Show me:
and
Clear all filters

  • 35 items
  • 25 items Explore
  • 48 items
  • 89 items
  • 3,452 items Explore
  • 97 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 4 items
  • 41 items
  • 11,353 items Explore
  • 209 items Explore
  • 1,235 items Explore
  • 8,497 items Explore
  • 5,051 items Explore
  • 72 items Explore
  • 167 items Explore
  • 10,622 items Explore
  • 13,625 items Explore
  • 4,639 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 5 items
  • 153 items Explore
  • 2,084 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 4,754 items Explore
  • 24 items Explore
  • 437 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 19,203 items Explore
  • 34 items Explore
  • 1,029 items Explore
  • 1,113 items Explore
  • 6 items
  • 2,392 items Explore
  • 449 items Explore
  • 29 items
  • 920 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 1 items Explore
  • 5 items
  • 7 items
  • 19,787 items Explore
  • 800 items Explore
  • 19 items
  • 73 items Explore
  • 33 items
  • 800 items
  • 25 items
  • 61 items
  • 28 items
  • 319 items Explore
  • 6 items
  • 44 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 2 items
  • 146 items
  • 2 items
  • 7 items
  • 119 items Explore
  • 119 items
  • 1 items
  • 1,021 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 803 items
  • 95 items
  • 27 items
  • 108 items
  • 29,233 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 3,848 items Explore
  • 1,521 items Explore
  • 403 items
  • 158 items Explore
  • 9,973 items Explore
  • 9,670 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 1 items
  • 39 items
  • 3 items
  • 4 items
  • 5,749 items Explore
  • 7,449 items Explore
  • 4,439 items Explore
  • 1,613 items Explore
  • 930 items Explore
  • 3,493 items Explore
  • 5 items
  • 334 items
  • 1 items
  • 1 items
  • 3,428 items Explore
  • 20 items Explore
  • 354 items Explore
  • 797 items Explore
  • 1,095 items Explore
  • 511 items Explore
  • 1,047 items Explore
  • 1,123 items
  • 89 items
  • 124 items Explore
  • 6,952 items Explore
  • 170 items
  • 310 items
  • 4 items
  • 20 items
  • 61 items
  • 304 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 2,922 items Explore
  • 1,575 items Explore
  • 203 items
  • 43 items
  • 19,429 items Explore
  • 1,244 items Explore
  • 138 items
  • 843 items Explore
  • 32 items
  • 1 items
  • 132 items Explore
  • 24 items
  • 40 items
  • 20 items
  • 252 items
  • 314 items
  • 743 items Explore
  • 1,893 items
  • 349 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 2,425 items
  • 2,525 items
  • 3 items
  • 3 items
  • 4,390 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 37,806 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 3,285 items Explore
  • 275 items Explore
  • 8,067 items Explore
  • 31 items
  • 25 items
  • 749 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 65 items
  • 161 items
  • 52 items
  • 21,735 items Explore
  • 917 items
  • 18 items
  • 22,345 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 2,332 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 1,030 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 59 items
  • 499 items
  • 3,289 items Explore
  • 175 items
  • 453 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 21 items
  • 90 items Explore
  • 76 items
  • 281 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 6 items
  • 128 items
  • 295 items
  • 734 items
  • 868 items
  • 1 items
  • 895 items Explore
  • 272 items Explore
  • 11,300 items Explore
  • 760 items Explore
  • 6,050 items Explore
  • 11 items
  • 7,589 items Explore
  • 27 items
  • 5,358 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 3,727 items Explore
  • 9,199 items Explore
  • 7,748 items Explore
  • 200 items
  • 19 items
  • 142 items
  • 7 items
  • 867 items Explore
  • 19 items
  • 4,132 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 1,096 items Explore
  • 223 items
  • 1 items
  • 3,545 items Explore
  • 20 items
  • 696 items Explore
  • 18 items
  • 134 items
  • 6,729 items Explore
  • 15,768 items Explore
  • 3,130 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 1 items
  • 8 items
  • 9,317 items Explore
  • 37 items
  • 2 items
  • 21,319 items Explore
  • 129 items
  • 38 items
  • 13,167 items Explore
  • 3,393 items Explore
  • 2,136 items Explore
  • 44 items
  • 42,166 items Explore
  • 635 items Explore
  • 415 items
  • 24,434 items Explore
  • 218 items
  • 3 items
  • 1 items
  • 20 items
  • 27 items
  • 325 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 217 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 2 items
  • 13,212 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 10,261 items
  • 9 items
  • 10 items
  • 14 items
  • 25 items
  • 1 items
  • 4,535 items Explore
  • 918 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 464 items
  • 1 items
  • 1 items
  • 220 items
  • 702 items Explore
  • 42 items
  • 2,284 items Explore
  • 1,662 items Explore
  • 15 items
  • 1,928 items Explore
  • 151 items
  • 84 items
  • 773 items Explore
  • 3,132 items Explore
  • 43 items
  • 17 items
  • 12 items
  • 10,682 items Explore
  • 23,090 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 1 items
  • 1,373 items
  • 180 items Explore
  • 8 items
  • 92 items
  • 13,324 items Explore
  • 3,574 items Explore
  • 2,663 items Explore
  • 4,776 items Explore
  • 22 items
  • 45 items
  • 6,899 items Explore
  • 4,769 items Explore
  • 272 items Explore
  • 2,300 items Explore
  • 2,978 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 1,863 items Explore
  • 291 items
  • 223 items Explore
  • 470 items Explore
  • 6,120 items Explore
  • 8,810 items Explore
  • 1,859 items Explore
  • 5,793 items Explore
  • 3,339 items Explore
  • 11,064 items Explore
  • 86 items
  • 11 items
  • 1,675 items Explore
  • 7 items
  • 24 items
  • 51 items
  • 5 items
  • 1 items
  • 2,968 items Explore
  • 620 items Explore
  • 62 items
  • 17 items
  • 151 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 87 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 463 items
  • 2 items
  • 996 items Explore
  • 3,609 items Explore
  • 5 items
  • 9,406 items Explore
  • 48 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 42 items
  • 3 items
  • 13,713 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 1,169 items Explore
  • 92 items
  • 10,565 items Explore
  • 1,005 items Explore
  • 1,920 items
  • 7,549 items Explore
  • 21 items
  • 12,945 items Explore
  • 1,417 items Explore
  • 6 items
  • 9,575 items Explore
  • 16,395 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 1,669 items Explore
  • 175 items
  • 58 items
  • 5,684 items Explore
  • 9,282 items Explore
  • 48 items
  • 25 items
  • 2 items
  • 59 items
  • 3 items
  • 7,394 items Explore
  • 402 items Explore
  • 13 items
  • 4 items
  • 6 items
  • 4 items
  • 103 items Explore
  • 7 items
  • 5 items
  • 480 items
  • 297 items Explore
  • 8,369 items Explore
  • 55 items
  • 22,520 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 7,350 items Explore
  • 5 items
  • 25 items
  • 3,832 items Explore
  • 464 items
  • 339 items Explore
  • 12,692 items Explore
  • 55 items
  • 20 items
  • 7 items
  • 4 items
  • 315 items Explore
  • 434 items
  • 183 items
  • 3,688 items Explore
  • 27 items
  • 1,228 items Explore
  • 2,493 items Explore
  • 732 items Explore
  • 36 items
  • 1,135 items Explore
  • 97 items Explore
  • 41 items
  • 217 items Explore
  • 74,347 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 3,065 items Explore
  • 2,846 items Explore
  • 249 items
  • 3,618 items Explore
  • 1,832 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 17,341 items Explore
  • 5,508 items Explore
  • 7 items
  • 632 items Explore
  • 85 items
  • 468 items
  • 39 items
  • 76 items
  • 29 items
  • 179 items
  • 3 items
  • 41 items
  • 1,176 items Explore
  • 109 items
  • 805 items
  • 17 items
  • 11,173 items Explore
  • 27 items
  • 13 items
  • 1,546 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 214 items
  • 17,014 items Explore
  • 85 items
  • 17 items
  • 1 items
  • 9 items
  • 8 items
  • 324 items
  • 2 items
  • 626 items Explore
  • 1,587 items Explore
  • 8 items
  • 1,034 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 261 items

