Thomas Gainsborough (Sudbury 1727-1788 London) Portrait of Humphrey Hall (1738-1801)
Lot 66
Thomas Gainsborough
(Sudbury 1727-1788 London)
Portrait of Humphrey Hall (1738-1801)
Sold for £ 198,000 (US$ 263,087) inc. premium

Lot Details
Thomas Gainsborough (Sudbury 1727-1788 London)
Portrait of Humphrey Hall (1738-1801) of Goldings, Bengeo, Herts and Manadon, near Plymouth, three-quarter length, in a brown coat and breeches, seated in an interior, holding a riding crop, hat and gloves, beneath a red silk curtain, a wooded landscape seen through a casement window beyond
oil on canvas
128 x 102cm (50 3/8 x 40 3/16in).


    The sitter, Humphrey Hall (1738-1801) of Goldings, Bengeo, Herts and Manadon, near Plymouth
    Possibly the sitter's daughter, Elizabeth Hall (born 1768)
    Possibly the sitter's brother, Ambrose Hall (1739-1815) of Sutton Court, Sutton
    His son, Humphrey Hall (1763-1848) of the Hermitage, Walton on the Hill
    His son, the Rev. Ambrose Hall(1813-?)
    His son, the Rev. Humphrey Farran Hall (1838-1910)
    His sister, Alice Ruth Hall (1843-1870)
    Her husband, George William Marshall and thence by descent to the present owner

    Hugh Belsey, 'Plunging into Bath', Bonhams Magazine, Summer 2008, Issue 15, pp. 46-9, col. ill. p. 47

    The present portrait is a hitherto unrecorded work by Gainsborough that dates from the artist's first years in the fashionable spa of Bath, during the early 1760s. It was mentioned in the will of the sitter's great-great nephew, Humphrey Farran Hall (who died in 1910) which refers to 'an oil painting by Gainsborough of Humphrey Hall of Goldings in Benger (sic) near Hertford and Manadon near Plymouth who died in 1801 and is represented sitting on a chair covered in red his right hand holds a walking cane and gloves his left hand hangs down and holds a gold laced hat'. It was not until September 2007, however, that it has been publicly recognised after being authenticated by Hugh Belsey.

    Belsey points out that the unusual pose with the sitter's arm hooked over the back of his chair was one that Gainsborough observed in the paintings of Francis Hayman and adapted, making it more his own when he re-used it in the portrait of Lord Nugent, a painting he chose to exhibit in his first London exhibition at the Society of Artists in 1761 (now on loan to Holburne Museum of Art, Bath); as well as in a portrait of a member of the Sutton family which is now in a private collection. 'The experience of painting the portrait of Humphrey Hall had taught Gainsborough a great deal and, with growing fluency, set him on his way to paint some of his greatest masterpieces in Bath, which include The Blue Boy, and later on in London.'

    Belsey further remarks on how the view through the window is reminiscent of the artist's landscape paintings, rather than the topographical view of the city that visitors must have seen from the window of Gainsborough's studio and conveys the atmosphere in the room at the time of Hall's sitting: 'Gainsborough painted Humphrey Hall in the most informal of poses. He may well have been the "Mr Hall" who is listed in Boddley's Bath Journal as arriving in Bath shortly before 14 April, 1760, and this would tally with the style of the portrait. Fresh from riding, he has come to the studio wearing one calf glove and holding the other. He holds his whip in his right hand and in his left his tricorn hangs by his side. The energy expended on his ride had clearly made him tense and the beholder is aware that as a sitter he is uncomfortable and, perhaps, uneasy about the amount of time the process is taking. Hall hooks his arm over the back of the chair and crosses his legs with irritation. Time has passed and so he is a little more relaxed, his attention caught by a conversation outside the picture plane. He wears a light brown suit with brass buttons which is made to appear warmer in tone juxtaposed against the seat of the chair and a full red silk damask curtain pulled back from the window. The black of the tricorn, the green of the landscape and the white flashes of stock and cuffs enliven the image and a fob hanging from his waist shows that Hall is a man of substance.'

    Humphrey Hall was the son of Thomas Hall (1692-1748) of Goldings, Bengeo, Herts, and Mary, daughter of James Hallett of Dunmow, Essex. Thomas was in the East India Trade as a young man and later made a fortune in the China Trade; as the local squire of Bengeo, based at the Palladian mansion acquired by the Hall family in the late seventeenth century, he was sufficiently wealthy by 1736 to commission a lavish family vault to be constructed in the chancel of his parish church, St. Leonard's. Although the Hall family had been at Goldings for four generations, Humphrey sold the property in 1770 and moved to Manadon in Devon. He married Jane, daughter of John, tenth Lord St. John Bletsoe. Only one of their three daughters had a son, who entered Holy Orders and died without issue so that the present portrait was inherited by Humphrey's brother, Ambrose Hall and thence by his successors.
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