Portrait of Horace Walpole's Nieces: The Honorable Laura Keppel and Charlotte, Lady Huntingtower
Allan Ramsay (Scottish, 1686–1758)
Unframed: 61 1/2 x 54 in. (156.2 x 137.2 cm) Framed: 192.1 x 165.4 x 7.6 cm (75 5/8 x 65 1/8 x 3 in.)
Medium or Technique
Oil on canvas
Alan and Simone Hartman Galleries (Gallery 241B)
Laura (in blue) and Charlotte (in pink) were daughters of Sir Edward Walpole and Dorothy Clements, granddaughters of Prime Minister Robert Walpole, and nieces of the writer and aesthete Horace Walpole, who commissioned the portrait. Walpole claimed that Ramsay excelled Reynolds as a painter of women, being “formed to paint them.” We know more about the circumstances surrounding this commission than most. Letters between Walpole and the artist discuss dimensions, a sitting for Laura, and payments. The girls did not sit for Ramsay at the same time: their heads are on separate pieces of canvas that were then sewn into the main picture.
About 1765, commissioned by Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford (b. 1717 - d. 1797) for Strawberry Hill, Twickenham [see note 1]; May 18, 1842, Strawberry Hill sale, Robins, London, lot 51, bought in by George Edward Waldegrave, 7th Earl Waldegrave (b. 1816 - d. 1846), Chewton Priory, Bath [see note 2]; February 10, 1900, posthumous Earl Waldegrave sale, Christie's, London, lot 48, to Thos. Agnew and Sons, London (stock no. 9225); May 30, 1901, sold by Agnew to Nathaniel Thayer (b. 1851 - d. 1911), Boston; April 25, 1935, Thayer estate sale, American Art Association, New York, lot 65, to his grandson, Nathaniel Thayer Winthrop (b. 1912 - d. 1980) and his wife, Eleanor B. Winthrop (b. 1919 - d. 2008), New York; 2009, bequeathed by Eleanor B. Winthrop to the MFA. (Accession Date: June 17, 2009) NOTES:  On the commission, see the Strawberry Hill Accounts: A Record of Expenditure in Building Furnishing Kept by Mr. Horace Walpole, 1747-1795 (Oxford, 1927), pp. 10-11, 124-125. In a letter of February 5, 1759, Horace Walpole expressed the opinion that Ramsay excelled Reynolds as a painter of women, being "formed to paint them." A letter from Ramsay to Walpole (possibly late 1764) discusses the size of the composition and Laura's sittings for the artist; the two heads were painted separately and sewn onto the main support. Walpole made payments for the painting and the frame in March and August, 1765. See Alastair Smart, Allan Ramsay: A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings (New Haven and London, 1999), p. 143, cat. no. 295. The sitters are Walpole's two nieces, the daughters of Sir Edward Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, and Dorothy Clements. In 1758, Laura Walpole (b. before 1743 - d. 1813) married the Hon. Frederick Keppel, chaplain-in-ordinary to George II and George III, and Bishop of Exeter from 1762. In 1760, Charlotte Walpole (d. 1789) married Lionel Tollemache, Lord Huntingtower, who succeeded in 1770 as 5th Earl of Dysart.  Exhibited at the Royal Academy (entitled "The Ladies Waldegrave") in 1879 by Countess Francis Waldegrave (Frances Elizabeth Anne Braham) (b. January 4, 1821 - d. July 5, 1879).
Bequest of Eleanor B. Winthrop in memory of Nathaniel T. Winthrop