This group portrait by Scottish painter Thomas Murray shows naval officers who served William III in hostilities against Louis XIV. It may have been painted in honour of their successful operations along the north coast of France during the early 1690s. The large wooden instrument held by the central figure, John Benbow, is a quadrant for measuring angles.
Thomas Murray was of Scottish origin but was based in London. He was a pupil of one of the De Critz family and later of John Riley. When Riley died in 1691 he took over the practice. He painted full-length portraits of Queen Anne (1703) for the Society of the Middle Temple and army officer and politician John Murray [no relation], first Duke of Atholl (1705; Blair Castle). His self-portrait is in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence. He was living at Southampton Row, Bloomsbury, at the time of his death and died a childless widower, aged c.72. His fortune of £40,000 (said to have come from moneylending and investments as much as painting) passed to his nephew. However, his request that a monument be erected in Westminster Abbey was never honoured.
Three Naval Officers: Edward Russell, Earl of Orford (1652-1727), John Benbow (1653?-1702) & Sir Ralph Delavall (c.1645-1707)
Oil on canvas
height: 152.00 cm, width: 194.00 cm
Purchased from Montagu Bernard, May 1964
ins bl: Edward Russell / Earl of Orford.; bc: Captain Benbow.; br: Sir Ralph Delaval.
Collection of Jeffery John Archer Amherst, fifth Earl Amherst (1896-1993); by whom sold though Sotheby's, 'Old Master Paintings and Drawings', on 29 January 1964 (Lot 13), as by Sir Godfrey Kneller; collection of Montagu Bernard; from whom purchased by the Ministry of Works in May 1964
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