A young boy dressed in a pale grey satin frock coat, breeches and embroidered waistcoat, stands in a rustic landscape. A small spaniel jumps excitedly at his feet, as the boy supports a large white kite.
Although this work was bought as a portrait of ‘Master Stenninge’, the sitter has yet to be precisely identified. There are records of a family by the name of ‘Stayninge’ in the county of Somerset, while other sources refer to a ‘Stening’ family of Selworthy, Somerset.
The portrait was purchased for the Government collection in 1936 as a work by Allan Ramsay and has many similarities to Ramsay’s portrait of Master John Prideaux Basset of Tehldy, Cornwall (died 1756, aged 10), which includes a child with similar features and also features an excitable dog and a similar substantial tree to the left of the composition. However, when Tate curator Elizabeth Einberg viewed the work in 1990 she stressed that it is not painted by Ramsay but by an artist in the circle of portraitist Mason Chamberlin.
Portrait painter Mason Chamberlin was born in the City of London and baptised in Bishopsgate in 1722. By 1737, year he was apprenticed to a freeman of the Salters’ Company, he was an orphan. Little is known of his artistic training, but he was reportedly a pupil of Francis Hayman. Chamberlin’s earliest signed work of 1754 or before is a small oil-on-copper portrait of novelist Samuel Richardson. He exhibited at the Society of Artists of from 1760 and, although best-known for his portraits, won the Society’s second premium of 50 guineas for a history painting in 1764. He was a founding member of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1768, exhibiting at the Academy from 1769 to 1786. He died in Holborn, London, in January 1787 at about the age of 65.
Collection of Mrs Rich[?] by 1855; collection of John Glen; by whom sold through Christie’s, London, on 15 May 1936 (Lot 52), as by Allan Ramsay; from which sale purchased by ‘Brettell’ on behalf of the Ministry of Works
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