William Mineard Bennett (1778-1858) - Portrait of Sir Charles Stuart (1779-1845)

William Mineard Bennett (1778-1858) - Portrait of Sir Charles Stuart (1779-1845)

c. 1820 England

Offered by Timothy Langston

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William Mineard Bennett (1778-1858)

A half-length portrait of Sir Charles Stuart (1779-1845), later Baron Stuart de Rothesay

Oil on canvas; signed.

Held in a period gilded French frame with Neo-classical details

Provenance: French Private collection

Charles Stuart was the eldest son of Colonel Sir Charles Stuart (1753-1801) and Anne Louisa Bertie (1757-1841), daughter of Lord Vere Bertie. Educated at Eton College, Christ Church College Oxford and the University of Glasgow, he spent a brief period practising at the bar, before entering the Diplomatic Service in 1801. He was appointed as Secretary of Legation in Vienna in 1801 and became secretary of the Embassy at St Petersburg in 1804, serving there until 1808. This was followed by a liaison and intelligence gathering assignment with the provincial juntas in French occupied Spain from 1808-10. As a minister in Lisbon (1810-14) he made himself indispensable to Wellington and was made a member of the Portuguese Regency Council. For this he was honoured with a Knighthood. In 1815 during the 'hundred days' he was ambassador at the courts of both the King of The Netherlands and the exiled French King, Louis XVIII who, upon the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, was escorted back to Paris by Sir Charles. Sir Charles then took up the post of British Ambassador in Paris at Wellington’s insistence. During his nine-year term of office from 1815 to 1824, Sir Charles married the wealthy Lady Elizabeth Yorke, daughter of the 3rd Earl of Hardwicke. Both of their children, Charlotte and Louisa, were born in the Embassy.

His greatest diplomatic achievement came in 1825 as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Portugal and Brazil. It was at this time that he arranged the treaty by which Brazil became independent of Portugal. Following this in 1828, he was reappointed the ambassador to France, and was created First Baron Stuart de Rothesay. His subsequent diplomatic roles engaged him in Russia, where he became British ambassador from 1841 until 1844. By this time his health was beginning to fail him and following a stroke he became unable to conduct business. While trying to conceal his condition, he was ultimately forced to resign in March of 1844, later dying at his home, Highcliffe Castle, in November 1845.

William Mineard Bennett was born in Exeter. He was specifically a portrait painter and miniaturist who trained under the great Regency portraitist Sir Thomas Lawrence. Lawrence's influence is clearly evident in this portrait. Bennett enjoyed a considerable reputation. He was an accomplished professional musician and as well as a talented artist. By the time he began to exhibit his work at The Royal Academy in 1812 it appeared he had abandoned music in favour of art. Details of his life are relatively obscure, yet after the fall of Napoleon Bennett began to visit Paris where he undertook a number of portrait commissions. Here he found favour under the patronage of the Duc de Berri (1778-1820). Following this, he settled in Paris and by 1835 won further royal approval from King Louis-Philippe who decorated him with the Legion d’honneur. His time in Paris led to financial success and he retired to his home in Exeter in 1844.

Sir Charles Stuart, as British Ambassador in Paris, would have been a likely client for Bennett who would have relied heavily upon the post-Napoleonic British presence there to furnish him with social connections and thus his earliest commissions. Bennett's fresh, highly spirited approach to portraiture, shows the influence of his mentor and teacher Lawrence and he would have found great favour with members of the expatriate community, particular those in military, political and of course, diplomatic circles. Thomas Lawrence remained busy in his London studio, focussed on the great canvasses of the victorious Allied commanders who were soon to broadcast his name throughout Europe as the most fashionable portrait painter of the early 19th century. If Bennett was witness to these portraits it is possible that his early visits to Paris were timely and shrewd, he might even have been in the city when Lawrence briefly visited in September 1815. Either way, Bennett, in his portrait of Sir Charles Stuart, has taken up various aspects of Lawrence’s style to create a noble image, full of the romantic spirit that flattered and immortalised his sitters and was so seductive to Regency society.
Dimensions
Height 33.50 inch (85.09 cm)
Width 29.25 inch (74.29 cm)
Stock Code
0809
Medium
Oil on Canvas
Timothy Langston

Timothy Langston
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