Portrait of a Gentleman



Height - 50.00inch (127.00cm)
Width - 40.00inch (101.60cm)
Framed Height - 58.25inch (147.95cm)
Framed Width - 48.25inch (122.55cm)


Portrait of a Gentleman








Oil on canvas 50 x 40 inches
Framed size 58 ¼ x 48 ½ inches

This elegant and richly atmospheric portrait is characteristic of the work of Hans Hysing, a Swedish-born portraitist who studied in London under Michael Dahl, and was himself the master of Allan Ramsay. The pose is reminiscent of Dahl, but the treatment of accessories and drapery, particularly the soft velvet, and the delicate sfumato modelling of the face and hands is distinctive of Hysing’s work in the years after he had left Dahl’s studio. Our portrait is especially close in handling and characterisation, and in the use of background column and velvet curtain to Hysing’s full-length portrait of Arthur Onslow, Speaker of the House of Commons 1728 (Parliamentary Art Collection; variants Wadham College, Oxford and National Portrait Gallery, London), and to the signed full-length portrait of a gentleman, formerly in the collection of the Earls of Ducie (Christie’s 17th June 1949 lot 105).

Hysing was born in Stockholm, where he was at first apprenticed to a goldsmith, his father’s profession, before studying with the portraitist David von Krafft. Von Krafft had been a fellow pupil with Michael Dahl in the studio of David Klöcker Ehrenstråhle. Perhaps because of this connection, Hysing left Sweden in 1700 to travel to London, where he entered Dahl’s studio as a pupil and assistant. This association was clearly fruitful for both painters, as Hysing remained in Dahl’s studio for fifteen years before setting up in independent practice. The Swedish artists were clearly a tight-knit community in London; the enamellist Christian Richter who produced miniature copies of Dahl’s work c.1710 - 1720 had been an associate of Hysing’s in Stockholm.1

In 1714 the Earl of Bristol commissioned portraits of the musician William Babel and in 1715 of his second wife Elizabeth Felton. Other eminent sitters included the 1st Earl of Ducie (Christie’s 17th June 1949), the Earl of Danby, future 4th Duke of Leeds (formerly at Hornby Castle) and the 1st Earl Cadogan (Goodwood House). During this same period he made a name for himself painting portraits of his fellow artists, engravers and architects, including Nicolas Dorigny in 1722, Christian Zincke, Jacques Parmentier and Pieter Tillemans in 1723, James Gibbs by 1726, John Faber in 1729 and George Vertue in 1733. Vertue was a friend of Hysing, who is a source for anecdotes in Vertue’s famous Notebooks, particularly about Dahl’s early career. Vertue had a high opinion of Hysing, and gives him this rather moving accolade:

‘Mr Huysing is really a very ingenious painter & has a great deal of Merit & at this time retaining much of the manner of Mr Dahl his Master. draws more strongly. & paints with more certainty (at this present) Yet contrary to the practice of modern disciples, he speaks respectfully of his Master & his performances, not exposing his Patrons weakness, to exalt his own merit. In this a Vertuous & valuable example of the present age.’2

By this year, Hysing is recorded as living in Leicester Fields, the most fashionable address for a successful painter, with his wife Frances Breton whom he had married in 1721.

This final period of Hysing’s career cemented his reputation not only as a painter’s painter, but as a portraitist to the Early Georgian Establishment. In 1730 he painted the three eldest daughters of King George II, Princesses Anne, Amelia and Caroline – ‘very well done’3 - as well as the Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole (King’s College, Cambridge).

Up until the early 1730s, Hysing was painting in the sober, Augustan manner of Michael Dahl and Sir Godfrey Kneller. He had been a subscriber to Kneller’s Academy in Great Queen Street in 1711, but he remained in touch with the tides in contemporary painting. He subscribed to the St Martin’s Lane Academy in 1720, and the early 1730s marked a revolutionary change in his style. Hysing’s portrait of Sir Peter Halkett 2nd Bt, signed and dated 1735 (Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh) shows him discovering a vigorous, modern idiom– perhaps influenced by Hogarth, as Alastair Smart suggests4 – which, with its new emphasis on flickering broken lights and bold brushwork may well have influenced the work of Alan Ramsay, who studied in his studio for a period from 1732 to 1733.

Hysing’s last known work, a portrait of a lady, is dated 1741 (Sotheby’s 23rd March 1977). On 24th November 1752 he witnessed the will of Michael Dahl’s daughter Dorothy. Hysing himself died before 6th February 1753, when his widow Frances was granted administration of his estate. Hysing’s central position in the artistic community of his time is shown by his portrait among the ten artists in Gawen Hamilton’s A Conversation of Virtuosis that usually meet at the Kings Armes 1735 (National Portrait Gallery, London), where he is standing behind the seated figure of his master Michael Dahl.

1. George Vertue Notebooks III p.44 The Twenty-Second Annual Volume of the Walpole Society 1933-1934
2. ibid.
3. ibid.
4. Alastair Smart The Life and Art of Alan Ramsay Routledge and Keegan Paul 1952 p.13

Sources: Professor Ellis Waterhouse British 18th Century Painters Antique Collectors Club 1981 p.190, citing Wilhelm Nisser Dahl and the Contemporary Swedish School of Painting in England Uppsala 1927 pp.97 – 105; John Ingamells Hans Hysing Oxford Dictionary of National Biography © OUP 2014 - 2016

We are very grateful to James Mulraine for researching this painting.


£8,650.00 (Pound Sterling)
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