portrait of an officer c 1770 by tilly kettle

Portrait of an Officer c. 1770; by Tilly Kettle.


| $5,260 USD | €4,476 EUR

Item Ref



Oil on canvas, later mounted on board, in a gilt mount and frame.
This is a charming small portrait, painted with almost a miniaturist's skill, of a British officer of the 1770s; probably painted in India. The sitter has the serene and assured poise typical of Kettle's portraits. The size makes it likely that it was a gift to a wife or fiancée, sent via ship from India to Britain.
TILLY KETTLE (1735–1786) was a portrait painter and the first prominent English portrait painter to operate in India.
He was born in London, the son of a coach painter. He studied drawing with William Shipley in the Strand and first entered professional portraiture in the 1750s.
Kettle's first series of portraits appeared in the 1760s. His first surviving painting is a self-portrait from 1760, with his first exhibit with the Free Society of Artists in 1761. In 1762, he worked at restoring Robert Streater's ceiling paintings in the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, and painted Francis Yarborough, a doctor of Brasenose College, Oxford in 1763. He painted many members of the family of William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth. In 1764-5, he was active in London and continued exhibiting at the Society of Artists.
In 1768, Kettle sailed to India with the British East India Company, landing at Madras, where he remained for two years. There, he painted Lord Pigot and Muhammad Ali Khan twice (once alone and once with five of his sons). In 1770 Kettle painted a half-length portrait of 'Sir' Levett Hanson, a peripatetic writer on European knighthood and chivalry originally from Yorkshire. (The portrait is now in the collection of the Bury St Edmunds Manor House Museum.)
Kettle moved on to Calcutta in 1771. In 1775, he painted George Bogle, Warren Hastings' emissary to Tibet, in Tibetan dress, presenting a ceremonial white scarf to Lobsang Palden Yeshe the 6th Panchen Lama. He also took an Indian bibi or mistress and had two daughters by her, Ann and Elizabeth.
He left India in 1776 for London, travelling on the ship Talbot. On his return, he swiftly married Mary "Polly" Paine (1753–1798) on 23 February 1777. Mary was the younger daughter of the architect James Paine and half sister of the sculptor James Paine. She brought a dowry of £5,000, while Kettle put up £3,000 toward a trust fund, set up in a pre-nuptial settlement, dated 22 February 1777, the day before their wedding, so both parties were well established. The couple had two children, a daughter, Mary, and a son, James. At the same time, he switched his exhibitors to the Royal Academy of Art. He had fewer clients in England than he had before his departure, and contemporaries claimed his wife was financially imprudent. He fell into debt, and spent some time in Ireland to escape his financial problems.
In 1786 he set out for a return to India. He attempted the voyage overland through Asia. His last portrait, The Turkish Janissary of the English Factory, Aleppo, was painted in Aleppo, and he died some time later, although where and when is unclear, possibly in the desert on his way to Basrah before the end of 1786.
SIZE: 13 x 11 inches including the frame.
PROVENANCE: Surrey Private Collection.
Internal Ref: 9092


Height = 33 cm (13")
Width = 28 cm (11")
Depth = 4 cm (2")

We accept online payments for this item:

Email about this item:

View Similar

Select a category: