Thomas Gainsborough R.A (1727-1788)

Double Portrait of Sir Richard Neave, Bt. (1731-1814) And Lady Neave (d.1830)

The last group portrait sold at auction for

Thomas Gainsborough was considered by his peers to be one of the great masters of portraiture, and by historians to have shaped the English painting tradition. He was also a court favourite with King George III and a foundational member of the Royal Academy of Arts. Sir Joshua Reynolds,  his reconciled lifelong rival, said in his eulogy of Gainsborough that, “If ever a nation should produce genius sufficient to acquire to us the honourable distinction of an English school, the name of Gainsborough will be transmitted to posterity.”


inscribed on the reverse:


oil on canvas , 87 x 59in. (220 x 150cm.)


By descent in the family of the sitters at Dagnam Park, Essex and Llysdulas, Anglesey until the present day


London, Royal Academy of Arts, Winter Exhibition, 1955-6, no.273 (lent by Sir Arundell Neave Bt)

Dublin, Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, Paintings from Irish Collections, 1957

On loan to the Government Art Collection and displayed for approximately 10 years at No. 11 Downing Street, London, the official residence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer


Ellis Waterhouse, “Preliminary Check-List of Portraits by Thomas Gainsborough” in The Walpole Society, Vol XXXIII, 11953, p. 80

Ellis Waterhouse, Gainsborough, 1958, no. 513, p. 83

This is an important work from Gainsborough’s Bath period.  It is dated by Ellis Waterhouse to c. 1764-5 and is further remarkable for its excellent state of preservation and the fact that it has remained in the same family since it was commissioned.  The vibrant colour, especially the vivid blue of Lady Neave’s dress and the way it is juxtaposed with the rich crimson of the drapery behind the sitters, together with the exquisite handling of the lace elements on both costumes are particularly characteristic of this period.  The portrait is a lively one, filled with vivacity and a sense of movement and depicts Sir Richard Neave as connoisseur, showing a drawing to his wifeFrances (née Bristow).

Although no record of Sir Richard’s activities as a collector of paintings has yet to come to light it is known that he visited Italy and made the Grand Tour.  It therefore seems reasonable to speculate that it may have been he who was responsible for the acquisition of the nine canvases by Canaletto which are recorded in the collection of paintings at Dagnam Park in the time of his son Sir Thomas

Neave, 2nd Bt (1761-1848).  Sir Richard, who was to become the Governor of the Bank of England and High Sheriff of Essex, was given the title of Baronet in 1795.  According the memoirs[1] of Dorina, Lady Neave (wife of Sir Thomas Neave, 5th Bt, d. 1955) it was at the time of the Gordon (of Khartoum) riots that Richard Neave was “given a baronetcy for having stayed alone with a friend to lock up the Bank (of England) after it had been deserted by all the employees”.

Dorina, Lady Neave, Romance of the Bosphorus, 1949, p. 246

Posted on December 29, 2016 and filed under Painting.