Historical Portraits Picture Archive

John, 2nd Duke of Montagu (1690-1749), his wife Lady Mary Churchill, daughter of the Duke of Marlborough, and their youngest daughter, Lady Mary Montagu, c.1730 1730s

Gawen Hamilton 

John, 2nd Duke of Montagu (1690-1749), his wife Lady Mary Churchill, daughter of the Duke of Marlborough, and their youngest daughter, Lady Mary Montagu, c.1730, Gawen Hamilton
Oil on canvas
18th Century
24 x 28 1/4 inches 60.96 x 71.76 cm
Collection of Arthur George, 3rd Earl of Onslow (1777-1870) His estate sale, property removed from Richmond & West Clandon Place, Surrey; Christie''s, July 22 1893, Lot.7, (as by W.Hogarth); bt. Agnew £58 / 16. Collection of Robert Rankin Esq., Liverpool. His sale, Christie''s, 14 May 1898, Lot.42; bt. Agnew, £105. Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd., London. Collection of Rudolph Kann Esq., Paris, by 1900. Newhouse Galleries Inc., New York, from whom purchased by C.M.Johnson. Collection of Charles M.Johnson Esq., Pennsylvania.
Wilhelm Bode, Gemaldsammelung des Hen Rudolph Kann, 1900, No. 100, illus. (as Hogarth) Austin Dobson & Sir Walter Armstrong, William Hogarth, 1902, p. 180.
Seated at the card-table are John, 2nd Duke of Montagu (1690-1749), wearing the Garter Star and Sash which he was awarded in 1719 and his wife Lady Mary Churchill (1689-1751), daughter of John, 1st Duke of Marlborough. Standing at her motherís left is her youngest daughter Mary (1711-75). The latter married in 1730, George Brudenell, 4th Earl of Cardigan (1712-90), who on the death of his father-in-law in 1749 became 3rd Duke of Montagu. Their only other surviving child, Isabella, married firstly in 1723, William, 2nd Duke of Manchester and secondly Edward Hussey, later Earl of Beaulieu.
This conversation piece can be dated to c. 1729-30, at the time of Mary Montagu's marriage to the Earl of Cardigan. The white gown of the Duke and Duchesses'' second daughter almost certainly allude to her future nuptials. This would have been further emphasised by the original size of her dress, which can be seen clearly in the pentiments of her skirt. While the game of cards is a fairly common pursuit in the conversation-piece genre, the Duke pointing to a heart on his card and the three of hearts lying face up on the table may be intended to be read as specific references to the game of love and consequently marriage.
The armorial trophies on the wall almost certainly allude to the Dukeís own military career and that of the Duchessís father, whom the Duke of Montagu followed to Flanders in 1709. It was an association of which he was particularly proud, despite the evident disapproval of his mother-in-law Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough. The Dukeís interest in heraldry and lineage can be seen in his commission of a decorative chimney overmantel that displaying the antecedents of him and his wife for the Library at Boughton, as well as other trophies incorporating his Garter Badge.1
The classically-inspired architectural interior could be meant to represent Old Montagu House in Bloomsbury Square which was built for the Dukeís father in 1675 and remodelled after a fire in 1686 to the designs of a French architect, Mr Pouget. It was only one of a number of properties that the 2nd Duke owned in and around London and in 1733, he moved to a new house in Whitehall designed by Henry Flitcroft. In 1755 Old Montagu House was taken over by the British Museum and eventually demolished in the 1840s. The 2nd Duke regularly hosted musical and theatrical soirees at his residences in London, and a number of conversation pieces have been connected with these.
Marcellus Lagoonís A Noblemanís Levees of 1730 and a group of drawings by the same artist of a musical concert have all been thought to include or represent the
second Duke and his family. One version of the drawing belonging to Horace Walpole carried his identities of the participants, which included those of the Duke and his second daughter. George Vertue records seeing in 1730 a four-figure conversation piece by Hogarth of the Duke of Montague and his Duchess - the Lord Brudnal & a daughter of the Dukes lately married.í This genre clearly appealed to the Duke and fits in with what we know of his character. A practical joker and lover of things French, he was the quintessential eighteenth-century bonviveur, whose spending far outstripped his considerable income. A member of the Kit-Kat Club, an accomplished soldier and Master General of the Ordnance, his career followed a pattern typical of the aristocracy. Among the official positions that John, Duke of Montagu (1690-1749) held was Lord High Constable at the Coronation of George I and bearer of the Sceptre with the Cross at the Coronation of George II and Master of the Great Wardrobe. His favour at Court was rewarded in 1734 when he became Captain of the Band of Gentleman Pensioners, a position only given to those in high royal esteem. Then in 1740 he was promoted Master-General of the Ordnance, an office of extreme importance originally held by his father-in-law, 1st Duke of Marlborough and carrying with it Cabinet rank.
His role at Court and friendship with George II would have brought him into close contact with Henrietta Howard, later Countess of Suffolk (1688-1767), the Kingís mistress. She was a Lady of the Bedchamber to Caroline, Princess of Wales at the same time as the 2nd Dukeís wife. In December 1717 on the expulsion of the Prince of Wales from St.James's Palace, the latter resigned her position while the former removed with the Princeís court to Leicester House. When Henrietta Howard built Marble Hill House on the banks of the Thames at Twickenham between 1724-9, she became a neighbour of the 2nd Duke of Montagu who occupied the next-door property, Ragmanís Castle until his death in 1749. This small house situated opposite the lane, which continues Orleans Road and leads down to the river was a favourite retreat of the 2nd Duke away from life at Court and was where he frequently dined with his friends under the trees close to it.4
Both the Countess of Suffolk and the 2nd Duke of Montagu were close acquaintances of Horace Walpole who from 1747 resided nearby at his Gothic Villa, Strawberry Hill. Another intimate of Walpole, Lady Diana Beauclerk (died 1808) occupied the property on the other side, Little Marble Hill or Spencer Grove as it was known between 1782-89. She was the eldest daughter of Charles, 3rd Duke of Marlborough (1706-58), a nephew of Mary, 2nd Duchess of Montagu.
Tessa Murdoch, Boughton House: The English Versailles, 1992, fig. 16, p.24.
Elizabeth Einberg et al, Manners and Morals, Tate Gallery Exhibition, London 1987, No.61, p.80.
Vertue Note Books, Volume III, The Walpole Society, Vol.XXII (1934), p.46. R.S.Cobbett, Memorials of Twickenham, 1872, p.12
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