Andrea Casali (Civitavecchia, 1705-1784, Rome)
Portrait of the Hon. Augustus Townshend (1716-c.1745)
Oil on canvas, framed
Dimensions: 224 x 146 cm. / 88 x 57 in. excl. frame
257 x 180 cm. / 101 x 71 in. incl. frame
This portrait, showing the sitter standing full-length in an elegant room, is an impressive example of eighteenth-century full-length portraits of “men of the day”.
The sitter is the Hon. Augustus Townshend, second son of Charles, 2nd Viscount Townshend and his second wife, Dorothy, daughter of Robert Walpole of Houghton, Norfolk, and sister of Sir Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford. Augustus Townshend was a merchant adventurer and Captain with the East India Company. It is recorded that in 1745 Townshend commanded the ship Augusta on its voyage to the East Indies. At some point during the voyage Townshend fell in and subsequently died in 1746 at Batavia, at a tragically young age.
In this portrait he is shown proudly wearing his formal Company attire consisting of a red coat trimmed with gold braid and a matching silver waistcoat, whilst pointing to a large sheet (possibly a map) and a scroll (possibly a Commission) on the table, where his tricorne hat is placed. The scene is depicted in a large room with a chequerboard floor and a figure of a putto or cherub (perhaps symbolising the end of the sitter’s youth) on the mantelpiece behind him. Its grand size suggests that it was probably painted just prior to Augustus’s maiden voyage as a Captain of the Company.
The artist, Andrea Casali, was born in Civitavecchia near Rome in 1705 and studied in The Eternal City as a pupil of Sebastiano Conca and Francesco Trevisani. In the late 1720s and 1730s, under the patronage of Pope Benedict XIII (1724-30), Casali gained several important religious commissions in Rome, mainly church frescoes, a notable example of which is the series in the cloister of San Sisto Vecchio. The present portrait was executed during Casali’s long stay in England, a period of some 25 years, from 1741 to 1766.
Although most often called upon for his mythological paintings, Casali executed a number of portraits for English clients, most of which remain in private collections. His portraits from his time in England often depict the sitter full-length in a grand neo-classical interior with classical columns or statues. For Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester, he painted a number of family portraits, including the Earl himself, whose portrait still hangs at Holkham Hall, North Norfolk and shows a similar composition to the present portrait, but on a smaller scale. Indeed, only a few miles away from Holkham lies Raynham Hall (which is still the family seat of the Townshend’s), where Augustus Townshend may have sat for this fine neoclassical portrait.