Francis Wheatley, English, 1747-1801
Title: Portrait of The Marquess and Marchioness of Antrim
Date: 1782
Medium: Oil on canvas
99.7 x 128.3 cm
Signed: lower right: F, Wheatley px. 1782.
Credit Line: Purchased, 1980 (Shaw Fund)
Object Number: NGI.4339
DescriptionRandall William Macdonnell (1749–1791), 1st Marquess of Antrim, wears the Order of the Bath. He is painted in a phaeton with his wife, Letitia (d.1801), against a view of their northern home, Glenarm Park in County Antrim. Letitia was the daughter of 1st Viscount Mountmorres, and her previous husband had died. Her fashionable riding outfit, with lapelled waistcoat and elaborate hat, was the type of detail in which Wheatley excelled. For his depiction of the Palladian house he would have had recourse to a painting or engraving, of which examples survive.
Wheatley found a ready market for these small conversation-piece portraits, where sitters and landscape merge. Conversely, few Irish artists depicted conversation pieces, whether interior or exterior. The deft handling and colouring of the main group against the grey-green landscape make this one of the most successful compositions from the artist’s Irish period. While his flight from London to avoid debts was acceptable, the discovery that the lady travelling as his wife was already married to his friend John Gresse hastened Wheatley’s return to London.

March 2016

ProvenancePresumably commissioned by the 6th Earl of Antrim (later 1st Marquess); by descent to his younger daughter Charlotte, suo jure Countess of Antrim (1779-1835); bequeathed to her daughter Lady Louisa Letitia Kerr; bequeathed to her great-nephew A.R. MacGregor; bequeathed to his son, Lt. Commander M.F. MacGregor; purchased, Christie's, London, 21 November 1980, MacGregor sale, lot 60
Exhibition HistoryRecent Acquisitions 1980-1981, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 1981

Master European Paintings from the National Gallery of Ireland, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 6 June - 9 August 1992; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, 19 September - 6 December 1992; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 13 January - 28 March 1993; IBM Gallery, New York, 27 April - 26 June 1993
Label TextRandall William MacDonnell (1749 1791), 1st Marquess of Antrim, and his wife Letitia are shown riding, in a yellow horse drawn carriage, through their country estate Glenarm Park in Co. Antrim. The star of the Order of the Bath is visible on the proud landowner’s lapel, while the marchioness wears a fashionable riding habit. It is likely that the couple would have sat for Wheatley in Dublin. Wheatley was skilled in these small conversation piece portraits, which were much in demand.

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