Sir Benjamin West (American, 1738-1820). A Portrait of Peter Beckford (1672/3-1735).
Oil on canvas. Signed and Dated 'B. West/ 1797'. Price on application.
Provenance: Commissioned by William Beckford, Fonthill Abbey, Wiltshire;
By descent to Susan Euphemia, his daughter, who married Alexander, 10th Duke of Hamilton; ...
Note: The sitter was the son of Peter Beckford (1643-1710) and his second wife, Anne Ballard. At his death he was the wealthiest planter in Jamaica and was said to "be in possession of the largest property real and personal of any subject in Europe" (C. Leslie, A New History of Jamaica, 1740, p. 267). He was also a politician and served as Speaker of the Jamaican Assembly and as Comptroller of Customs. He married Bathshua Herring, and was the grandfather of the famous connoisseur and collector, William Beckford of Fonthill.
The sitter's Van Dyck costume has sometimes led scholars to identify the sitter as Peter Beckford, William Beckford's great-grandfather, but an inscription on the portrait of the sitter's wife identifying her as Bathshua, would seem to preclude this.
The present portrait was one of four portraits by Benjamin West in the collection of William Beckford, and these may have hung in the Oak Parlour in the South transept of Fonthill Abbey where Beckford normally dined (see Erfa and Staley, op. cit. p. 492). The portrait was painted long after the sitter's death, and William Beckford may have commissioned the portrait, together with that of his wife as posthumous mementoes of his grandparents. Both portraits passed by descent to Beckford's daughter, Susan Euphemia, who married Alexander, 10th Duke of Hamilton. Both works were sold in the Duke of Hamilton's estate sale in 1919 and eventually entered the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The other two portraits by West are of Mrs William Beckford, William Beckford's mother, and Elizabeth, Countess of Effingham, the sitter's daughter. Both works hang in the National Gallery of Art in Washington.
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