Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of George and Thomas Dashwood (1680-1758) (d.1738) 

John Closterman (1665-1711)

Portrait of George and Thomas Dashwood (1680-1758) (d.1738), John Closterman
Oil and Canvas
17th Century
62 x 37 5/8 in. (157.5 x 95.5 cm.)
Christie’s, London, 23 July 1948, lot 102; Major H.E.J Spearman, 1951; Kentshire Galleries, New York.
M. Rogers, ‘John and John Baptist Closterman: A Catalogue of their Works’ in The Walpole Society, vol. 49, 1983, pp.244.
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This dynamic portrait of two young brothers, George Dashwood in brown to the left and Thomas Dashwood in red to the right, was painted by Johann Kloosterman, a popular seventeenth-century court painter. The painting is unusual as Kloosterman divides what is essentially a canvas intended for one full-length portrait into two, drawing together the boys’ brotherly relationship into one frame. In a stepped composition, each boy half in profile, the brothers play together at archery and their close relationship and family ties are symbolised by the white convolvulus, also known as bindweed, growing from under George’s bench.

George and Thomas Dashwood were the only sons of Sir Samuel Dashwood (1642-1705), Lord Mayor of London and member of the British East India Company, and Anne Smith (d. 1721). Almost nothing is known about Thomas Dashwood other than he died in 1738, bequeathing his ‘considerable estate’ to his brother, George. Following the death of Sir Samuel in 1706, George’s uncle, Francis, gave him £15,000 to assume ownership of the manor of West Wycombe, it was this payment and his father’s inheritance that made him financially independent.

George Dashwood (1680-1758), seated in this portrait, was educated at Magdalen College Oxford in c.1698 before travelling to Europe, visiting France, Italy, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, between 1700 and 1703. The height of George’s fame came in August 1703 when he was described as a ‘hot young gentleman’ after fighting and losing a duel with Lord Wharton at Bath. He was a Member of Parliament for Stockbridge from 1710 and married Catherine, daughter of Robert Bristow I of Micheldever, in 1712; Catherine was a woman of the Bedchamber to Queen Charlotte. In June 1713, after splitting with his party and voting against the French commerce bill, George decided to discontinue his political career. He bought an estate at Heveningham in Suffolk in 1719, became a sheriff of the county and died in 1758 in St George’s, Hanover Square in London.

The artist of this portrait, Johann Kloosterman, was born in Germany and is thought to have arrived in England in 1681, following the death of court painter Sir Peter Lely. Soon after his arrival Kloosterman was employed by John Riley as a drapery painter, although the existence of signed works by both artists during the 1680s suggests they also worked independently.

The demand for Kloosterman’s work soared following the death of Riley in 1691, pushing him further into the higher echelons of society, and by the late 1690s he appears to have enjoyed a position amongst the most distinguished literary and artistic circles.

By November 1698 Kloosterman was in Spain where he was patronised by the Spanish court and painted full-length portraits of Carlos II and Maria Ana of Neuberg. As is frequently seen throughout the history of travelling artists, Kloosterman, whilst looking for patronage, also acted as an agent for wealthy English collectors and did much to encourage the collecting of Old Master drawings in England at this time.

After his return and up until his death in 1711, Kloosterman maintained a successful portrait painting practice and employed at least one assistant, and although in competition with great painters like Sir Godfrey Kneller and Jonathan Richardson, he seems to have sustained an illustrious lifestyle. Kloosterman died in May 1711, not long after being robbed of his valuables by a devious mistress, an event which supposedly drove him into madness.
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