An Unknown Man, perhaps Charles Goring of Wiston (1744-1829), out Shooting with his Servant

An Unknown Man, perhaps Charles Goring of Wiston (1744-1829), out Shooting with his Servant

ca. 1765
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
Support (PTG): 45 3/4 x 54 inches (116.2 x 137.2 cm)
     In a wooded landscape, a servant hands his master a woodcock, the latest catch of a shooting expedition that has just been retrieved by the spaniel. With his other hand he holds a tricorne hat and pats the young gentleman on the back. The relaxed intimacy and apparent affection between the two figures suggest that this servant was a favored footman and that whoever commissioned the painting specifically requested him to be portrayed–making this a double portrait. Unlike the other black servants in this section of the exhibition, this young man is wearing neither a slave collar nor exoticizing costume. Underlying the informality of the exchange between the two men, however, is a well-defined hierarchy in which the servant acts as an intermediary between the hunting dog and his master.
     Until recently, this painting was thought to represent Charles Lennox, third Duke of Richmond, whose staff wore a livery of yellow and scarlet. Research for this exhibition has revealed that the blue and red livery worn by the servant here is much closer to that of the neighboring West Sussex estate of Wiston, inherited by Charles Goring (1744–1829) from his father in 1768.
B2001.2.218
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection