literary executrix to make extracts from them as footnotes to a posthumous edition of Mme du Deffand’s letters to him, after which Miss Berry was to destroy his side of the correspondence. . . .He made four laborious trips to see and entertain her and to bring her what comfort and pleasure he could until war was declared between France and England. When her income was cut he offered to make up the loss from his own pocket, but she would not let him do it. image of round gold snuffbox with wax portrait of a dogAlthough she wanted to leave him all she had, he accepted only her manuscripts and her little black spaniel, Tonton, who was not house-broken and who bit people. She included the gold snuff-box made by the king’s jeweller with Tonton’s portrait in wax by Gosset that a friend gave her as a New Year’s present in 1778. The Chevalier Boufflers wrote verses on Voltaire and Tonton that Mme du Deffand sent to Walpole.

“Vous les trouvez tous deux charmants,
Nous les trouvons tous deux mordants;
       Voilà la ressemblance:
L’un ne mord qu ses ennemis,
Et l’autre mord tous vos amis,
        Voilà la différence.

“The manuscripts were kept in a cedar chest in the library at Strawberry until sold in 1842 to Thorpe the bookseller for £156.10s. Sir Frederick Madden of the British Museum recorded that ‘directly after the conclusion of the sale the chest was purchased by Dyce-Sombre who came down in a carriage and four accompanied by his wife, and the latter taking a fancy to these letters her wealthy husband gave Thorpe 20 guineas additional for them and carried them off.’ The lady bequeathed them to her nephew, W.R. Parker-Jervis of Staffordshire, They were resold through Sotheby’s in 1920, just four years before I began collecting Walpole. Paget Toynbee bought Mme du Deffand’s letters to Walpole for £20 and gave them to the Bodleian; Seymour de Ricci bought her letters to Voltaire and gave them to the Bibliothèque Nationale. Most of the rest went to Maggs, who in December 1933 let me have them for £50 to make me, as they said, ‘A Christmas present.’ In 1938 they retrieved for me the most interesting book in the collection, which had been bought by another dealer in 1920. This was Mme du Deffand’s “Recueil de divers ouvrages,’ over 270 pages, 4to, with 45 ‘portraits’ of her friends magnificently bound in red morocco. Walpole wrote inside the front cover Red morocco and gilt over of Recueil Des Divers Usages Image of page in book with manuscript provenance note in brown ink

that the book had been bequeathed to him by Mme du Deffand with her other manuscripts and he pasted in seven and a half pages of notes that included his ‘portrait’ of her, which is in English.

double page spread of bound manuscript in Walpole's hand

Portrait de Madame la Marquise du Deffand, 1766,
Where do Wit and Memory dwell?
Where is Fancy’s favourite cell?
Where does Judgment hold her court,

“and continues for 27 lines of conventional compliment until the close:

“Together all these Virtues dwell:
St Joseph’s convent is her cell:
Their sanctuary Du Deffand’s mind–
Censure, be dumb! She’s old and blind.

“Far from being wounded by the last line Mme du Deffand was flattered because it proved, she said, the sincerity of what went before.

“Her ‘Portrait’ of Walpole, which he asked her to write, is the most important summary of him ever written. This translation of it is by Catherine Jestin, Librarian of the Lewis Walpole Library.

“‘No, no, I cannot do your portrait. No one knows you less than I do. You appear sometimes as I wish you were, sometimes as I fear you may not be, and perhaps never as you really are. It is obvious you are very intelligent in many ways. Everyone knows this as well as I, and you should be aware of it more than anyone.

“‘It is your character that should be portrayed, and that is why I cannot be a good judge: indifference, or at least impartiality, is essential. Yet I can vouch for your integrity. You are pincipled and courageous and pride yourself on firmness of purpose, so that when you make a decision, for better or worse, nothing can make you change your mind, often to the point of obstancy. Your friendship is warm and steadfast, but neither tender nor yielding. Fear of weakness hardens you; you try not to be ruled by emotions: you cannot refuse friends in dire need, you sacrifice your interests to theirs, but you deny them smallest favours; you are kind to everyone, and to those to whom you are indifferent, yet for your friends, even where trifles are concerned, you hardly bother to exert yourself.