Select a time period

Or choose a specific year

Clear all filters

The Belton Conversation Piece

Philippe Mercier (Berlin 1689 – London 1760)

Category

Art / Oil paintings

Date

circa 1725 - circa 1726

Materials

Oil on canvas

Measurements

648 x 756 mm (25 1/2 x 29 3/4 in)

Place of origin

England.

Order this image

Collection

Belton House, Lincolnshire

NT 436045

Summary

Oil painting on canvas, The Belton Conversation Piece by Philippe Mercier (Berlin 1689 – London 1760), signed: Ph. Mercier Pinxit, circa 1725-26. Eight full-length portraits of figures in the park at Belton with south front of Belton House in the left background. The figures are, left to right: Philippe Mercier seated on the ground facing right, his right leg outstretched, a sketchpad on his lap, a drawing implement in his right hand. Above him stands Sir John Brownlow, Viscount Tyrconnel, a cane in his left hand, dressed in a fawn velvet suit, wearing the sash of the Order of the Bath and its insignia. Mrs Frances Dayrell, Lady Tyrconnel's cousin is seated in a swing wearing a pale green satin closed gown with a muslin apron and a muslin kerchief with pink bows on the bodice and a white muslin cap also with pink bows; A young boy, dressed as a page, stands behind her. He wears a metal collar and turban and is dressed in a dark brown suit with gold buttons and gold edging to his coat, brown breeches and brown stockings. Lady Tyrconnel is seated in a wheeled chair set on a green platform with red wheels, a dog on her lap. She is dressed in a closed gown comprising a brown satin bodice and skirt both decorated with gold military style frogging. She also wears an ornament (jewelled?) of flowers in her hair. Francis Dayrell stands next to her, his left hand in his pocket, his right hand tucked into his open grey coat which is buttoned at the waist; Savile Cockayne Cust pulls a rope attached to the swing and wears a pink coat buttoned to the neck trimmed with silver edging. William Brownlow, Lord Tyrconnel's brother, leaned against a tree trunk, his left leg crossed over his right, wearing a pale brown coat, unbuttoned, with deep pink cuffs and a matching pink waistcoat. He also wears pink stockings. With the exception of the young boy, all the men wear shoulder-length powdered wigs parted in the centre. Note on the young boy dressed as a page: That the page is a child of African descent wearing a metal collar indicates he was enslaved. It is not known if the child was included by the artist as a trope or as a portrait of a real individual.

