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Zoomable Image of Portrait miniature of Richard Barwell (1741-1804), wearing blue coat, white waistcoat, frilled chemise and stock, his powdered hair worn en queue and tied with a black ribbon bow, c. 1786

Portrait miniature of Richard Barwell (1741-1804), wearing blue coat, white waistcoat, frilled chemise and stock, his powdered hair worn en queue and tied with a black ribbon bow, c. 1786

George Engleheart (1750/3-1829)

Portrait miniature of Richard Barwell (1741-1804), wearing blue coat, white waistcoat, frilled chemise and stock, his powdered hair worn en queue and tied with a black ribbon bow, c. 1786

George Engleheart (1750/3-1829)

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Price:

£3,750

Materials:

Watercolour on ivory

Dimensions:

Oval, 1 7/16 in (37 mm) high

Provenance:

Bonhams, London, Fine Portrait miniatures including the Judy and Brian Harden Collection, 25 May 2011, lot 14; Private Collection UK

Frame:

Gilt-metal frame with diamond border, rectangular red leather travelling case

Having amassed a fortune (one of the wealthiest ‘nabobs’ contemporary rumours stated that he returned with £400,000), Barwell retired to Sussex and purchased Stanstead Park as his main seat.

Richard Barwell was born in Calcutta, the second of four sons born to William Barwell (1705-1769), Governor of Fort William, Bengal (later a director of the East India Company) and Elizabeth Pearce. The Barwell family had connections going back to the 1680s with East India. Richard was educated in England but returned to Calcutta, holding appointments with the East India Company from 1756. He became a member of the Council in Bengal under Warren Hastings PC (1732–1818), the first Governor-General of India, of whom he was a constant supporter. His time in India was marred, however, by scandal – heavy losses at the gaming table coupled with his taste for amorous adventure made him the subject of a pamphlet entitled The Intrigues of a Nabob; or Bengal the Fittest Soil for Lust. [1]

Having amassed a fortune (one of the wealthiest ‘nabobs’ contemporary rumours stated that he returned with £400,000), Barwell retired to Sussex and purchased Stanstead Park as his main seat.[2] He purchased additional land and property in this area as well as a house in St. James' Square, London. He became MP for Helston 1781-1784, St. Ives 1784-1790 and Fort Winchelsea 1790-1796.

This portrait by the brilliant and prolific artist George Engleheart capture’s Barwell’s ‘easy and pleasant’ disposition, giving the sitter a slight smile.[3] The miniature may have been painted the year after he married his second wife, Catherine Coffin of Boston, Massachusetts (a ‘Capt’ Barwell is recorded in Engleheart’s fee book of 1786). It seems from a contemporary description of the wedding that Barwell’s new wife was extremely young (he was 44 at the year of their marriage); ‘While I was at Uppark a marriage took place near there that surprized most people. Mr. Barwell, the great East Indian of Stansted, to Miss Coffin, a very pretty little girl not 16, of American extraction.’ [4]

Barwell had ten children with his second wife and two with his first (Elizabeth Sanderson, who had died of fever in India at the age of twenty-three). He was also well-known for keeping a mistress, Rebecca Lyne, with whom he had four children. The same observer notes ‘he kept a very beautiful mistress close to his park, by whom he has several children, and till very lately he declared most strongly against matrimony. He seems a good-natured man, but the mogul prevails strongly, I think, in his way of life and conversation.’.[5] Rebecca was immortalised in a painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds, entitled ‘Mrs Seaforth and child’ (dated 1787), now in the Lady Lever Art Gallery (Port Sunlight). Barwell himself was painted by Reynolds, who had taught Engleheart, in his library, with his eldest son, also called Richard.[6]


[1] Published anonymously, the author was later revealed as Henry F. Thompson.

[2] Bought from the earl of Halifax for £102,500 in 1781

[3] L. Sulivan, 6 Jan. 1780, Bodl. ms. Eng, Hist. C271, f. 37.

[4] Dear Miss Heber, ed. Bamford, 18.

[5] Ibid.

[6] J. Reynolds, oils, 1780–81; Christies, 17 April 1964, lot 48.


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