“‘Your disposition is very pleasing although not too equable. Your manner is noble, easy and natural; your desire to please is without affectation. Knowledge and experience of the world have made you scorn humanity and yet you have learned to adjust; you know that outward expressions are merely insincerities; you respond with deference and good manners so that all those who do not care in the least whether you like them or not have a good opinion of you.

“‘I do not know if you have much feeling; if you do, you fight it, for you think it a weakness; you allow yourself only the loftier kind. You are thoughtful, you have absolutely no vanity although plenty of self-esteem, but your self-esteem does not blind you: it leads you to exaggerate your faults rather than to hide them. You give a good opinion of yourself only if forced to do so when comparing yourself with others. You have discernment and tact, perfect taste and faultless manners. You would have been part of the most fashionable society in centuries past; you are so now in this, and would be in those of the future. Your character derives much from your country, but your manners are equally correct everywhere.

“‘You have one weakness which is inexcusable: fear of ridicule. You sacrifice your better feelings to it and let it regulate your conduct. It makes you harken to fools who give you false impressions that your friends cannot rectify. You are too easily influenced, a tendency you recognize and which you remedy to adhering too strictly to principle; your determination never to give in is occasionally excessive, and at times when it is hardly worth the effort.

“‘You are noble and generous, you do good for the pleasure of doing so, without ostentation, without hope of reward: in short your soul is beautiful and good.

“‘Addition to the Portrait, 30 November 1766.

    “‘Only truth and simplicty please you; you distrust subtleties, you hate metaphysics; large ideas bore you, and you don’t much enjoy deep reflection, you think it of little use; your philosophy teaches you that it is better to suppress your emotions than to fight them. You want to do so by diversions, you mock everything and, new Democritus, the world is nothing for you but a stage whose actors you hiss; your bent is irony, you excel in fields that demand sensitive and  sensibility often hinders gaiety. To remedy this you seek out-of-the-ordinary ways to occupy and amuse yourself. You build exotic houses, you raise monuments to a king of brigands, you pretend to have forbearance, etc. etc. Lastly, you seem a little mad in your eccentricities which are, however a product of reason.

    “‘I cannot say anything about your dislike of friendship; it is apparently founded on some deep sorrow, but as you are only vague about this, one is led us to believe that you are afraid, or else with to establish a rule of conduct, as little without foundation as all your rules which you do not follow despite your eloquence, because your precepts are not backed up by your practices.

“‘You have friends, you are entirely devoted to them, their interests are yours; all your talk and all your reasoning against friendship to convince them that you are not, of all people in the world, the most capable of it.”

First page of manuscript index to 49 2389Second page of manuscript index to 49 2389“Another runner-up to Tonton’s snuff-box is Walpole’s copy of Gramont’s Mémoires, 1746, the copy he used when editing and printing the Strawberry Grammont in 1772. He made an index for this copy and added notes throughout it, all of which he used in the Strawberry edition, his copy of which is also at Farmington, annotated and extra-illustrated by him. He dedicated it ‘A Madame__________. L’Editeur vous consacre cette Edition, comme un monument de son Amitié, de son Admiration, & de son Respect; à Vous, dont les Graces, l’Esprit, & le Goût retracent au siecle present le siecle d Louis quatorze & les agrements de l’Auteur de ces Memoires.’ In his copy he wrote Mme du Deffand’s name after the bland her modesty insisted upon and added two charming little engravings; the upper one of three putti crowning a book with laurel, the lower of a monument embowered with flowering shrubs. No collector ever enjoyed adorning his books more than Walpole. Of the hundred copies he printed of the Grammont, twelve are at Farmington; they include presentation copies to the Duchess of Bedford, Lord Nuneham, George Montagu, Mrs Damer, and Richard Bull, who extra-illustrated his copy lavishly, as usual.

image showing inscription inside snuffbox“The single object at Farmington that brings the two friends most strongly together is not the dedication copy of the Grammont or ‘Recueil de divers ouvrages,’ but the very beautiful circular gold snuff-box made by Roucel, the king’s jeweler, that give us Tonton in his plump latter days sitting on a cushion with his right front paw uplifted appealingly. Inside the lid, his master had inscribed, ‘This box with the portrait of her dog Tonton was bequeathed by Madame la Marquise du Deffand to Mr Horace Walpole, 1780.’ but before I talk about Tonton I should speak of his predecessors.

