L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Friday, June 21, 2024

Merely siblings - portraits of Francis and Elizabeth Burdett, by Francis Cotes

Elizabeth Burdett, 1767.
Francis Burdett, circa 1764-67.

This pair of portraits gives the impression of being pendants: in identical frames, facing toward each other, with matched light sources, similar backgrounds, and mirrored poses. But they weren't a romantic and/or married couple, rather brother and sister.

Elizabeth Burdett (circa 1742 - 1807) married, as his second wife, Francis Noel Clarke Mundy, a first cousin on his mother's side. Mundy was a poet, landowner, magistrate and, in 1772, became Sheriff of Derbyshire. They had two sons together, Francis Mundy who also became a Member of Parliament and, in 1820, Sheriff of Derbyshire, and Charles Godfrey Mundy. This portrait of their mother was formerly mistakenly identified as being of the subject's own mother, also named Elizabeth, the daughter of Sir Charles Sedley, 1st Baronet.

Francis Burdett (1743 - 1794), son of Sir Robert Burdett, 4th Baronet, predeceased his father (who died in 1797) and therefore failed to inherit the hereditary baronetcy. He had married in 1766, and it was his elder son, also named Francis, the reform-minded and controversial politician and Member of Parliament, who succeeded his grandfather as 5th Baronet. In turn, the latter's daughter was the famous philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts, 1st Baroness Burdett-Coutts.

Honestly, the real reason for this post was the rendering of Miss Burdett's gown; the handling of the blues and grays over the brown underpainting is exquisite.*

The present portrait of Francis Burdett is nearly identical to an earlier portrait that Cotes painted of the young gentleman, signed and dated 1764. Only the color of his suit and waistcoat have been changed.


Francis Cotes RA (20 May 1726, London - 16 July 1770, London), English portrait painter and a founding member of the Royal Academy in 1768. The eldest son of an apothecary, he trained with portrait painter George Knapton before setting up his own business in the premises of his father's business. An admirer of the work of Rosalba Carriera, he first concentrated on works in pastel and crayon - some of which became well known as engravings - but later worked in oils. He soon became one of the most fashionable portrait painters of his day. In 1763, he bought a large house in Cavendish Square - later occupied by George Romney - and helped found the Society of Artists of Great Britain, becoming its director in 1765. At the peak of his career, he was invited to become one of the first members of the Royal Academy, but died just two years later in Richmond at the age of forty-four. Francis's younger brother Samuel Cotes (1734 - 1818) was also an artist, specializing in miniatures.

* After 1746, the costumes in Cotes' paintings were mostly executed by specialist drapery painters. After the death in 1749 of Joseph van Aken, the leading drapery painter in England, he employed Peter Toms, who worked for Cotes until the latter's death. After that, Toms was employed as drapery painter for Sir Joshua Reynolds, Allan Ramsay, Benjamin West, and John Zoffany, amongst others. As I said above, my great appreciation for the very beautiful depiction of Elizabeth Burdett's gown was my one inspiration for this post. So, it's likely that I/we have the forgotten Peter Toms to thank for that and all this, not Cotes.

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