Beauties of the age – sketches by Thomas Orde, 1st Baron Bolton

This blog is a little different in so much as it is primarily looking at some sketches that we came across whilst doing a spot of research at North Yorkshire archives. We were looking for a specific 18th-century person as part of our research for our book,  A History of the Dukes of Bolton: 1600-1815,  when the archivist told us that they had a book of sketches by Thomas Orde, 1st Baron Bolton (1740-1807), that she thought we might like to see.

A History of The Dukes of Bolton

Thomas Orde married the daughter of the 5th Duke of Bolton, Jean Browne Powlett and assumed the name Orde-Powlett in 1795. He was then created 1st Baron Bolton two years later.

Upon opening the sketchbook, we were amazed by who we found and are excited to share them with our lovely readers. These sketches have probably been safely preserved in the archives and rarely if ever been looked at for years.

So, bear in mind these are private sketches, never published as works of art, but merely drawings by Thomas. There are quite a few sketches in the collection which were drawn at an event in Buxton 1777 but they are mainly family ones, apart from one of the Duchess of Devonshire. So far we haven’t found any references to any event that took place in Buxton matching that year, so we can only presume it was a private gathering but presumably he took his sketchbook with him and you can almost imagine him sitting there sketching people. We are aware that other sketches are in the public domain, but we can’t find anywhere that shows these beauties. As to whether the individuals would have been flattered by their likenesses, who can say. Others are not dated, so we have no idea when or where they would have been sketched.

We have put the sketches alongside known portraits of the sitters, we would love to know what you think.

We begin with Emma, Lady Hamilton. This one is not dated.

Emma, Lady Hamilton, sketch by Thomas Orde, 1st Baron Bolton. Courtesy of North Yorkshire Archives
Emma, Lady Hamilton, sketch by Thomas Orde, 1st Baron Bolton. Courtesy of North Yorkshire Archives
Romney, George; Emma Hart (c.1765-1815), Lady Hamilton, as Euphrosyne (?); National Trust, Trerice;

Next we have Anne, Marchioness Townsend. She looks decidedly ‘matronly’ and not at all glamorous in this sketch unlike her portrait by Reynolds. We’re not at all sure she would have been flattered by this sketch.

Marchioness Townsend, sketch by Thomas Orde, 1st Baron Bolton. Courtesy of North Yorkshire Archives
Marchioness Townsend, sketch by Thomas Orde, 1st Baron Bolton. Courtesy of North Yorkshire Archives
Anne, Viscountess Townshend by Joshua Reynolds
Anne, Viscountess Townshend by Joshua Reynolds

Next, we have Mary Isabella, Duchess of Rutland. Note the fashionable ‘high hair’.

Mary Isabella, Duchess of Rutland, sketch by Thomas Orde, 1st Baron Bolton. Courtesy of North Yorkshire Archives
Mary Isabella, Duchess of Rutland, sketch by Thomas Orde, 1st Baron Bolton. Courtesy of North Yorkshire Archives
Lady Mary Isabella Somerset, 4th Duchess of Rutland original by Joshua Reynolds
Lady Mary Isabella Somerset, 4th Duchess of Rutland original by Joshua Reynolds

Then we have the beautiful Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and her sister, Henrietta Ponsonby, Countess of Bessborough.

Duchess of Devonshire, sketch by Thomas Orde, 1st Baron Bolton. Courtesy of North Yorkshire Archives
Duchess of Devonshire, sketch by Thomas Orde, 1st Baron Bolton. Courtesy of North Yorkshire Archives
The Duchess of Devonshire by Thomas Gainsborough, 1783.
The Duchess of Devonshire by Thomas Gainsborough, 1783.
Countess of Bessborough, sketch by Thomas Orde, 1st Baron Bolton, Courtesy of North Yorkshire Archives
Countess of Bessborough, sketch by Thomas Orde, 1st Baron Bolton. Courtesy of North Yorkshire Archives
1793 portrait of Henrietta, Countess of Bessborough by Angelica Kauffman
1793 portrait of Henrietta, Countess of Bessborough by Angelica Kauffman

There’s another one of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, this one is dated and was sketched at Buxton.

Duchess of Devonshire, sketch by Thomas Orde, 1st Baron Bolton. Courtesy of North Yorkshire Archives
Duchess of Devonshire, sketch by Thomas Orde, 1st Baron Bolton. Courtesy of North Yorkshire Archives

To find out more about the child that the Duchess of Devonshire raised as her own, Charlotte Williams, despite the child being the illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Devonshire, follow the highlighted link.

Last, but by no means least we present the actress, Mrs Sarah Siddons.

Mrs Sarah Siddons, sketch by Thomas Orde, 1st Baron Bolton. Courtesy of North Yorkshire Archives
Mrs Sarah Siddons, sketch by Thomas Orde, 1st Baron Bolton. Courtesy of North Yorkshire Archives
Mrs Siddons, 1785 by Thomas Gainsborough. National Portrait Gallery NG683
Mrs Siddons, 1785 by Thomas Gainsborough. National Portrait Gallery NG683

10 thoughts on “Beauties of the age – sketches by Thomas Orde, 1st Baron Bolton

  1. Rob Dixon

    The Duchesses of Rutland and Devonshire and Lady Townsend were all engraved in mezzotint as part of Valentine Green’s set of 11 plates of Beauties of the Present Age, after Reynolds, published by Green from 1779 to 1782. I have the complete set in early proof state – see http://www.sirjoshuareynolds.com/RSD_Collection/Rob_Dixon_Collection_Beauties.htm and also http://www.sirjoshuareynolds.com/RSD_Collection/RSD_Reynolds_documents/ReynoldsBeautiesSmall.pdf

    Rob DIxon

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    1. Sarah Murden

      They’re brilliant aren’t they, we couldn’t believe it when we first saw them, although it’s doubtful that his subjects would have been overly impressed – wonder if he actually showed them to them – perhaps he did and that’s why they were filed away!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. so interesting! Mostly, I think we see the difference between an amateur and a professional. Professionals by definition must be flatterers. Anyway, it’s great to have another perspective of these women. I’m willing to bet the reality lies in the middle. thanks!

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    1. Sarah Murden

      Delighted you enjoyed it and yes, there’s a big difference between amateur and professional work and it’s probably quite fair to assume that the truth lies somewhere nearer the middle 🙂

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  3. Professionals also know how to get the most out of their sitters so it is not true flattery – at least, if they are good – but more that they have got their subjects to relax, have found the most flattering angle and pose, and have painted in the animation which few amateur portraitists manage. I’m a lousy portraitist because I get nervous which makes the sitter nervous, and that’s why I stick to botanicals as flowers don’t answer back

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rosalyn Murray

    An amazing collection!

    A whole generation of my father’s ancestors were living the pioneer life while these sketches were being drawn. I’m not resentful, but there may well be some descendants who are….

    Liked by 1 person

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