Lewis then lists Walpole’s dogs before Tonton in order of acquisition and includes an anecdote about each: Tory, the King Charles spaniel who was dragged off by a wolf in the Alps; Patapan, the small white spaniel who featured in the title of Walpole’s work Patapan or the Little White Dog, a Tale imitated from Fontaine; and Rosette, a black and tan spaniel “Walpole believed saved his life by warning him of a chimney fire. . . .”

“Mme du Deffand’s first of 69 references to Tonton was when he, aged four months, was sitting on her shoulder while she dictated her letter. A year later she asked Walpole, even before Walpole had seen him, to take him after her death. Tonton was very pretty, she said, and Walpole would love him, but she did not add that he wasn’t house-broken and bit people. Thomas Walpole proved his friendship by bringing Tonton to England when his mistress died, a kindness that must have added much to the hardship of those four exhausting days of travel. Walpole doted on Tonton. ‘You will find that I have gotten a new idol,’ he wrote Mason, ‘in a word, a successor to Rosette and almost as great a favourite, nor is this a breach of vows and constancy, but an act of piety. In a word, my poor dear old friend Madam du Deffand had a little dog of which she was extremely fond, and the last time I saw her she made me promise if I should survive her to take charge of it. I did. It is arrived and I was going to say, it is incredible how fond I am of it, but I have no occasion to brag of my dogmanity. I dined at Richmond House t’other day, and mentioning whither I was going the Duke said, “Own the truth, shall not you call at home first and see Tonton?” He guessed rightly. He is now sitting on my paper as I write–not the Duke but Tonton.’

“At just this time Walpole wrote in his pocket notebook mentioned in Choice 4.

“‘Charade on my dog Tonton
The first part is thine, the second belongs only to the people of fashion; but the whole, tho doubly thine, belongs only to me.’

“When Tonton died Walpole wrote Lady Ossory that his death was merciful, for

“‘He was grown stone deaf, and very near equally blind, and so weak that the two last days he could not walk upstairs. Happily he had not suffered, and died close by my side without a pang or a groan. I have had the satisfaction for my dear old friend’s sake and his own,of having nursed him up by constant attention to the age of sixteen, yet always afraid of his surviving me, as it was scarce possible he could meet a third person who would study his happiness equally. I sent him to Strawberry and went thither on Sunday to see him buried behind the Chapel near Rosette.'”

Lewis, Wilmarth S. Rescuing Horace Walpole. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1978.

To see the full chapter from Rescuing Horace Walpole called “ 26. Choice 16: Tonton’s Snuff-Box” download or expand the link here:

12. Horace Walpole and His Collection of Miniatures by Jean-Étienne Liotard

Horace Walpole and His Collection of Miniatures by Jean-Étienne Liotard

by Christine Rheo Brandner
PhD student, History of Art, Yale University

LWL Liotard self portrait miniature recto       LWL Liotard self portrait miniature verso

Jean-Étienne Liotard, Self-Portrait, c. 1765-67. Gouache on vellum, in a black wooden frame, 4.1 x 3.8 cm. Lewis Walpole Library, lwlpr33241a+b.
Roethlisberger and Loche, no. 445, ill. 656.

Among its many treasures, the Lewis Walpole Library houses a minute self-portrait of the Swiss artist Jean–Étienne Liotard (1702–1789) in gouache on vellum. The miniature originally belonged to Horace Walpole and was acquired by W.S. Lewis in 1954. The simple wooden frame was sealed on the reverse side with paper backing carrying an inscription in Walpole’s hand: “Liotard / by / Himself. / A / legacy / to/ Mr Horace Walpole / from Mrs M. Delany / 1788.” A later hand then added the following lines around the edges: “Purchased for me by Mr. Forster at Strawberry Hill. 10th May 1842. R. R. Preston.” The object underwent conservation in 2012; the paper backing was carefully removed and the glass and frame cleaned. The painting now appears wonderfully fresh and pristine.

