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The Hon. John Hervey, MP (1616-1679)

Sir Peter Lely (Soest 1618 – London 1680)

Category

Art / Oil paintings

Date

circa 1675 - circa 1680

Materials

Oil on canvas

Measurements

2260 x 1397 mm (89 x 55 in)

Place of origin

England

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Collection

Ickworth, Suffolk (Accredited Museum)

On show at

Ickworth, Suffolk, East of England, National Trust

NT 851816

Summary

Oil painting on canvas, The Hon.John Hervey, MP (1616-1679) by Sir Peter Lely (Soest 1618 – London 1680), circa 1675/80. A full-length portrait of an elderly man, dark eyes, long light brown wig. Brown voluminous gown, white cravat. Dark breeches just visible. mid-calf length brown boots, decorated with bearded face moulded at top, and buckle at ankle. Painted at bottom 'The Honble. John Hervey Esq, Uncle to John, Earl of Bristol'.

Full description

The sitter was the eldest son of Sir William Hervey (1585/6–1660) by his first wife, Susan Jermyn (d. 1637), of Rushbrooke, he was a firm adherent of the Stuarts. He originally distinguished himself by raising a troop of horse for Charles I in early 1639/40, and in 1642, as a note on the flyleaf of a book at Ickworth betrays, he was with the King at Oxford. He subsequently forfeited his estate and had to pay £24 to redeem it. After the Restoration he was at Court, became Treasurer to Queen Catherine of Braganza, and obtained a lease of the Royal manor of Oatlands. Need for proximity to the Court in St James’s Palace prompted him to buy a house (later numbered 6) from its speculative builder, Abraham Story, in St. James’s Square, the major feature of the development of this part of London, after its acquisition by his cousin Henry Jermyn, later Earl of St. Alban’s, in 1664. It was rebuilt just once, around 1820, and, unlike any other house in the square, remained in family possession and occupation until it was sold and demolished in 1955. He is described as having been a classical scholar, a patron of the fine arts (nothing appears to be known of his collections, but this would appear to be confirmed by his portrayal with the two busts in the lost but engraved portrait by Lely), and a collector of medals. These he left to his nephew and namesake (later 1st Earl of Bristol) to be heirlooms at Ickworth, with a life interest to his widow, but they appear to have been the ones, “of gold, silver, brass and copper”, that the 2nd Earl left to George III, by a codicil to his will of 13th October 1773, dated 14th October 1773. In 1658 he married (probably for dynastic reasons) his remote cousin, the Hon. Elizabeth Hervey (c.1615-1700), daughter of Sir William Hervey, Lord Hervey of Kidbrooke (d.1642). She too had been of the Court, as witness her portrait by Van Dyck (2004 Cat. no IV.134). Having married so late, she bore him no children, so his and his Hervey heirlooms seem to have passed to his nephew. She, however, went to live in Holland after his death, and before her departure, made a will on 5th November 1681, in which she left all her “jewels and household stuff” to Lady Hervey (d.1709), sister of the 1st Duke of Montagu, which is how the Van Dyck comes to be at Boughton today and only a 20th century copy of it at Ickworth (NT 851924). John Hervey was a close friend of the learned gentleman Robert Sidney, the 2nd Earl of Leicester. As a young man of 20 John was entertained by him in Paris during Leicester’s period as Ambassador to the French court. An ardent Royalist, John was with King Charles I at Oxford in 1642. From the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 John spent much of his life at Court as Treasurer to Charles II’s Catholic wife, Queen Catherine of Braganza. He lived often at Oatlands, the royal palace near London. When Henry Jermyn, the Earl of St Albans started to develop housing on the green fields of St James’ Square London in 1662 John bought number 6. It was rebuilt about 1820 and remained in the family until 1955. John Hervey was MP for Hythe from 1661-79, and a leading member of parliament, encourager of literature and a patron of men of letters; amongst these was Abraham Cowley, the poet, who through John’s recommendation gained a post in the service of Henry Jermyn, the Earl of St Albans. In 1658 John Hervey married his relation, Elizabeth the sole heir of William, Baron Hervey of Kidbrooke. There is a Van Dyck portrait of her at Boughton House, Northamptonshire. They had no children. John died in 1679 and is buried at Ickworth. Elizabeth was left the use of both the London house and Ickworth, but she went to live in Holland and neglected both completely. She died in 1700 and is buried at Lee in Kent. She inherited John’s gold, silver and brass medals, but 73 years later George Hervey gave them to King George III.

Provenance

Presumably commissioned by the sitter, bequeathed by him to his nephew, John, 1st Earl of Bristol (c. 1665-1751); thence by descent to Frederick William, 1st Marquess of Bristol (1769-1859), by whom noted in his handwritten list of c. 1837; thence by inheritance and descent to the 4th Marquess (1863-1951), on whose death valued for probate; accepted by HM Treasury in lieu of death duties, and transferred to the National Trust in 1956

Credit line

Ickworth, The Bristol Collection (acquired through the National Land Fund and transferred to The National Trust in 1956)

Marks and inscriptions

The Honble.John Hervey Esq, Uncle to John, Earl of Bristol

Makers and roles

Sir Peter Lely (Soest 1618 – London 1680), artist previously catalogued as attributed to John Closterman (Osnabrück 1660 – London 1711), artist

References

Farrer 1908 Edmund Farrer, Portraits in Suffolk Houses (West), 1908, 83 Collins Baker 1912 C. H. Collins Baker, Lely and the Stuart Portrait Painters, 1912, I, p.174 Hervey 1927 S.H.A. Hervey, Dictionary of Herveys of all classes, callings, counties and spellings from 1040 to 1500, vol.3: Suffolk, Ipswich, 1927 (Suffolk Green Books, No.XX), p. 385

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