Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Depicting the Duke of Devonshire

When it comes to images of Canis, otherwise known as William Duke of Devonshire, there is generally one that floats around on the web by Batoni showing the Duke on his grand tour adventure. And let's all be honest, most of you probably looked at it and went, "How did he get all that eighteenth-century tail?!"  Which is a totally legitimate question being that the Duke lacked social skills to be smooth with the ladies.  He just looks a bit plain and awkward.  When Anton von Maron painted him at the age of 20 the result was also pretty bad.

Hart would write almost 80 years later that the painting of his father was "so very bad" that Bess "had it altered by (I believe) Mr Rising, the cleaner of pictures..."  I'm sure it surprises none of you that Bess took charge on that!

But my favorite images of the Duke are the lesser-known ones which, ironically, are by one of the two most famous artists of the time, Joshua Reynolds.  One shows how handsome the Duke was around the time that he married Georgiana.  I believe the painting is in bad condition now, but you get a good idea from the print (love that coat!):
However my favorite of the two is rarely seen due to it being hidden away in a private collection.  It shows the Duke at age 19 or 20 although he looks much older and more sophisticated

9 comments:

Retro Blog said...

Er the middle portrait has missed a button right about where Naoleon allegedly put his hand to keep it warm? Lack of pockets? Scratch and itch? Is there any historial or allegorical significance to the gap?

Heather Carroll said...

Good question! My best guess was it was for him to put his hand, as was a gesture of gentlemanly-ness. However since it isn't a full-length, it would look a bit awkward to actually depict him doing that.

Violet said...

Poor William looks a little uncomfortable in the first portrait LOL :)
He looks so young on the different versions of the Reynolds portrait.

AshleyOlivia said...

Are you able to share with us how you came across the portrait that is from a private collection?

Heather Carroll said...

Why yes, Manning's catalog of all the known Reynolds' works has all the works in private collections. It's pure torture to look through!

AshleyOlivia said...

Thanks! I'll have to check it out. I detect a vague resemblance between William and Bill Clinton... anyone else see it? :)

aurora said...

He looks older indeed.

Danielle de la Mont said...

Gah, those last two portraits (which I hadn't seen before) make the Duke look so much much better!

Even if Canis was as physically ill favoured as Pompeo renders him, the blinding scarlet waistcoat and indolent pose does him no favours. I always thought it looked a lot like he was trying to make him appear debonair and and bold when the Duke was in fact sombre and reclusive. It kind of seems like his melancholy face has been jammed onto another figure's body. Not the best look.

Unknown said...

AshleyOlivia,

I'd have to disagree, the Duke doesn't favour Bill Clinton whatsoever. You see, if you see Bill Clinton for any length of time, you'll notice that he consistently carries himself with mouth agape, quite like the village idiot. It's remarkably fitting that he does so.