Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Colonel George Bate c.1700 1700c.

James Francis Maubert (1666-1746)

Portrait of Colonel George Bate c.1700, James Francis Maubert
Oil on canvas
17th Century
50 x 40 inches 127 x 101.2 cm
ChristieÆs July 14th 1961 (lot 115); ChristieÆs May 27th 1988 (lot 97); Private Collection.
The Glorious Revolution? The Fall and Rise of the British Army 1660 - 1704. Special Exhibition
In this extravagant portrait the Irish painter James Maubert gives a sardonic twist to the familiar style of Sir Godfrey Kneller or Michael Dahl. The signature visible to the left beneath the sitter’s helmet confirms that this is one of a comparatively small number of portraits recognised to be by Maubert - a superb exercise in the grand manner by a painter best known now for his portraits of women and children, and to his immediate successors for small icons of literary figures.

Maubert was born in Dublin in 1666. Like his older countryman Garret Morphy, Maubert trained in Dublin under the immigrant painter Gaspar Smitz. George Vertue, who knew Maubert and who relied on him as a source for certain anecdotes concerning the painter that appear in his Notebooks, states ‘Mr Maubert had his first instruction in drawing and painting from him in Dublin’.1 It may be from Smitz that Maubert acquired the Continental panache that is so apparent in this portrait.

The composition is typical for portraits of senior officers, showing the sitter at three-quarter length, before a rocky outcrop and foliage, with a battle raging in the background. Maubert’s fellow Irishman Garret Morphy had employed this composition a decade previously in his Portrait of General William Wolseley (Private Collection, Ireland), as did Michael Dahl in his portrait of Lt General Thomas Meredyth (Private Collection), a contemporary of Bate who had served alongside him under the Duke of Marlborough.

The hard, almost continental finish of Maubert’s painting is ideally suited to the opulent costume of the General’s uniform. At this date dress for officers was not fixed, and they might wear coats of their own devising, provided they followed the red colour of the army. Like General Meredyth in his portrait by Dahl, Bate wears an elaborately embroidered red velvet coat whose decoration is dictated by personal taste rather than regulation.

Too little is known in any detail of Maubert’s patronage, although he worked for the Bathurst family, the Herberts and painted portraits of the Duchess of Bolton. Two of these (National Gallery of Ireland Dublin, and Sotheby’s, London, both reproduced Figgis and Rooney Irish Painters in the National Gallery of Ireland Vol 1 2001) demonstrate Maubert’s practice of including decorative flowers, often honeysuckle, in his portraits, which Vertue remarked to Horace Walpole2. In the case of Colonel George Bate this would clearly be inappropriate, and the background includes a dramatic rendition of fierce cavalry combat. Whether an actual engagement is alluded to is not certain, although the vaguely anachronistic dress of the participants suggests that the vignette may be a quotation from a seventeenth century battle painter such as Jacques Courtois called Il Borgogne, whose work was popular with British collectors.

Vertue also records a copy painted by Maubert of John Kerseboom’s portrait of the scientist Robert Boyle, taken from the original in the possession of the 3rd Earl of Burlington3. Whether the connection with the Boyle family was through Maubert’s association with the architect earl in London, or through common Irish interests is not recorded, although the Boyles are known to have employed Irish painters such as Francis Bindon as copyists4. The portrait of Colonel Bate may be evidence that Maubert – like Charles Jervas or Garret Morphy – returned at least periodically to practise in his native Ireland. George Bate had been appointed to the Governorship of Charles Fort by King George I in 1713, and he lived there until his death in 1725. A date of c.1714 would be very probable for the portrait, therefore, since attaining the governorship of the most important defensive fort in Ireland might well have occasioned the commission. The evidence of costume would also support this date. The tied campaign wig, for example, is identical with that worn by Prince James Edward Stuart ‘The Old Pretender’ in the portrait painted c.1712 – 1714 by Alexis-Simeon Belle (numerous examples and variants), whose work this portrait resembles in its easy swagger and movement.

The appointment to Charles Fort came after twenty years of military service. Bate had been commissioned lieutenant in Colonel Henry Rowe’s Regiment of Foot in 1695. In 1702 he was promoted Captain in Henry Holt’s Regiment of Marines, before transferring to Thomas Brudenell’s Regiment of Foot as adjutant and quartermaster. He served in Churchill’s Regiment of Foot as Major in 1707 and then Lieutenant-Colonel in 1708. By 1713 he had been placed on half-pay, and his career was revived by the royal appointment to the governorship of Charles Fort. Bate remained in Ireland until his death in 1725. His wife Mary died in the following year, leaving a daughter also named Mary.

1. George Vertue Notebooks IV (Walpole Society XXIV) Oxford 1935 - 36 p.120
2. Horace Walpole Anecdotes of Painting in England 1762 – 63 Vol III p.132
3. Vertue Notebooks II (Walpole Society XX) Oxford 1931 - 32 p.39
4. Shannon Correspondence (private source)
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