Francis Cotes (1726–1770)
The Hon. Booth Grey, 1764
Oil on canvas
Gift of Robert K. Johnson
Portrait of The Hon. Booth Grey by Francis Cotes (1726–1770) joins the permanent collection, the generous gift of Robert K. Johnson, a long-time friend of the museum. The canvas is a fine example of British eighteenth-century portraiture, a genre that was greatly esteemed by Henry Clay Frick and other American industrialists of the Gilded Age.
Cotes, who specialized in the production of delicate portraits of the English aristocracy, studied as a young man with the painter George Knapton and was particularly influenced by the pastel portraits of Rosalba Carriera and Jean-Étienne Liotard. Early in his career, he was regarded as the preeminent pastel painter in Georgian London. Sometime in the late 1750s, he turned his hand to oil and, in the last decade of his life, produced more ambitious works, portraying on many occasions members of the royal family.
Cotes produced several works for the Grey family of Cheshire. Booth Grey was born on August 15, 1740, to the fourth Earl of Stamford, and Lady Mary Booth. On his father’s side, he was related to Lady Jane Grey, who had been queen of England for only nine days in July 1553, before being beheaded for treason by her cousin Mary I. Booth was educated at Queen’s College, Cambridge, and was a Member of Parliament for Leicester in 1768, 1774, and again in 1780. He was also a close friend of Edward Gibbon, the author of the monumental History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. As depicted by Cotes, the sitter stands against a cloudy sky, framed by a trompe l’oeil stone frame inscribed at bottom right with Cotes’s signature and the portrait’s date. When Grey sat for Cotes in 1740, the artist was beginning to establish himself as an oil painter, and the Frick’s acquisition is an important example of his half-length portraits from this period.