Jean-Étienne Liotard, who is little known today, was famous throughout Europe during his lifetime for his exotic appearance. Born in Geneva and originally trained in Paris as a miniature painter, Liotard’s fortunes took a decisive turn in 1738 when he accepted an invitation by a group of English gentlemen, among them the Hon. William Ponsonby (Viscount Duncannon and later 2nd Earl of Bessborough) and John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, to accompany them on their grand tour to Constantinople. The young tourists eventually returned home, but Liotard decided to stay on and attached himself to the household of the British ambassador to the Sublime Porte Everard Fawkener. He soon became the favorite portrait painter for expatriate communities in the Ottoman capital. Liotard’s work included black and red chalk drawings on paper recording intimate scenes of Europeans in oriental dress, who adopted the customs of their host country by sitting cross legged on cushions and drinking coffee, as well as more imposing paintings, such as a life size oil portrait of Richard Pococke, pioneer archaeologist of the Middle East.

European travelers to the Levant commonly adopted local costumes, including caftans and turbans, but upon returning to Europe, they shaved their beards and shed their oriental dress. (Gullström et al., 187.) Not so Liotard, who had taken a liking to the loose Turkish garments and continued to wear them throughout the rest of his life. In 1743, when the artist arrived in Vienna, he caused an immediate sensation with his oriental robes, large fur hat, and the long beard he had grown according to local custom while in Moldova at the court of prince Constantin Mavrocordato. He attracted the attention of Empress Maria-Theresa and soon received prestigious commissions at the imperial court.

In 1748, Liotard traveled on to Paris where he exhibited his beard and costume at the opera in order to stimulate interest in his person, and thus to enhance his business as a portraitist. In fact, some of Liotard’s critics claimed that his success depended entirely on his sartorial performance rather than on his talents as a painter. Madame Pompadour, royal mistress and powerful patron of the arts, commissioned Liotard to paint her but was less than pleased with the artist’s unflattering depiction. According to J.A. Dulaure, author of a treatise on the history of facial hair, the marquise curtly rejected Liotard’s portrait with the words: “Votre barbe fait tout votre mérite.” (Roethlisberger and Loche, Sources, 102.) While the anecdote most likely belongs to the realm of fantasy, Liotard’s self–staging as peintre turc continued to create excitement wherever he went.

In 1753, Horace Walpole described Liotard’s arrival in England in a letter to Horace Mann, pointing out the artist’s exotic looks: “From having lived in Constantinople he wears a Turkish habit and a beard down to his girdle: this and his extravagant prices, which he has raised even beyond what he asked at Paris, will probably get him as much money as he covets for he is avaricious beyond imagination.” (Walpole, Correspondence, 20:362.) It was no coincidence that Walpole should take notice of the artist’s debut in London in 1753, for the association between the two men had begun the previous year, when Walpole commissioned two portraits from the artist while he was still working in Paris. Charles Churchill, Walpole’s brother-in-law, acted as an intermediary in the complex negotiations between Liotard and two of Walpole’s favorite French dramatists, Crébillon the Younger and Pierre de Marivaux. Both agreed to sit for Liotard, but in the end Crébillon refused to give up his portrait to Walpole unless he received a copy of the original. (Walpole, Correspondence, 20:324f.) Faced with the doubling of the already exorbitant fee of sixteen guineas demanded by Liotard for his work, Walpole grudgingly admitted defeat. The miniature of Marivaux, however, was personally delivered to Walpole by Liotard and safely deposited in the cabinet of rosewood that contained his collection of enamels and miniatures. (Walpole, Description, 56.) The miniature is lost today, but Walpole recounted the story of its delivery to Horace Mann, giving particular attention to his first impression of the portrait: “Marivaux’s picture […] gives one a very different idea from what one conceives of the author of Marianne, though it is reckoned extremely like: the countenance is a mixture of buffoon and villain.” (Walpole, Correspondence, 20:362.) This short description opens a small window into Walpole’s use of such miniatures; he apparently submitted them to close inspection in order to draw conclusions about the character of the models based on their physiognomic features.

His cabinet also contained a miniature of “Liotard the painter, in Turkish dress, in enamel, by himself; given to Mr. Walpole by his sister Lady Mary Churchill.” (Walpole Description, 60.) In a watercolor of the cabinet by John Carter, the miniature can be seen on the inside of the right door.

