Prime Minister William Pitt sat for Thomas Gainsborough at his studio at Schomberg House, Pall Mall, in the summer of 1787. Pitt was 28 years old and already in his fourth year in office. The portrait was commissioned by Richard Grenville, Second Earl Temple, a strong supporter of Pitt, and the completed painting was sent to Stowe, Grenville’s country estate in Buckinghamshire. Gainsborough also began a second portrait of Pitt, which remained unfinished in his studio when he died in 1788. Both works are now untraced.
Dupont, the nephew of Gainsborough, consciously adopted a similar style to that of his uncle and was so successful in doing so that when this work was exhibited in 1868 and again in 1934, it was described as by Gainsborough himself. Former owners of this work include London financier Ernest G. Raphael and Prince Frank Littler (1901-1973) of Chestham Park, Henfield. Littler (known as ‘Prince’ from childhood) bought his first theatre in Leicester in 1931. By 1960 he controlled 16 London theatres and held a major share in Associated Television, one of the founding ITV companies. This painting was included in the Chestham Park sale, shortly after his death in 1977.
Gainsborough Dupont was born in Suffolk, the son of a carpenter. He was the nephew of Thomas Gainsborough and was apprenticed to his uncle in Bath. In 1775 Gainsborough and Dupont relocated to London, where Dupont enrolled at the Royal Academy Schools. He made mezzotints and small-scale copies after his uncle’s paintings. After Gainsborough’s death in 1788, Dupont continued to work from his uncle’s studio. The similarity of his work to that of Gainsborough has caused problems of attribution. Dupont worked in the manner of his uncle into the 1790s, but also made original portraits in a more personal style and, from 1790, exhibited at the Royal Academy. In 1793 he moved his studio to Grafton Street. He died at about the age of 42.
Label on verso of frame re Burlington House exhibition, 1934
With Agnew's Gallery, London; collection of financier Ernest G. Raphael of 38 Hill Street, London; by whose executors sold through Christie's, London, on 9 June 1944 (Lot 41), for £2945-0-0; from which purchased by ‘Jetley’; collection of Mrs Nora Prince-Littler and the late Prince Littler, Chestham Park, Henfield, Sussex; by whom sold through Christie's, London, ‘Chestham Park, Henfield, Sussex’ sale, on 19 April 1977 (Lot 446), for £800; from which sale purchased by Rafael Valls Ltd., London; from whom purchased by the Government Art Collection in July 1977
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