Hogarth painted this portrait in about 1740-45. The casual dress and pose of the sitter suggests that this is an informal portrait of someone within Hogarth’s circle of literary and artistic friends, rather than a commissioned work. It has been suggested that it relates to Hogarth’s ‘Portrait of Richard James of the Middle Temple’ (c.1744) now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, in which the sitter is depicted in a similar pose and attire. However, this theory is disputed.
An X-ray image taken of the portrait indicates that the canvas has been used at least four times by Hogarth, as there are a further three distinct portraits beneath the visible image. Each time the canvas was reused, it was rotated. The four heads revealed by the X-ray therefore meet at the neck, at the centre of the canvas.
The portraits and social satires of William Hogarth, painter and engraver, have come to define the period in which he lived. His best known works include his series of satirical of paintings, such as ‘The Beggar’s Opera’ (c.1729, Birmingham City Art Gallery, private collection and National Gallery of Art, Washington) and ‘A Rake’s Progress’ (c.1734, Sir John Soane's Museum, London). He also painted formal portraits, including the philanthropist ‘Captain Thomas Coram’ (1740, Coram family, in the care of the Foundling Museum, London) and ‘The Graham Children’ (1742, National Gallery, London). Hogarth lived and worked in London for most of his life and was a major benefactor of the Foundling Museum during the 1740s, founded by Captain Coram.
Collection of W. J. Goldsmith; from whom purchased by Colnaghi, London, on 25 August 1952, as ‘Half-length portrait of a man in a green cap’; from whom purchased by the Ministry of Works on 21 June 1954
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