Anton Raphael Mengs
Portrait of an English Gentleman
Anton Raphael Mengs, German, Portrait of an English Gentleman, ca. 1754, Oil on canvas; 99.1 x 73.3 cm (39 x 28 7/8 inches), Corporate Membership Fund 57.281
The subject of this portrait is believed to be Henry Willoughby, later 5th Baronet Middleton (1726–1800). A member of a wealthy and aristocratic English family, he typifies the privileged young men whose classical education was crowned by a “Grand Tour” of Europe, a studious exploration of art and architecture that culminated in Rome. Painted in the artist’s studio in Rome but portrayed as if in his own study, the sitter appears in a simple cuffed coat with matching waistcoat and a fine ruffled shirt. In one hand he holds a striped silk scarf; in the other he lifts a book, a symbol of his interest in learning. The artist Anton Raphael Mengs excelled in painting Europeans in opulent attire and was among the most admired portraitists in 18th-century Rome. For his young British patrons, he devised a complementary formula that rejected high fashion and projected an attitude of enlightenment.