Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of William Courtenay, 9th Earl of Devon and 3rd Viscount Courtenay, circa 1810. 

Richard Cosway RA (1742-1821)

Portrait of William Courtenay, 9th Earl of Devon and 3rd Viscount Courtenay, circa 1810., Richard Cosway
Zoom
Watercolour on ivory
Circular, 35mm (1 3/8in.) diam
 
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The subject of William Beckford's "wayward love," Courtenay was only eleven years old when they first met at the Courtenay home, Powderham Castle. Beckford was so captivated that he commissioned a portrait of "Kitty" from George Romney. Describing the boy as "a young divinity," Beckford wrote that he was the "only person to whom I can communicate my feelings - or to whom I can disclose the strange wayward passion which throbs this very instant in my bosom." The subsequent scandal caused by the relationship forced Beckford into a decade of social isolation on the Continent. Kitty Courtenay fled to America, living for several years in Claremont, New York. In 1825, Courtenay purchased the Chateau Dreveil in Paris, where he lived in great style for the rest of his life. Viscount Courtenay was one of Richard Cosway's most enthusiastic patrons, commissioning multiple portraits and miniatures of his sisters and himself. Cosway's full-length oil portrait of Courtenay, in which he is also wearing Van Dyck dress, still hangs in Powderham Castle.
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