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by John Lucas, Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington

Core Record

Title Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington
Collection Oxford Portraits: University of Oxford
Artist by John Lucas
Date 1837-1840
Acquisition gift from Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, December, 1839
Description Whole length, standing slightly to right in front of carved armchair, head turned slightly to left; grey hair and whiskers; high white stock and lace bands; heavy black brocaded silk Chancellor's robe with gold lace trimming on collar, facings and sleeves, over black coat and breeches; black silk stockings, and shoes with gold buckles; blue ribbon and Star of the Order of the Garter across breast, and Order of the Golden Fleece; Garter on knee; folds of robe on his right arm; cap with gold tassel in his left hand; to right, architectural background with stained-glass window, a red-covered table with blue bound folio volume and papers.

Painted at the charge of the Duke, Chancellor of Oxford University, in response to a request from the University dated 26 Oct 1835. The portrait was completed by December 1839 when the Vice-Chancellor reported that he had received information from the Chancellor that:

'a Portrait of His Grace intended for the University had been completed, as far as the sittings were concerned, by Mr. John Lucas: that Mr Lucas had recently visited the University, and that, accompanied by him, the Vice Chancellor had examined the different situations which seemed at all suitable for the Picture. Its very large size appearing to render the placing it in the Theatre impossible, it was determined to block up the western window of the Picture Gallery, and placing there the School of Athens as a centre between the portrait of King William IV and Queen Adelaide to introduce that of the Chancellor into the place at the Eastern end of the first division of the Gallery, now occupied by the Schools of Athens, between the portraits of Lords Eldon and Stowell.

Mr Lucas having applied for permission for Mr. Moon, Her Majesty's Publisher, to publish an engraving from this Portrait, the Vice Chancellor was requested to write to His Grace referring this application entirely to His Grace's decision.' (Hebdomadal Board Minutes, 2 Dec 1839, Oxford University Archives, WPgamma/24/5/p.192)

The painter's son, Arthur Lucas, published a detailed account to the circumstances of his father's commission for this portrait of the Duke of Wellington, and the subsquent publication of an engraving of the portrait by Samuel Cousins in 1840:

'Moon had quickly learned that the University Authorities were approaching the Duke to sit for his portrait as Chancellor; and he must have known that John Lucas was likely to be selected as the painter to execute the commission. ... He sought the painter and entered into specific agreement with him, that, providing permission were secured from the Duke for engraving and publication, he would pay John Lucas five hundred guineas for the copyright of the Chancellor's portrait, and undertake to have it engraved by Samuel Cousins, A.R.A.' (A. Lucas, John Lucas Portrait Painter 1828-1874, 1910, p.37)

On applying through his patron and friend, Lord Mahon, to the Chancellor, Lord Eldon, for the loan of his Chancellor's robe from which to paint that for the Duke in his portrait, Lucas discovered that Moon's former partner, Graves, appeared to be stealing a march upon the rival publisher to publish a portrait of the Duke as Chancellor of the University. Lord Eldon had lent his robe to another artist for the very same purpose. Lucas wrote to Moon on 18 Feb 1840 offering to release him from his agreement to purchase the copyright of his picture, but Moon wrote back within the hour confirming his wish to fulfil his engagement to Lucas.

'The painter ... redoubled his energies in the completion of this work deferring where he could the advance of all other commissions. He would relate, in later years, the immense satisfaction it had afforded him to get the picture done, to arrange with the frame-maker to provide a van, and having secured relays of horses on the road, to start for Oxford with the canvas scarcely dry, and travelling himself with the driver until late at night, to arrive at Ryman's in "the High", sufficiently early the next day to admit of the picture being placed on view. The whole University crowded to get first sight of their Chancellor's portrait, and to so inconvenient an extent, that Messrs Ryman had to call upon the authorities to provide protection, by regulating the entry of the clamorous throng, in their eagerness to obtain admission. The picture now hangs in the Bodleian its success, as a portrait, was complete, and Cousins's engraving from it proved a publication more popular than even its publisher had estimated.

Its painter was almost immediately commissioned by a Committee of Oxford and Cambridge Club, Pall Mall, to make a replica of it for them. It was duly undertaken, though some slight variation in the background and accessories are introduced, making the two works distinct. The Duke gave sittings for the head of the Club portrait, thereby making it "an original from life".' (A. Lucas, ibid., pp.39-40)
External Link Oxford Portraits website
Id Number Current Accession 24
Measurements 70 x 106 in.
Sitter Biographical Notes Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington (1769-1852)
Army officer and Prime Minister
Artist Biographical Notes by John Lucas (1807-1874)
Engraver and portrait painter
Donor Biographical Notes Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington (1769-1852)
Army officer and Prime Minister
Relation References A. Whitman, Samuel Cousins (1904), p.109, no.173; A. Lucas, John Lucas Portrait Painter 1828-1874 (1910), pp.37-38; R. Lane Poole, Catalogue of Portraits in the possession of the University, Colleges, City, and County of Oxford, 3 vols (1912, 1925), I, pp
Rights University of Oxford
 

 

 

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