Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait enamel of the Hon. Henry Seymour Conway (1719-1795), wearing gold figured blue jacket over armour breastplate, white lace cravat, his hair worn en queue 

Christian Friedrich Zincke (1683/4-1767)

Portrait enamel of the Hon. Henry Seymour Conway (1719-1795), wearing gold figured blue jacket over armour breastplate, white lace cravat, his hair worn en queue, Christian Friedrich Zincke
Enamel on metal
Oval, 48mm (1 7/8 in) high
Possibly his cousin, Horace Walpole (1717-1797)
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In the 1730s, the enameller Christian Friedrich Zincke was commissioned by Sir Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, to produce a series of members of the Walpole family. The writer, collector and socialite Horace Walpole, youngest son of Sir Robert, valued the beauty and importance of enamel portraits. His own, by Zincke, was taken in 1745. He also owned portrait enamels by Zincke of his friends, including, according to Henry Bohn, one of the ‘Countess of Conway’.

Zincke was one of the most sought after artists of the early to mid-Georgian period. Born in Dresden to a family of goldsmiths, he travelled to London at the invitation of Charles Boit, then the leading practitioner of enamelling in Europe. From 1714, Boit having fled England to escape his creditors, Zincke became England’s finest and most sought after enamellist.

Zincke’s output was prolific and although his eyesight began to deteriorate during the 1720s, he was made enamel painter to George II in 1732, which increased his patronage further. Unlike other enamellists many of his portraits were made ad vivum, although he was not averse to flattering his sitters at their request.

Until now, it was thought that the only version of this portrait was in the Wallace Collection in Manchester Square, London. Given the close links between Horace Walpole’s family and Zincke, and between Walpole and his cousin Henry Conway (the subject of this enamel), it can be assumed that Zincke met the Hertford family, including Conway, via this connection.

Conway was the younger brother of the 1st Marquess of Hertford and cousin to Horace Walpole. The intimate nature of the relationship between the two men is expressed in numerous letters, which began shortly after they attended Eton school together. The innumerable letters between the two were described by one recent biographer of Walpole as; ‘like love letters’. Ketton Cremer writes that Walpole was ‘strongly attached’ to Conway, ‘toward whom he felt a more consistent and lasting devotion than he was able to extend to any other person’.
Zincke’s name appears on annotated correspondence between the two men, although a specific mention of this enamel does not.

Given the recent discovery of this version of the portrait, previously thought to be a private possession which had never left the family, it would be tempting to speculate that this enamel was owned by Horace Walpole. This can only be pure speculation, as the enamel is not listed in Walpole’s possession. This conjecture is strengthened by John Ingamells suggestion that the portrait enamel by Zincke was the basis for the painting of Conway by J.G. Eccardt dated 1746. If Walpole was in possession of this version of the enamel then Eccardt would have had direct access to it.

Conway decided to make his career in the army and on 27 June 1737, was commissioned lieutenant in the 5th dragoons, being promoted to captain-lieutenant by 1740. In 1741 he was elected Member of Parliament for Higham Ferrers, Northamptonshire. The Wallace collection description of the enamel suggests that it may have been commissioned for Lady Caroline Fitzroy, for whom Conway had formed a long romantic attachment. A marriage between them was deemed impossible, as Conway had insufficient income for such a match. Although Walpole opposed the match, his offered his cousin funds to aid him, which were refused. Whatever the circumstances of the portrait enamel’s commission, a proposed date around the mid-1740s would seem to fit with Conway’s age and the fact that after 1745 he spends a great deal of time in Ireland or the Netherlands on political and military business. Another possible date is 1747, when Conway finally married, although this would preclude it as the basis for the 1746 oil portrait of Conway by Eccardt.

Having failed to secure a marriage with Lady Caroline Fitzroy, Conway married, on the 19th December 1747, at Somerset House chapel, Westminster, Caroline Bruce, countess of Ailesbury (1721–1803), the daughter of Lieutenant-General John Campbell, later fourth duke of Argyll, and the widow of Charles Bruce, third earl of Ailesbury. The couple had one child, Anne (1749–1828) (Damer), who became a sculptress and a friend of both Horace Walpole and the miniaturist Richard Cosway.

In 1755, Conway became Chief Secretary for Ireland, continuing to pursue politics alongside his service in the army. In 1765 when he was nominated Secretary of State in the Rockingham administration.

Following his somewhat scandalous resignation in 1768, Conway once again focused on his military career. He was made a full general in 1772 and Governor of Jersey in the same year. In 1782, in the new Rockingham ministry he was awarded the office of Commander in Chief of the Forces, retaining this post until his retirement in 1793. His interests were diverse and included arboreal cultivation (a subject on which he wrote with passion) and the theatre (he continued to entertain during retirement: in 1818 Hannah More remembered ‘the brilliant society of Field-Marshal Conway's house’). Thereafter, he was appointed field marshal in 1793, dying just two years later at his home, Park Place in Berkshire, on 9 July 1795. He was buried in the Ragley old vault, Arrow church, Warwickshire.
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