Sir Griffith Boynton
Francis Cotes (1726–1770)
Sir Griffith Boynton, 6th Baronet (1744–1778)
Signed: FCotes R.A. pxt 1769. [F and C in monogram]
Oil on canvas, 94 1/2 x 58 in.
Collection Mrs. Henry C. Frick II
Location: East Gallery
Born in London, Francis Cotes was a renowned portrait painter whose successful career in England was rivaled only by those of contemporary artists Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds. Cotes trained under George Knapton (1698–1778), from whom he learned to execute portraits in pastel and oil.
In 1769, Cotes painted Sir Griffith Boynton, 6th Baronet (1744–1778), who had married Mary Hebblethwaite (also spelled Heblethwayte) (1749–1815) a year earlier. Sir Griffith became heir to his family’s properties at Burton Agnes and Barmston, England, following his father’s death in 1761. He also served as a member of parliament for Beverley in 1772–74 and sheriff of Yorkshire in 1771. This portrait was created as a pendant that of his wife, Lady Boynton, which Cotes had painted in 1768. The pair hung in the family’s Elizabethan manor, Burton Agnes Hall, in Driffield, East Yorkshire, until their sale in 1911. The magnificent estate, built between 1598 and 1610, still serves as a residence for members of the Boynton family and is open to the public for an extended period each year.
Elegantly clad in formal daywear, Sir Griffith stands in contrapposto, with shoulders facing forward and head turned to his left as he gazes out a nearby open window. He rests his right elbow nonchalantly against a chair and holds a slender volume in his right hand. His left arm, poised akimbo with his hand on his outthrust hip, evokes an air of confidence. Below the window is a desk on which sits a book, an elaborate inkstand, a candle, and a cascade of correspondence. The address on one letter — To Sir Griffith Boynton, BT. — identifies the subject. Cotes’s depiction of Sir Griffith in an informal stance flouts conventional portraiture precedents for aristocratic renderings, daringly imbuing the figure with a natural dynamism.
This portrait, that of Lady Boynton, and a pastel of Lord Orwell also executed by Cotes, were purchased by Henry Clay Frick in 1915 from M. Knoedler & Co. The large pendant pictures were installed at Frick’s summer residence, Eagle Rock, in Pride’s Crossing, Massachusetts. Upon Frick’s death the Boynton portraits descended through the Frick family.