Francis Cotes (20 May 1726 – 19 July 1770)

Paul Sandby 1761 Francis Cotes 1726-1770 Bequeathed by W.A. Sandby 1904
Paul Sandby 1761 Francis Cotes 1726-1770, Tate

As Francis was born this week in 1726 we thought it would be an ideal opportunity to take a quick look at his life and some of his wonderful paintings. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do. The first one looks quite a modern pose in our opinion.

Anna Maria Astley, Aged Seven, and her Brother Edward, Aged Five and a Half 1767 Francis Cotes 1726-1770 Purchased 1981
Anna Maria Astley, Aged Seven, and her Brother Edward, Aged Five and a Half 1767 Francis Cotes 1726-1770, Tate

Francis was born in London, the son of an apothecary Robert Cotes and his wife Elizabeth née Lynn, on the 20th May 1726 and then baptized at St Mary-le-Strand on 29th June 1726.

He studied his craft as a pastelist under the watchful eye of the portrait painter George Knapton, after which he established his own business based in his father’s premises in London. As his father was an apothecary Francis learnt about chemistry and was able to use this knowledge to his advantage when making his pastels. Cotes was always regarded as being a serious rival to Gainsborough and Reynolds and was a founder member of the Royal Academy.

Alice Countess of Shipbrook by Francis Cotes
Alice, Countess of Shipbrook

In 1762 the Register of Duties paid for Apprentices show that Francis took on a new trainee, one John Russell  (1745-1806)  who became renowned for his his portraits also and as a writer and teacher of painting techniques.

Francis Cotes - The young cricketer (1768)
The young cricketer – Portrait of Lewis Cage (1768)

Six years before his death Francis finally married, on the 3rd October 1764 at St Clement Danes, to Sarah Adderley.

One amusing comment noted in The Diary of Mrs Hester Lynch Thrale being:

Whose picture is that said I, and that Lady’s pray, who is as eminent for her ugliness methinks, as anyone here for her beauty, hold for God’s sake says Francis Cotes, in a fright, ’tis my own wife, it is indeed; and I have been married to her but a fortnight’.

Princess Louisa and Princess Caroline by Francis Cotes, 1767
Princess Louisa and Princess Caroline 1767

Francis died on the Thursday afternoon, 19th July 1770, at Richmond, in Surrey, according to the Middlesex Journal, not on July 16th, 1770.

DIED… Thursday afternoon at Richmond, in Surry [sic], Mr. Francis Cotes, of Cavendish-square, and eminent Portrait Painter, and one of the Royal Academicians.

He was buried a week later on the 26th July at St Mary Magdalene, Richmond.


ThralianaThe Diary of Mrs Hester Lynch Thrale (later Mrs Piozzi) 1776-1809, Volume 1

Lloyd’s Evening Post, July 23 1770 – July 25 1770

Middlesex Journal or Chronicle of Liberty July 21, 1770 – July 24, 1770

7 thoughts on “Francis Cotes (20 May 1726 – 19 July 1770)

  1. Thomas Proctor

    Nice enough paintings but interesting how with the exception of the first work, they pale in comparison to Gainsborough, Reynolds, Romney, West and Stubbs.


    1. All Things Georgian

      Many thanks for taking the time to comment. Cotes was certainly regarded as being a rival to Reynolds & Gainsborough in his day, perhaps less so today however.


  2. janamb

    One little problem… this portrait was originally painted as a wedding photo of Annetta Coke Cage, daughter of Edward Coke, Esq in 1758 by Sir Joshua Reynolds. She married Lewis Cage III in 1759. She is my husband’s 5th g grandmother and we have a significant genealogy and family records. That portrait is signed and dated in the upper left hand corner by Reynolds. Cotes did this painting in 1768. It appears to be a rougher copy of the portrait done by Reynolds. Cotes also did a portrait of Lewis Cage, who was Annetta’s elder brother in 1768, so it is quite likely he copied the portrait of Annetta then. The portrait of Lewis Cage is called “Young Cricketer with a primitive bat” and records of it are here:… it is also shown above…


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