Full description

This is Mercier's masterpiece, the picture in which he successfully fused his practice of the Watteauesque fête galante with the traditions of the Netherlandish family portrait. The result is the English conversation-piece, a type of portrait that would come to be commissioned by the elite of Georgian society to document their elevated status and their daily rituals of sociability. Perhaps in recognition of this invention, the artist has included an apparently idealised portrait of himself sketching the scene. The picture was painted in 1725–6, some ten years after his arrival in England, but is one of the earliest of his paintings to survive and be identified. The picture is set in the park at Belton with the south front of Belton House in the left background. On the left is Sir John Brownlow, Viscount Tyrconnel (1690–1754), commissioner of the picture and the owner of Belton, wearing the ribbon and star of the newly-revived Order of the Bath, of which he was one of the first new knights. His first wife, his cousin Eleanor Brownlow (1691–1730), sits in a wheeled chair, which is pushed by a young page of African descent. If the page is a portrait of a real person and not merely an artistic flourish (as was sometimes the case), then it is likely that the page was enslaved because of his youth and because of the silver slave collar around his neck. Seated in the swing is Elizabeth Whitcombe, Mrs Francis Dayrell (1700/01–1768), first cousin to Viscountess Tyrconnel. Looking at her, and standing behind Lady Tyrconnel, is her husband, Francis Dayrell (d.1760). Holding the rope of the swing is Savile Cockayne Cust (1698–1772), a constant and welcome guest at Belton and Grantham. He is also included in Enoch Seeman's Cust Family Piece, also at Belton (see NT 436139). Finally, looking out at the right, is William Brownlow, Lord Tyrconnel's only brother (1699–1726). He was something of a sportsman, and no doubt enjoyed Belton for that reason. But he had also come badly out of speculation in the 'South Sea Bubble', and was to leave only £607 net, when he died on 28 July 1726. Indeed, the two brothers act as the repoussoirs of the picture. William catches the eye of the spectator with his own, focusing attention on the carefree scene at its centre. Lord Tyrconnel's early patronage of Mercier was to be particularly significant, because the peer was to become a member of the circle of Frederick, Prince of Wales after the latter's arrival in England in December 1728. Mercier was appointed Principal Painter to the Prince in February of the next year, and almost immediately started on a whole-length state portrait of him, ultimately going on to paint a series of much less formal images of him. Tyrconnel also obtained a further picture from Mercier, a 'Prospect of Belton' that was recorded in his house in Arlington Street in 1738. If, as seems likely, this is The Park at Belton House (NT 436156) that now hangs in the Breakfast Room at Belton, then Mercier – who never seems to have painted pure landscapes – probably restricted his role to the insertion of the figures. Tyrconnel's collecting and patronage of artists was not restricted to Mercier. He was, in fact, the first of the three collectors whose acquisitions made the collections at Belton (and later, Ashridge) amongst the finest in the country. Sadly, after successive sales, both of individual pictures, and of whole slices of the collection – notably at Christie's in 1923 and 1929 – only a shadow of these former glories remains. Tyrconnel's taste does not seem to have been particularly enterprising, but is probably very representative of what it was possible to acquire from ‘Picture Marchants in London’: a miscellaneous mixture of Dutch, Flemish, and Italian flower-pictures, views, and religious subjects, etc. In a way that was characteristic of the time, however, the Old Masters formed the bulk of the 152 pictures that are recorded as having hung in his London house in 1738, whereas the 196 pictures recorded at Belton in 1737 chiefly comprised – largely inherited – family portraits. Curiously, however, the present picture, neither appears in either of these lists, nor in the posthumous inventory of the house in Arlington Street – which was still virtually devoid of family portraits.

Provenance

Presumably commissioned by Viscount Tyrconnel, but not apparently recorded either at Belton in 1737 or in his house in Arlington Street in 1738, nor in posthumous inventory at the latter on 2 April in 1754; Frances Bankes. Lady Brownlow (1756 - 1847), Hill St; given by her to John, 2nd Baron and 1st Earl Brownlow some time after the death of her husband, the 1st Baron, in 1807 (recorded in Cust catalogue); thence by descent; acquired by the National Trust from 7th Lord Brownlow in 1984 at the same time as he gave Belton, its garden and many of its contents with aid from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

Credit line

Belton House, The Brownlow Collection (acquired with the help of the National Heritage Memorial Fund by the National Trust in 1984)

Makers and roles

Philippe Mercier (Berlin 1689 – London 1760), artist

Exhibition history

In Trust for the Nation, National Gallery, London, 1995 - 1996, no.17 The Treasure Houses of Britain, National Gallery of Art, Washington, USA, 1985 - 1986, no.166

View more details