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Thomas Worlidge

1700 - 1766

Sir James Thornhill by Thomas Worlidge

Sir James Thornhill   c.1730

  Original etching with drypoint.
Signed in the plate.
Ref: Dack 217
S 347 x 267 mm; P 199 x 157 mm; I 195 x 155 mm
Excellent impression with burr, from the small edition issued by Worlidge’s widow in 1766-7.

After Thomas Worlidge died, his widow remarried and continued to sell his etchings privately; however, impressions from his widow’s edition can be identified from lifetime impressions through the presence of an engraved numeral, usually at the upper corner of each plate. These numerals were added to identify the title and price of each subject in relation to a list published for Worlidge’s widow (now Mrs. Ashley) in 1767. The earliest impressions, such as this, are particularly fine examples – the plates having been but little used during the artist’s lifetime.

Sir James Thornhill was probably the most eminent gentleman painter in this country prior to the rise of Sir Joshua Reynolds. A native of Dorset, born in 1676, he became the only significant decorative painter in the grand Baroque tradition to emerge in England. He was responsible for painting the interior of the dome of St. Paul’s cathedral with depictions of the saint’s life on eight massive panels; he decorated Hampton Court Palace; and he spent over 19 years decorating the immense Painted Hall, the lower Hall, and the Vestibule in Greenwich Hospital. He was knighted by King George I and became a member of Parliament and a Fellow of the Royal Society. Few other artists have ever attained such a position of power within the highest ranks of society in this country.

The famous painter William Hogarth became Thornhill’s son-in-law, upon marriage to Sir James’s daughter in 1729. At that time Hogarth had only just begun to make his name and were it not for the power of his father-in-law, his rise to fame and fortune might not have taken so rapid a course. Sir James concentrated upon depicting historical and allegorical scenes, although he also painted some portraits and landscapes. He died in 1734.

This portrait is thought to have been etched in about 1730/32, whilst Worlidge was living in Bath. At this time Sir James Thornhill would have been in his mid-fifties. During his time in Bath, Worlidge painted many miniatures and also etched portraits of the local residents and the notable or unusual visitors to Bath and the nearby city of Bristol.

On cream wove paper, with full margins and deckle edge. Two faint creases to sheet, otherwise generally good original condition.