Edith Phelips, the daughter and heiress of Sir Edward Phelips of Montacute, married Carew Hervey Mildmay (1690-1784) in May 1744. Her husband had been Private Secretary to Henry St John, later Viscount Bolingbroke, from 1709 to 1714, before retiring from public life to live as a country gentleman. This is a companion portrait to Herman van der Mijn's portrait of Mildmay of 1733, also in the Government Art Collection (GAC 4802). The painting is a rare example of a portrait of a female sitter by John Shackleton, who was appointed Principal Painter in Ordinary to George II in 1749.
John Shackleton settled in London in 1742. He was primarily a portrait painter and may have been a pupil of the portraitist and writer Jonathan Richardson the elder. In 1749, he succeeded William Kent as Principal Painter in Ordinary to King George II. However, although the subsequent king, George III, kept Shackleton in office, his official royal portraits were painted by Allan Ramsay. Shackleton was part of the committee who first proposed the founding of a Royal Academy of Art in London. He died in London in March 1767 and his will reveals the impressive collection of works of art that he assembled during his life, including pieces by Anthony van Dyck and Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
lr: Mrs E[di]th Mildmay 174.. [last digit illegible] / Wife of Carew Hervey Mildmay Esq / [Paint]ed by J. Shackleton
Collection of Reverend Charles Arundell St John Mildmay; by whom sold through Sotheby's, London, on 6 February 1957; sold through Sotheby's, London, on 30 January 1985 (Lot 42); sold through Christie's, London, on 11 April 1997 (Lot 62); from which sale purchased by the Government Art Collection
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