The Cabinet of Miniatures and Enamels [John Carter] (in Folio 33 30 copy 11)

John Carter, Disposition of the Miniatures in the Rosewood Cabinet in the Tribune, n.d. Watercolor, 32.6 x 27.5 cm, mounted. Lewis Walpole Library, LWL folio 33 30, copy 11, on fol. 161r.

It is unclear when the gift was made, but it is conceivable that Lady Mary purchased the miniature shortly after Liotard’s arrival in London. The enamel is inscribed on the back, identifying the artist and the date of creation: ‘‘Liotard / by Himself / 1753.’’ The portrait displays the exquisite finish Liotard was famous for, showing the artist in an oriental caftan of bright red silk, a white undergarment with embroidered flowers, wearing his usual red cap and sporting his trademark beard.

https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/421436/a-self-portrait

Jean-Étienne Liotard, Self-Portrait in Profile, 1753. Enamel, 6.1 x 4.6 cm. The Royal Collection, London, RCIN 421436. Roethlisberger and Loche, no. 262, ill. 391.

Miniature portraits were composite artifacts that were manufactured from a variety of materials such as diamonds and other precious stones; many were encased in a locket to enhance tactility and control visibility. Walpole’s rosewood cabinet was itself a hybrid object, not only because it emulated the precious setting of the miniatures it sheltered, but also because it housed his portraits of famous men, valued for the moral example they embodied, together with objects of sentimental value for the owner. Walpole’s description of the cabinet lists miniature portraits of his siblings and parents among the pieces on display, including “two lockets in the shape of hearts, with hair of Sir Robert Walpole and Catherine Shorter, set with diamonds.” (Walpole, Description, 57.)

Enamel miniatures were intimate objects that could be held in one’s hands, and they were often worn on the body of their owners as jewelry. (Pointon, Miniature Portraits.) In order to facilitate the affective engagement with the depicted individual, the sitters were often represented en face so as to directly address the beholder. While the practice of the private exchange of miniatures and their visual display on the body continued throughout the eighteenth century, these small portraits were beginning to be cherished by collectors for their aesthetic rather than sentimental value. Unlike miniature objects of intense private significance, Liotard’s Self–Portrait of 1753 does not invite a passionate engagement or emotional reaction from the beholder. The stark profile standing out against a gleaming white background presents the artist as an object for the viewer’s detached reflection on the character and the merits of the sitter. Liotard’s features are foregrounded by a detailed depiction chosen to instill heightened interest in his exoticism. However, the exquisite finish of the enamel self–portrait also speaks to the technical ability of the artist and displays his skills and talent.

Today Liotard is best known for his larger portraits in pastel, but in the eighteenth century he was a celebrated miniaturist who employed a variety of techniques available at the time. Apart from enamel, Liotard also mastered the technique of gouache on vellum. His small self–portrait in the Lewis Walpole Library is painted in this traditional method that originally emerged from the workshops of book illuminators in the early sixteenth century; the English miniaturists Nicholas Hilliard (1547–1619), and Peter Oliver (ca. 1594–1647) were pioneers of this genre. In contrast to the polished appearance of enamel work, vellum gives a velvety finish more akin to Liotard’s preferred medium of pastel. In the Lewis Walpole Library self-portrait, a minute sheet of vellum measuring only 4.1 by 3.8 centimeters sits in a deep wooden frame and is protected by glass. The square shape of the object, despite its small dimensions, is thus reminiscent of the common format of a large size portrait. The artist shows himself with his distinct red bonnet, a loose blue caftan, and a yellow undershirt in keeping with his usual Turkish attire. The white ruffled collar, however, is part of the traditional dress of his hometown of Geneva. The most striking feature of the painting is denoted by its absence — Liotard portrays himself without a beard, a detail duly noted by Walpole in his Description: “In the glass case near the window: A small head in water–colours of Liotard, without his beard, by himself; a legacy from Mrs. Delany.” (Walpole Description, 94.) According to this entry, the miniature was in Walpole’s possession as early as 1784 when the Description was published. The statement on the back of the frame, however, mentions the year 1788, the date of Mary Delany’s death. It is therefore likely that Walpole only added the inscription to memorialize his dear friend after her passing.

