Seated at a table covered in Chinese and English documents, Sir Henry Pottinger looks directly at the viewer, as if momentarily disturbed from his work. He holds ‘The Treaty of Nanking’. The distinctive architecture of Chinese houses and a pagoda are glimpsed through the window behind him.
In 1840, shortly after becoming a baronet, Pottinger was appointed British Envoy and Plenipotentiary to China, and Superintendent of British trade by Lord Palmerston. The first Opium War earlier that year had resulted in a preliminary treaty between both countries, which neither formally recognised. Pottinger’s chief task was to create a new treaty that would prove advantageous to British trade. He became directly involved with British military campaigns to capture key Chinese cities. By July 1842 Britain had captured Nanking (Nanjing), resulting in a treaty signed on 29 August 1842. China agreed to pay an indemnity and to cede Hong Kong to Britain, while opening five key ports to British trade. Having played a key role in the treaty, Pottinger was appointed First British Governor of Hong Kong in 1843. The agreement formally ended in 1997, when Hong Kong was handed back to the People’s Republic of China.
Sir Francis Grant, son of a Scottish Laird, took up painting professionally after having exhausted his £10,000 inheritance by his late 20s. An early enthusiasm for fox hunting led him to settle at Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, the centre of hunting society, where he studied under the well-known sporting painter, John Ferneley. In 1840 Grant’s portrait of Queen Victoria riding with Prime Minister Lord Melbourne and others in the Great Park at Windsor established his reputation and he soon became one of the most fashionable society painters of the day. He was elected a member of the Royal Academy in 1851 and its President in 1865. Grant died at the age of 75 and was buried at the cemetery near his country residence at Melton Mowbray.
Sir Henry Pottinger, 1st Baronet (1789-1856) army officer; Governor of Hong Kong
Oil on canvas
height: 220.50 cm, width: 146.50 cm
Presented by Lt Colonel G A M Vandeleur, May 1960
By descent from the sitter to Lady Howard of Thornbury Castle, Gloucestershire; by descent to Howard's son Lieutenant Colonel Giles A. M. Vandeleur; by whom presented to the Ministry of Works in May 1960
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