Sir Robert Davers, 5th Bt (1729-1763), aged 21
Pompeo Girolamo Batoni (Lucca 1708 – Rome 1787)
Sir Robert Davers, 5th Bt (c.1730–1763), was the eldest son of Sir Jermyn Davers, 4th Bt, whom he succeeded in 1742/3. His sister, Elizabeth, born in 1730, married the future Earl-Bishop, who owned Ickworth, in 1752. He was expected in Florence in 1756 by Sir Horace Mann, who in turn introduced him to Cardinal Albani in Rome in the autumn, which is also when he must have sat to Batoni. He is shown surrounded by a pile of books, music, a flute and a bust of Minerva, to indicate his love of study and of the Arts. Sir Robert later “left England in a pique, careless what his fate might be, and visited America, seeking the most savage and uncultivated spots, where he was killed in a boat by some Indians in June, 1763”. He never married.
Oil painting on canvas, Sir Robert Davers, 5th Bt (1729-1763), aged 21 by Pompeo Girolamo Batoni (Lucca 1708 – Rome 1787), painted in Rome in 1756 ('aged 21' according to old label). A three-quarter-length portrait of a young man, turned to the left, gazing at the spectator, standing by a table before an open window, wearing black Van Dyck dress and cloak, white lace collar and cuffs, his left hand rests on neck of a light-brown dog jumping up at him, whose front paws rest on a table covered by a green tablecloth, on which rest a pile of bound books, a flute/recorder resting on an open musical score, and a bust of Minerva (Pallas Athene). Childe-Pemberton said that: “Sir Robert Davers was in affectionate relationship with his sister, Mrs Hervey, and had tastes in common with his brother-in-law, both being fond of Art, literature and travel. A fine portrait of him…painted at Rome by Pompeo Battoni [sic] in October, 1756, represents him surrounded by a pile of books and music, a flute and a bust of Minerva – to indicate his love of study and of the Arts…there is a miniature of Robert Davers by Samuel Cotes…it was inset, with the miniatures of Frederick and Elizabeth Hervey, in a marble frame press-papier, the triple memento suggesting the bond which existed between them at this period of their lives”. Sir Robert Davers, 5th Bt. (c.1730–1763), eldest son of Sir Jermyn Davers, 4th Bt., whom he succeeded in 1742/3. His sister, Elizabeth, born in 1730, married the future Earl-Bishop in 1752. He was expected in Florence in 1756 by Sir Horace Mann, who in turn introduced him to Cardinal Albani in Rome in the autumn, which is also when he must have sat to Batoni. He was killed by Indians near Lake Huron. According to a manuscript by Dr G. B. Jermyn that was in S. H. A. Hervey’s possession in 1903 (cf. Rushbrook Parish Registers, p.374), Sir Robert: “left England in a pique, careless what his fate might be, and visited America, seeking the most savage and uncultivated spots, where he was killed in a boat by some Indians in June, 1763”. He never married.
Presumably originally at Rushbrooke Hall, and acquired from there after the death of Sir Charles Davers, 6th and last Bt, the sitter’s youngest brother, in 1806; from before 1903 until after 1908, with Gery Milner-Gibson-Cullum, Hardwick House, Hawstead (1904 - 6); bequeathed by him to the 4th Marquess of Bristol in 1922 (though still reproduced in W. Childe-Pemberton’s The Earl Bishop, 1924, opposite p.50, as being at Hardwick House), after whose death acquired in 1956 by HM Treasury in part payment of death duties and transferred to the National Trust
Ickworth, The Bristol Collection (acquired through the National Land Fund and transferred to The National Trust in 1956)
Marks and inscriptions
Verso: A label formerly stuck to the back of the canvas was inscribed: Drawn at Rome octr 1756 by Pompeo Batoni [recorded by S.H.A. Hervey as: aged 21 years, drawn at Rome Oct. 1756 by Pompeo Battoni]. This was destroyed when the picture was relined in 1958 (as must have been the old stretcher with the inscription recorded by Tony Clark: Drawn at Rome by Pompeo Battoni, aged twenty-one years).
Makers and roles
Pompeo Girolamo Batoni (Lucca 1708 – Rome 1787), artist
Farrer 1908 Edmund Farrer, Portraits in Suffolk Houses (West), 1908, pp.148–149 at Hardwick House, no.42 Steegman 1946 John Steegman, ‘Some English Portraits by Batoni’, The Burlington Magazine, LXXXVIII, March 1946, pp.55-63, p.59, no.16. Barsali 1965 Isa Belli Barsali, ‘Pompeo Gerolamo Batoni’ Dizionario biografico degli italiani, Rome, 1965, vol 7, pp.196-202 Clark and Bowron 1985 Anthony M. Clark & Edgar Peters Bowron (ed.), Pompeo Batoni A Complete Catalogue of his Works with an Introductory Text, Oxford 1985, no.197, pp.267–268, pl.187 Ford & Ingamells 1997 Brinsley Ford, A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy 1700-1800, ed. John Ingamells, New Haven and London, 1997, p.281 Pompeo Batoni. Prince of Painters in Eighteenth-Century Rome (E. P. Bowron and Peter Björn Kerber), The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston 21 October 2007- 27 January 2008 & The National Gallery, London 20 February - 18 May 2008, Yale University Press, 2007, p. 55 Solkin 2015 David H. Solkin, Art in Britain 1660 - 1815, Pelican History of Art, Yale University Press, 2015, p. 142, fig. 149