Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Comport Fytche (1676-1720) 1680s

Mary Beale (1633-99)

Portrait of Comport Fytche (1676-1720), Mary Beale
Oil on canvas
17th Century
29 1/2 x 24 1/2 inches 74.9 x 62.2 cm
By descent from the sitters to Lady Alice Fytche who married in 1740, Sir John Barker, 6th Bart. of Ipswich and Sproughton, Suffolk. Acquired at Ipswich in 1838 with other family portraits by Hudson Gurney of Keswick Hall, Norfolk. Then by family descent until 1997.
Gerald Hudson Gurney, Catalogue of the Pictures at Keswick Hall, privately printed 1922, pp.66-7, nos.50 & 51. Prince Frederick Duleep Singh, Portraits in Norfolk Houses, 1927, Vol.I, p.342, Nos.13 & 16.
This sensitive signed portrait by Mary Beale, the most distinguished female portrait painter of the Stuart period, can be dated to around 1685. An outstandingly natural painter of child portraits, she accords Fytche a tenderness that presages the natural child portraiture of the late eighteenth-century. According to her husband''s notebooks there was a particular demand for her portraits of children which are certainly among the most successful works. (1) As well as their distinctively sympathetic characterisation they also demonstrate Beale''s considerable technical skills and the even, warm light that suffuses the figure, and her use of a Venetian-inspired palette in the silver toned drapery, are strongly reminiscent of Lely''s work of the 1660s.

Comport and Thomas Fytche were the sons of Sir Thomas Fytche, 1st Bart. of Eltham and Mount Maskall, Kent by Anne his wife, only child of Richard Comport of Southend, near Eltham. Comport was born on 18th October 1676 and married on the 6th December 1705, Anne, only daughter of Lumley Robinson, 2nd Bart. of Kentwell Hall. A gentleman of considerable erudition, comport was a subscriber in 1717 to Colin Campbell''s Vitruvius Britannicus and succeeded his father in the baronetcy on 1st September 1688, dying at Bath in 1720, while Thomas died unmarried in 1712.

Comport''s son, William, succeeded him in the baronetcy which on his death in 1736 became extinct, while his daughter Alice married Sir John barker, 6th Bart. of Ipswich and Sproughton, Suffolk.

(1) Elizabeth Walsh and Richard Jeffree, The Excellent Mrs Beale, 1975, p.15.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.