Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Alexander Pope (1688-1744) 1735c.

Arthur Pond 

Portrait of Alexander Pope (1688-1744), Arthur Pond
Oil on canvas
18th Century
29 1/2 x 24 1/4 inches 75 x 61.5 cm
The Bromley-Davenport family at Capesthorne Hall, Cheshire; By descent to Nicholas Bromley-Davenport Esq., until 1994.
This may well be one of the original portraits of Alexander Pope by Pond referred to in the Dictionary of National Biography. (1) Pond's versatility is demonstrated in a career that at various times embraced those of painter, engraver, art dealer and collector. He was also one of London's leading virtuosi during the first half of the eighteenth-century. This tight-knit group of artists, writers and connoisseurs included Jonathan Richardson Senior and his son, Alexander Pope, George Vertue, Dr Richard Mead and Lord Burlington. Many were fellow members of academic institutions such as the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Society.

Pond and Pope would have shared many friends in common and would have undoubtedly been well acquainted. Furthermore, Pond was a founding member in October 1744 of an organization called the Pope's Head Club in memory of the poet who had died the previous March. This group of men who included Philip Yorke (son of Lord Chancellor Hardwicke), the Reverend William Warburton and the booksellers John and Paul Knapton, were united by a shared interest in literature, classicism and political commentary. John and Paul Knapton were the sons of James, who had published in 1737 Pope's authorized edition of the Letters of Mr. Alexander Pope, And Several of his Friends. Furthermore, in 1734/5 the Knaptons had published the Richardson's work on Milton, Explanatory Notes and Remarks on Paradise Lost.

By the late 1740s all were engaged to some degree in Warburton''s project of compiling and illustrating various editions of Pope''s works to be published by Robert Dodsley and the Knaptons in the late 1740s and 1750s. Pond executed a small engravings of Pope in profile, in a stipple medallion for the title page of Warburton''s editions of the Essay on Man, which were published by the Knaptons between 1745-53. Although the likeness is reminiscent of an etching by Jonathan Richardson, Wimsatt suggests that the image may not be a direct copy (2) and it is possible that Pond executed it from an existing portrait that he executed during Pope's lifetime.

Pond was a key collaborator with George Knapton in the publication of the Heads of Illustrious Persons of Great Britain, printed for John and Paul Knapton, which appeared in two folio volumes: volume 1 in 1743 and volume 2 in 1751. The plate of Pope appears at the end of volume two and is an engraving by Houbraken after a drawing executed by Pond, with additional ornaments and an allegorical scene (Britannia amid symbols of civilization) by Hubert Gravelot. The print is inscribed: A.Pond pinxit. / In the Possession of Mr. Arthur Pond, although the image is based on a portrait which exists in a number of versions by Jean Baptiste Van Loo (3).

This portrait was for many years at Capesthorne Hall, Cheshire, the home of the Bromley-Davenport family. It may well have been commissioned by John Ward (1670-1749), of Capesthorne, a leading Hanoverian Tory and Member of Parliament for Newton and Thetford. An influential legal figure of his day, he was an enthusiastic patron of the arts. In 1722 he commissioned the architect John Wood of Bath to rebuild Capesthorne. His daughter and heiress, Penelope married Davies Davenport of Woodford and the house and estate subsequently passed into the Davenport family. Ward was a patron of Richardson, having himself, his daughter and his son-in-law painted for portraits which were at Capesthorne. Also in the house was a double portrait by Richardson of the artist and his son in the presence of John Milton. Ward may well have been introduced to Pope by Richardson, who was an intimate of the poet.

(1) ed. Sir Leslie Stephen & Sir Sydney Lee, Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. XVI, (1917),
p. 76.
(2)W.K. Wimsatt, The Portraits of Alexander Pope, 1965, no.43.3, pp. 190 - 2.
(3) Ibid., p.327-9.
(4)J.F. Kerslake, ''The Richardsons and The Cult of Milton'', Burlington Magazine, No.99 (January 1957), p.24.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.