The style of the miniature and the artist’s appearance closely correspond to a series of self–portraits painted around 1768 while Liotard was stationed at Geneva. (Roethlisberger and Loche, Sources, no. 440-444, ill. 647-651.) The most notable difference to the full size Geneva portraits, which represent the artist directly looking at the beholder, is the miniature’s profile view of the head. Just like the enamel in Walpole’s possession, the vellum portrait invites close observation of the artist’s distinctive features. In contrast to the enamel miniature with its convex surface extending towards the viewer, however, Liotard’s watercolor portrait produces a sense of distance even if studied in close proximity. Paradoxically, it is precisely this fundamental and insurmountable distance that produces an immediate effect of presence. The miniature offers a surprising experience for beholders who, in fact, loose all sense of scale, drawn in by the exquisitely rendered details of the face. Despite its minute size, it gives a lively impression of the artist’s character, the slight smile playing around his lips hinting at a stoic disposition obtained by a life of adventurous experiences. Liotard’s eye, focused on a distant object, speaks of a professional ethos that aims at representing nature as closely as possible.

It is quite conceivable, considering Liotard’s business acumen, that he painted a number of such small-scale self–portraits to have them available for his clients, many of whom would have cherished a likeness of the famous peintre turc. Mrs. Delany, the original owner of the miniature, described a visit to Liotard’s studio in 1772, in a letter dated April 11: “Here is Miss Foley come to carry me off to Lestart’s [sic], where she is to sit for her picture. Just returned, not quite satisfied. The picture is like, but not favourably so; another sitting I hope will improve it. Lestart is a great artist in his way, but not a portrait painter, in my poor opinion.” (Paston, Memoir, 208.) In her will from Februrary 22, 1778, Mrs. Delany bequeathed another of Liotard’s self–portraits to her friend and benefactor the Duchess of Portland, this one a pastel of apparently bigger dimensions because it was kept in a “large square shagreen case.” (Ibid., 483.) Surprisingly, despite her low opinion of Liotard as a portraitist, Mary Delany nevertheless possessed at least two of his self–portraits.

Walpole’s own assessment of Liotard’s merits as a portraitist shows a similar ambivalence towards the artist’s works. On the one hand Walpole clearly cherished and collected Liotard’s portraits for their detailed depiction of the sitters, but on the other hand he deemed them stiff and ‘‘too like to please those who sat to him.” (Walpole Anecdotes, vol. 4, 195.) The miniature self–portrait at the Lewis Walpole Library seems to confirm Walpole’s opinion: it shows the artist represented with unflinching realism, without an attempt to idealize or improve the features of his face according to preconceived notions of artistic greatness and male pride. It is the humble representation of an artist whose life and work continue to fascinate us today because he defied the norms of social conduct and artistic style of his time with an independence of mind that marks him as a figure of the Enlightenment, as well as of modernity.

Bibliography:

Coombs, Katherine, “Horace Walpole and the Collecting of Miniatures”, in Snodin, Michael, and Cynthia Roman (eds.), Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill, 182-199. Exhibition organized by the Lewis Walpole Library, the Yale Center for British Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum. On view at the Yale Center for British Art from 15 Oct. 2009 – 3 Jan. 2010, and at the Victoria and Albert Museum from 6 March – 4 July 2010. (New Haven and London: Yale Univ. Press, 2010).

Gullström Beatrice, et al. (eds.), Jean-Étienne Liotard (1702-1789), Exhibition organized by the Royal Academy of Arts, London and the National Galleries of Scotland. On view at the Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh 4 July – 13 Sept. 2015, and at the Royal Academy, London 24 Oct. 2015 – 31 Jan. 2016. (London: The Royal Academy, 2015).

Lewis, W. S. (ed.). The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence, 48 vols.
New Haven: Yale University Press, 1937–83.

Paston, George, Mrs. Delany (Mary Granville, A Memoir 1700-1788. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co. (London: Grant Richards, 1900).

Pointon Marcia, “‘Surrounded with Brilliants’: Miniature Portraits in Eighteenth-Century England”, in The Art Bulletin, vol. 83, no. 1 (March 2001), 48–71.

