Beechey painted four portraits of St Vincent, although there are multiple versions of each. The first is half-length and shows the sitter facing the viewer and wearing rear-admiral’s undress uniform (c.1792-93; National Maritime Museum). The second is three-quarter length and shows St Vincent in admiral’s full dress uniform (RA 1805; Guildhall, London). The third is a full-length portrait of St Vincent, wearing peer’s robes over admiral’s full-dress uniform and holding a copy of the ‘Naval Abuses Bill’ (RA 1807; Fishmonger’s Company). This is the fourth and last portrait to be painted. An engraving of the work by Antoine Cardon was published on 1 March 1809.
Artist William Beechey was a close friend of Earl of St Vincent. This portrait is thought to have been given by the sitter to the artist’s son, who was also the sitter’s godson and namesake; the Reverend (later Canon) St Vincent Beechey (1806-1899). This is therefore the primary version of the portrait. It has been suggested that a second version of this work, in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London, was painted by George Beechey, another son of the artist.
Sir William Beechey was born in Burford, Oxfordshire. After his father’s death (1789) he was raised by his uncle and initially apprenticed to a firm of solicitors. In 1772 he moved to London to enter the Royal Academy Schools. He soon married and his children include painter and explorer Henry William. From c.1782 he worked in Norwich, returning to London in 1787. Beechey was a widow by 1793, when he married miniature painter Anne Phyllis Jessop. In 1794 he became a member of the Royal Academy, received a knighthood and exhibited ‘His Majesty Reviewing the Third Dragoon Guards’, his most celebrated work. He was named portrait painter to the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and Principle Portrait Painter to William IV before his death aged 85.
John Jervis, Earl of St Vincent (1735-1823) Admiral
Oil on canvas
height: 76.50 cm, width: 64.00 cm
Purchased from the Executors of E Culme-Seymour, 1970
[Possibly collection of the sitter; by whom presented to] Reverend St Vincent Beechey (1806-1899; son of artist and godson of sitter); by descent to St Vincent K. Beechey; collection of Commander E. Culme-Seymour RN; by whose executors (including Sir Michael Culme-Seymour?) sold to the Department of the Environment in 1970 (previously on loan since 1963)
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