Not currently on display at the V&A

Richard Townsend, High Sheriff of Staffordshire (1682-1729)

Oil Painting
1722 (painted)
Artist/Maker

Richard Townsend is shown in the foreground of this half length portrait against a dark neutral background.

The sitter turns to his left and looks out of the painting. This composition suggests that it was intended to be hung with the portrait of the sitter’s wife (313-1905), to show the sitters facing each other. This pose also brings movement to the work. The strength of the sitter’s character is conveyed in the resolute pose of his placing his right hand under the opening to his coat. This is further emphasised by his steady gaze.

Richard Townsend is represented wearing a contemporary dress of a mid brown cloth. On his head he wears a fashionable periwig. The painting is signed 1722, dating to four years before the sitter was made High Sheriff of Staffordshire for the year of 1726.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Oil on canvas
Brief Description
Oil painting, 'Richard Townsend, High Sheriff of Staffordshire', George Alsop, 1722
Physical Description
Portrait of Richard Townsend, showing the sitter in contemporary brown dress against a dark background.
Dimensions
  • Estimate height: 30.5in
  • Estimate width: 25.5in
Dimensions taken from Summary catalogue of British Paintings, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973
Style
Marks and Inscriptions
'Geo Alsop pinx. 1722' (Signed and dated by the artist)
Credit line
Given by Miss Anna Newton
Object history
Given by Miss Anna Newton, 1905.



Historical significance: This portrait shows Richard Townsend (1682-1729) of Ellerton Hall, Staffordshire. It is signed and dated 1722 on the left of the painting. This portrait was painted when the sitter was aged forty years and four years before he became High Sheriff for Staffordshire. Little is known of the artist George Alsop. He worked as a portrait painter in England between 1722 and 1730. The date of this painting makes it one of the earliest known works by the artist. The Portrait of the Wolryche Fool by Alsop (Inventory number 90515) is at Dudmaston Hall in Shropshire. This suggests that the artist was working predominantly in the West Midlands.



The bust length portrait follows the contemporary formula of depicting the sitter against a dark background. Townsend is presented in a stiff pose, turning and looking out over his left shoulder beyond the viewer. The sombre background is also echoed in the clothes worn by Richard Townsend. Both dark palette and stiff pose combine to convey to the viewer the dignified character of Richard Townsend and his position within regional society.



The sitter is shown wearing a brown coat and matching waistcoat. The style of these clothes is contemporary with the painting. On his head he wears a periwig. Following the restoration King Charles II in 1660, periwigs became fashionable. These wigs were shoulder length or longer, imitating men’s’ hairstyles of the 1620’s. An expensive item, they were almost obligatory for men of social standing.



In the accompanying portrait Mrs Townsend (V&A inventory number 313-1905) is shown turning and looking over her right shoulder. This suggests that the paintings were intended to be hung as pendants, with the portrait of Richard Townsend hanging on the right. Mrs. Townsend holds a stem of orange blossom in her hands. This flower may explain why the portraits were commissioned. The Orange tree flowers and produces fruit at the same time. For this reason it was a traditionally carried by brides at weddings as a symbol of abundance. This tradition can be traced back to ancient China and was brought over to Europe in the middle ages when the first Crusaders returned from the East. Considering that this work was painted as a pendant to the portrait of Richard Townsend and that the sitter is shown holding a stem of orange blossom it is likely that these works were commissioned to commemorate the wedding of the couple.



This portrait was given to the museum with Alsop’s portrait of Mrs.Townsend (museum number, 313-1905). Two other early eighteenth-century portraits, attributed to Sir Geoffrey Kneller (1646-1723), museum number 314-1905 and 315-1905 were given to the museum as part of the same gift.
Subject depicted
Summary
Richard Townsend is shown in the foreground of this half length portrait against a dark neutral background.



The sitter turns to his left and looks out of the painting. This composition suggests that it was intended to be hung with the portrait of the sitter’s wife (313-1905), to show the sitters facing each other. This pose also brings movement to the work. The strength of the sitter’s character is conveyed in the resolute pose of his placing his right hand under the opening to his coat. This is further emphasised by his steady gaze.



Richard Townsend is represented wearing a contemporary dress of a mid brown cloth. On his head he wears a fashionable periwig. The painting is signed 1722, dating to four years before the sitter was made High Sheriff of Staffordshire for the year of 1726.
Associated Object
Collection
Accession Number
312-1905

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

record createdFebruary 19, 2007
Record URL