Philip Reinagle, British, 1749-1833
Title: Portrait of Mrs Congreve with her Children
Date: 1782
Medium: Oil on canvas
80.5 x 106 cm
Signed: lower left: Php. Reinagle 1782
Credit Line: Presented, Edmund Russborough Turton, 1914
Object Number: NGI.676
DescriptionMrs Rebecca Congreve is shown with her children, Ann, Thomas and Charlotte, in a drawing room thought to represent Eastcombe House, near Greenwich, where the family had moved in 1780. Over the mantelpiece is Godfrey Kneller’s portrait of their illustrious ancestor, the playwright William Congreve. The survival of all the family portraits supports the authenticity of furnishings and their disposition in the room. Four of these portraits are now in the Gallery’s possession, including the pair by Thomas Phillips that flank the larger one of Captain William Congreve with his elder son William, again by Reinagle. The captain was renowned for manoeuvring artillery across rough country and is shown leaning on an eight-pounder canon. Between the windows is his sword, his tricorne hat and a leather pouch for orders, while a toy cannon is on the central table. The squirrel and the book held by the girls, the floral carpet (Axminster or Aubusson) and the pair of girandole mirrors (to a Hepplewhite pattern) are the more feminine elements.
After years as Alan Ramsay’s assistant, Reinagle turned against formal portraiture. He never recaptured the quality of his Congreve family groups in other interior scenes.

March 2016

ProvenanceCommissioned bij Sir Willliam Congreve, 1st Bart., 1782; by descent to his son, Sir Willliam Congreve, 2nd Bart., 1814; to his sister, Charlotte Maclean, 1828; by descent to her daughters Julia and Charlotte; by descent to their nephew, Hugh William Maclean, 1893; sold by his widow at Philips, Son and Neale, 13 May 1914, lot 265, bt. Clark; E.R. Turton of Upsale Castle, Thirsk; presented, Edmund Russborough Turton of Upsale Castle, Thirsk, 1914
Exhibition HistoryBritish Empire exhibition, The Palace of the Arts, Wembley, 1925

Retrospective British Art, Brussels, 1929

Painting in England and Ireland 1700-1900, Dundalk, 1970

The Architecture of Ireland in Drawings & Paintings, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 1975
Label TextThe setting for this portrait of Mrs Rebecca Congreve and her children is probably Eastcombe House, near Greenwich, which was rented by the family in 1780. Baby Thomas is shown playing with a toy cannon, a reminder of his absent father. Captain Congreve’s sword and tricorne hat are visible on a table between the windows. This painting reveals how a fashionable Georgian home was decorated with floral carpet, girandole mirrors and mantelpiece ornaments. Godfrey Kneller’s portrait of the family’s illustrious ancestor, playwright William Congreve, can be seen on the right.

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