Charles Stanhope, third Earl of Harrington, and a Servant

Charles Stanhope, third Earl of Harrington, and a Servant

1782
Sir Joshua Reynolds RA
1723-1792
Oil on canvas
93 x 56 inches (236.2 x 142.2 cm)
     Charles Stanhope (1753–1829) served with British forces in North America and the Caribbean during the American War of Independence. In 1780, his regiment arrived in Jamaica to defend Britain’s largest slave colony against French invasion. Stanhope was accompanied by his wife, Jane, who was the stepdaughter of a prominent Caribbean plantation owner. Soon after their return to England in 1782, Stanhope sat for Reynolds. There is no record of the young man who is shown here holding Stanhope’s helmet. When the painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1783 as Portrait of a Nobleman, critics likewise remained silent about his presence.
     This grand full-length portrait is very close to a painting by Hyacinthe Rigaud (1659–1743), depicting the King of Poland with a black page. Reynolds’s emulation of Rigaud
is one reason why Stanhope is depicted in archaic armor. It may also partly account for the presence of the black servant. Whether Stanhope specifically commissioned his inclusion, however, is unknown. He may represent a member of Stanhope’s regiment or household. Alternatively, he may have been modeled on somebody known to Reynolds.
B1977.14.69
Inscribed, lower left: "Charles Earl of Harrington"
Signed lower right: "S. J. Reynolds. Pinx."
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection