Rev. Matthew William Peters R.A. 1741/2 (Freshwater IOW) – 1814 (Brasted)

Rev. Matthew William Peters  R.A. 1741/2 (Freshwater IOW) – 1814 (Brasted)
Rev. Matthew William Peters  R.A. 1741/2 (Freshwater IOW) – 1814 (Brasted) Rev. Matthew William Peters  R.A. 1741/2 (Freshwater IOW) – 1814 (Brasted)
Offered by: Strachan Fine Art Ltd.
Dealer reference: S00218


John Codrington Warwick Bampfylde (1754-1797) poet & musician
Painted c.1778-79 Oil on canvas.
In original carved and gilded wood frame

John Codrington Warwick Bampfylde was born in 1754, the younger son of Sir Richard Warwick Bampfylde (1722-76), 4th Baronet, of Poltimore, Devon. He was educated at Winchester and Trinity Hall, Cambridge. According to his music teacher, the Exeter composer William Jackson, John expressed a romantic wish to live in solitude in the country, dedicating his life to his music and poetry. However, under pressure from his family John moved to London, where he began to lead a dissipated life. He also fell desperately in love with Reynolds's niece, Mary Palmer (1750-1820). In 1778 John dedicated a volume of sonnets to her and, in 1779, a poem entitled 'To Miss Palmer's Pet Monkey', whose privileged position he contrasted to his own wretched state. He proposed to Miss Palmer, afterwards marchioness of Thomond. Sir Joshua, however, disapproved of the match, and refused to allow the poet in his house. As a consequence John broke Sir Joshua's windows and was sent to Newgate. On coming to town soon after, Jackson found that the poet's mother had got him out of prison but that he was almost destitute. Jackson rescued him, before returning to Exeter, but he soon had to be confined in a private madhouse in Sloane Street. In 1796, after twenty years' confinement, he recovered his senses only to die of consumption in 1797.
(from Martin Postle in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

In the later 1770s Sir Joshua had painted both John and his sister-in-law. John’s elder brother, Charles Bampfylde (1753-1823), who succeeded to the baronetcy upon his father's death, married Catherine Moore (c.1754-1832), who in 1776-77 sat to Sir Joshua for a marriage portrait as Lady Bampfylde (Tate N03343). In c.1778 he painted John in a large double portrait with George Huddesford entitled 'Portraits of Two Gentlemen' (Tate N00754).

George Huddesford had been a friend of John’s since Winchester. A painter and satirical poet, Sir Joshua depicts him wearing a black silk van Dyck costume. He is handing John an engraving of a (Reynolds) portrait of Joseph Warton, a close friend of Reynolds and Master of Winchester College. The painting is intended to show the friends’ shared interest in the pursuit of learning and the fine arts. George had studied painting under Sir Joshua but, at the time of the double portrait, was writing his satirical poem Warley which first established his notoriety as a wit.

Peters had exhibited a pastel at the Royal Academy in 1776 (no. 225) believed to be Miss Bampfylde. There is also an engraving of her, by R. Dunkarton after Peters, published Feb. 15 1777 under the title of “Belinda”. He therefore had some contact with the family. The present portrait by Peters was probably painted in about 1778-79, at the same time as the double portrait and when John was aged 29 or 30. The identification of the sitter is based on the detail of his distinctive features in the Reynolds double portrait.

Peters shows John wearing a van Dyck costume to acknowledge his musical and literary involvements and possibly as a reference to George in the double portrait. He is reading, very prominently, a paper headed “A Discourse”. Although not typeset like Sir Joshua’s published paper, this must represent part of his Discourses the first of which was delivered in 1769. Their object was to show how a painter could find ideal beauty. This indicates that this portrait was painted at a time when John was enamoured of Mary Palmer but before Sir Joshua had barred him from his house. Peters knew all the parties well and intended this painting as an intimate portrait about love, erudition and friendship. Martin Postle wrote that shortly after the double portrait was completed the friendship between John and George was disrupted by John’s encroaching insanity.

• Collection of Dr. Lindley M. Scott, Wilbraham Place, London, SW
until sold by his executors at
• Christie’s London, 22 June 1945, lot 14. Bought Ryman £21.
“Rev. M. W. Peters R.A.
Portrait of a young gentleman, in dark coat, with white lace collar and cuffs, reading a book. In a painted oval, 29 ¼ by 24 in.”
• Collection of an Oxford academic until sold in 2018

Height: 29.00inch (73.66 cm)
Width: 24.00inch (60.96 cm)


Good. Some retouchings consistent with age. Frame has been re-gilded using gold leaf.


Circa 1778

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