Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Augustus Hervey, 3rd Earl of Bristol 

Gainsborough Dupont (1754-97)

Portrait of Augustus Hervey, 3rd Earl of Bristol, Gainsborough Dupont
Oil on canvas
18th Century
29.5in x 24in 75cm x 61cm
Provenance: Christie''s, London, June 19, 1970, Lot 45.
Literature: Christopher Buckley, The Highlander: Aboard Malcolm Forbes'' Remarkable Yacht, ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST, January 1987, pp. 100-109; 152. Note: Originally catalogued as an autographed work in the above sale. Literature: Christopher Buckley, The Highlander: Aboard Malcolm Forbes'' Remarkable Yacht, ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST, January 1987, pp. 100-109; 152.
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Augustus John Hervey, third Earl of Bristol, was one of the most highly skilled and imaginative naval officers of his day, as well as a prominent politician in later life.
Hervey initiated his naval career as a captain’s servant in 1735 and after numerous promotions and war experience, by 1748 had amassed a staggering fortune of around £9,000.
As the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48) was drawing to a close Hervey was briefly laid off, however the demand for safe transportation of bullion and coinage bought him employment once again and Hervey reportedly prospered from this freight money. The money of course was spent quickly on his vices, and Hervey at no spared cost enjoyed himself amid the ladies of Genoa, Naples, Leghorn and Lisbon. Hervey was a notorious womaniser and following a failed marriage to a beautiful yet promiscuous Devonshire girl, It wasn’t long before Hervey was frequenting the women of foreign ports, narrating his escapades quite openly in his Journal (ed. D. Erskine, 1953).
While stationed in Genoa Hervey became increasingly aware of the threat of French invasion of Minorca and set sail for the island. He was soon proved correct and on 20th May he witnessed the battle from his ship The Phoenix. Hervey was much against the British retreat to Gibraltar, an act which ultimately lost Byng his life, despite desperate lobbying at his trial to convince parliament otherwise.
After a series of successful attacks on enemy vessels in 1758, Hervey was back in England, and in 1759 entered into politics, taking a seat as M.P. for Bury St Edmunds. Hervey once again returned to sea to aid with the blockade of Brest; however a bad case of gout in both feet led to the Hervey’s ship The Monmouth being ordered to return home. Later, in 1762, Hervey also played a crucial role in the capturing of Havana to which he was entitled a handsome prize of £1,600.
With his sea days almost over Hervey returned to England and entered wholeheartedly into politics. After a number of different posts including colonel of the Plymouth division of Marines and commodore to command in the Mediterranean, Hervey settled as a groom of the bedchamber, worth £500 a year. In 1766 Hervey was sworn of the Irish Privy council but retired from this post one year later. In 1771 Hervey became a lord commissioner of the Admiralty, although ill-health prevented any lasting contributions and in 1775 after succeeding his brother as earl of Bristol, and his £10,000 a year income, Hervey resigned from the admiralty.
Hervey died of gout of the stomach on 23rd December 1779 and was buried at Ickworth.
The artist of the present work is Gainsborough Dupont, nephew of Thomas Gainsborough under whom he worked from 1772 until the latter’s death in 1788. Dupont’s portraits clearly show the influence of Gainsborough and remained his only assistant, producing studio replicas and prints. Dupont had an impressive list of clientele in his own right, including the Royal Family, however without the wit and confidence of his uncle and his contemporaries, his success was somewhat hindered and never, as one would have presumed, took over his uncle’s studio practice. Nevertheless Dupont exhibited some twenty-six works at the Royal Academy between 1790-5 and a large collection of his series of actors portraits can be seem at the Garrick Club, London. His style is very similar to that of Gainsborough and frequently leads to misinterpretation of authorship; the present work is no exception. It derives from Gainsborough’s full-length of Hervey at Ickworth (National Trust) and at numerous times throughout history was considered to be by Gainsborough himself.
Dupont died in London on 20th January 1797 and was buried next to his uncle at Kew.
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