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Horace Walpole

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    London (probably, printed)

  • Date:

    1757 (printed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Reynolds, Joshua (Sir), born 1723 - died 1792 (artist)
    McArdell, James, born 1729 - died 1765 (engraver)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Mezzotint, ink on paper

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 118a, case WW

Object Type
This object is a print of a type known as a mezzotint, a form of tonal engraving in which the design is made by pitting the surface of a metal plate with a serrated tool called a rocker, then smoothing and scraping the roughened surface so that different areas of the plate will hold varying quantities of ink. This creates a range of velvety tones and white highlights when the image is printed on to paper.

Subjects Depicted
This mezzotint reproduces a painted portrait of Horace Walpole. He is shown leaning his head thoughtfully on one hand, with his elbow resting on a table. Also present in the picture are a pen and a row of books, artefacts associated with writers and men of letters. Walpole commissioned the print hanging over the edge of the table, showing an eagle. This eagle was one of Walpole's prized possessions, as it was an antique marble sculpture excavated near the Baths of Caracalla in Rome. Walpole purchased it in the mid -1740s, a few years after returning from visiting Italy on the Grand Tour.

This print was a private plate. Instead of examples of the print being sold on the open market by either James McArdell or a printseller, they all became the property of the person who commissioned them, Horace Walpole. This meant that Walpole could control who got hold of the prints by distributing them to his friends and acquaintances as and when he saw fit.

Physical description

Portrait, three-quarter length, standing, with left hand on hip and right elbow leaning on a table. On the table are papers, books and an ink-well.

Place of Origin

London (probably, printed)


1757 (printed)


Reynolds, Joshua (Sir), born 1723 - died 1792 (artist)
McArdell, James, born 1729 - died 1765 (engraver)

Materials and Techniques

Mezzotint, ink on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'Horace Walpole / Youngest Son of Sr. Robt. Walpole Earl of Orford.'
Lettered with name of sitter

'J. Reynolds pinxt. Js. Mc.Ardell fecit 1757.'
Lettered with artist's name


Height: 37 cm plate, Width: 27 cm plate

Descriptive line

Print, three-quarter length portrait of Horace Walpole. Mezzotint by James McArdell after Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1757.

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Horace Walpole commissioned this print of his portrait by Joshua Reynolds. It shows him, aged about 40, as a collector and man of letters. The print seen on the table was commissioned by Walpole to illustrate his most prized possession, an antique marble eagle excavated in Rome, which he had bought in 1745. [27/03/2003]

Subjects depicted

Waistcoats; Writing paper; Knowledge; Quill pens; Books; Frock coats; Lace; Cuffs (costume components); Men; Fashion; Portraits


Prints; Portraits; Gender and Sexuality


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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