Roethlisberger, Marcel and Rene Loche, Liotard: Catalogue sources et cor- respondance, avec la collaboration de Bodo Hofstetter et de Hans Boeckh pour les miniatures. 2. vols. (Doornspijk: Davaco Publishers, 2008).

Walpole, Horace, A Description of the Villa of Horace Walpole, Youngest Son of
Sir Robert Walpole Earl of Orford, at Strawberry-Hill Near Twickenham, Middlesex. With an Inventory of the Furniture, Pictures, Curiosities, &c. (Strawberry-Hill: Printed by Thomas Kirgate, 1774).

Walpole Horace, Anecdotes of Painting in England, vol. 4. (London: J. Dodsley, 1782).

5. Portrait of Sir Robert Walpole and Catherine Shorter

Choice 2: Sir Robert and Lady Walpole by Eccardt and Wootton in a Grinling Gibbons Frame

Double portrait of Sir Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, and Lady Walpole

by Wilmarth S. Lewis

“This frame hung in the Blue Bedchamber, as we learn from Walpole’s Description of Strawberry Hill: ‘In a frame of black and gold carved by Gibbons, Sir Robert Walpole and Catherine Shorter; small whole lengths; by Eccardt, after Zinke: the hounds and view of Houghton by Wootton. Sir Robert is sitting; by him, on a table, is the purse of the chancellor of the exchequer, leaning against busts of George 1st and 2d to denote his being first minister to those kings: by Lady Walpole are flowers, shells, a pallet and pencils, to mark her lover of the arts.’ William Cole, Horace Walpole’s contemporary at Eton and Cambridge and his chief antiquarian correspondent, noted in his ‘Account of Some Pictures at Strawberry Hill’ now in the British Library, ‘under the table stands a flower pot, and by Lady Walpole a grotto of shells. I remember when I was a school-boy at Eton, calling on Mr. Walpole at Chelsea, where Sir Robert, his father, then lived, I found him learning to draw, with Mr Lens the painter with him; and he then showed me a most beautiful grotto of shell work in the garden, on the banks of the Thames, designed by his mother: probably this alludes to that grotto. The frame of this picture cost £30, being most exquisitely carved, painted black, and gilt, having all sorts of flowers, fruits, birds, and at top figures of boys.’

“In his Anecdotes of Painting in England Walpole calls Gibbons (1648-1721) ‘An original genius’ who was ‘a citizen of nature….There is no instance of a man before Gibbons who gave to wood the loose and airy lightness of flowers, and chained together the various productions of the elements with a free disorder natural to each species.’ How did the frame get to Strawberry Hill? I have been saying for years that it was originally around a mirror at Houghton, Sir Robert’s house in Norfolk, and that Walpole admired it so much his father gave it to him, a plausible explanation, but I can’t prove it. In Aedes Walpolianae, 1747, Walpole’s catalogue raisonné of his father’s great collection of pictures at Houghton, he speaks of Gibbons’s carvings there, but doesn’t mention the frame. Walpole’s copy at Farmington of A Description of Strawberry Hill ‘with such prices as I can recollect’ says nothing about the £30 or where the frame came from, but we know that it was bought at the Strawberry Hill sale in 1842 by Lord Lansdowne and that it was No. 77 in Lansdowne House, Berkeley Square, until 1930 when it was sold at Christie’s and given me by my wife.”

Lewis continues in the chapter to talk about Walpole’s family, including his half-sister Mary, whose portrait also now hangs at the Lewis Walpole Library. He concludes with a mention of an illegitimate daughter of Horace’s father’s, Catherine Daye whom Horace brought to live at Strawberry Hill. “I like to think of her and her kindly younger brother visiting the Blue Bedchamber to pay their respects to their father’s portrait in the Grinling Gibbons frame.”

Lewis, Wilmarth S. Rescuing Horace Walpole. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1978.

To see the full chapter from Rescuing Horace Walpole called Choice 2: Sir Robert and Lady Walpole by Eccardt and Wootton in a Grinling Gibbons Frame download or expand the link here:

N.B. A high-quality fascimile of the painting and frame now hangs in the Blue Bedchamber at Strawberry Hill. Please click or tap here for details about the project to create the facsimile and install it at the house.

The original painting in its frame can be found hanging at the west end of the Reading Room at the Lewis Walpole Library in Farmington.