This is Richard Milles of Nackington, a Member of Parliament for Canterbury from 1761 to 1780, who sat for this portrait when he was in Rome on his Grand Tour. He points to a map inscribed with ‘Grisons’, the name of a Swiss Canton that he probably visited on his way to Italy.
The classical columns at the right and sculpted bust of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius establish Milles‘ status as a learned, cultivated gentleman. He is magnificently dressed in a red fur-lined cape, a luxurious silver silk waistcoat and red breeches, and Batoni has confidently imitated the various textures and surfaces. Milles’ swaggering pose, with a hand placed firmly on his hip, is one of self-assurance and ease.
Batoni was established in Rome as the most sought-after portraitist of his day, and painted this portrait in around 1758, when he was at his most prolific.
In this striking portrait, a young man stands with one hand placed firmly on his hip, magnificently dressed in a red fur-lined cape, a luxurious silver silk waistcoat and red breeches. He looks forward with pursed lips and no hint of a smile. This is Richard Milles of Nackington, who sat for this portrait when he was in Rome during his Grand Tour. He points to a map which lies next a classical sculpted bust; the map is inscribed with ‘Grisons’, the name of a Swiss Canton that he probably visited on his way to Italy.
Milles was a Member of Parliament for Canterbury from 1761 to 1780. He commissioned Batoni to paint several other works: a three-quarter length portrait (location unknown) and a miniature on ivory (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge). The artist’s portraits are highly finished, with facial features and fabrics vividly and precisely evoked – here, Batoni has confidently imitated the soft fur of the cape and the ruffled linen of the shirt. The swaggering pose appears frequently in Batoni’s portraits and in the work of earlier artists, such as Titian and Van Dyck, as a way of establishing the sitter’s commanding presence and their self-assurance. The mood of this portrait is one of self-assurance and ease, created by the artist to dignify his sitter.
Batoni often used antiquities to establish both a sitter’s location and their status as a learned, cultivated gentleman. He became extremely well-known for his portraits in which a casually posed sitter is surrounded by classical statuary. Here, the classical columns at the right form the backdrop not only for the sitter but also for a bust of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, which only features this once in Batoni’s work. This is a depiction of a real sculpture, now in the Capitoline Museum in Rome. Marcus Aurelius was famed for his success as a military leader and as a philosopher who wrote extensively on stoicism. On the table beside the bust are several books, perhaps travel notebooks or philosophical treatises. In the background, we catch a glimpse of a classical building and mountainous Italian landscape.
Rome was one of the essential stops for a gentleman in search of education and cultural exploration in Europe during the eighteenth century. Batoni was established there as the most sought-after portraitist of his day, and painted this portrait in around 1758, when he was at his most prolific. His popularity continued throughout the 1760s and 1770s, during which time another Englishman in Rome commissioned a portrait, also in the National Gallery’s collection.
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