Oil painting on canvas, Sir Edward Astley, 4th Baronet Astley of Hill Morton, MP (1729-1802) by Francis Cotes, RA (London 1726 – London 1770), signed and dated, bottom right: FCotes. RA. / pxt. 1769. Half-length, head to left, shoulders to right, wearing Van Dyck costume composed of a black doublet with lace collar and cuffs; over his right shoulder is a rose cloak, which he holds with his left hand; between his left arm and his chest he supports a sword.
Oldest son of Sir Jacob Astley, 3rd Bt. (1692 – 1760) and Lucy Le Strange (1699 – 1739), youngest daughter of Sir Nicholas Le Strange, 4th Bt. He succeeded to the title in 1760, and in 1768 he stood successfully as M.P. for Norfolk, a position that he held until 1790. He married Rhoda Delaval (1725 – 1757) in 1751, but who died in childbirth, having borne him three sons and a daughter. Through her, his descendants succeeded to Seaton Delaval. He married, secondly, Anne Milles in 1759 (d.1793), who bore him five sons and two daughters; and thirdly, Elizabeth Bullen in 1793 (d.1810), who bore him no issue. He died aged 72.
Astley is dressed in the 17th-century costume made famous by Van Dyck. He would have been familiar with the portrait, then at Melton Constable, of Jacob, Lord Astley, his Civil War ancestor (now at Seaton Delaval), then attributed to Van Dyck. In 1756, Sir Edward bought the print collection of Arthur Pond, who had taught the Delavals to paint (the collection included numerous Rembrandt prints from the collection of Jan Six, Rembrandt’s great friend and patron). Astley was also a generous patron of contemporary English engravers, especially Thomas Worlidge, who etched a portrait of Astley in 1762, and modeled it on Rembrandt’s portrait of Jan Six.
Francis Cotes was trained by Knapton who had painted the most famous series of mid-18th century fancy-dress portraits, that of members of the Dilettanti Society.
accepted in lieu of tax by H.M.Treasury and transferred to the National Trust in 2009
Seaton Delaval, The Hastings Collection (National Trust)
Marks and inscriptions
Bottom right: signed and dated: [in compendium] FCotes R.A. / pxt 1769
Makers and roles
Francis Cotes, RA (London 1726 – London 1770), artist