Portrait drawing, possibly of Yerman Wilson Braddyll, later Gale-Braddyll MP (1756-1818), wearing uniform, possibly as a subaltern in the West Yorkshire Militia, a tricorn hat in his hand, landscape and sky background; circa 1788

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Object Description

Black chalk and stump with watercolour, original gilded and gesso wood frame with mount.

Wilson Braddyl(l), later Gale-Braddyll MP, was commissioned ensign in one of the two West Yorkshire Battalions of Militia in 1788, and this portrait may have been commissioned to recognise this stage in his military career[1]. Born Wilson Gale of Conishead Priory, and later adopting the surname Braddyll, he married his cousin Jane Gale, the daughter and sole heir of Matthias Gale of Catgill Hall, Cumberland, in 1776. He would later go on to become an MP and Groom of the Bedchamber to George III.

The Braddyll family were painted frequently, in particular by Sir Joshua Reynolds. In 1785, Mr Braddyll was presented with Reynolds’s portrait of George IV when Prince of Wales (now in the Tate collection, London). He was first commissioned to paint a full-length portrait of the couple and their son, and then again in 1788 (the portrait of Jane now hangs at the Wallace Collection, London). Finally, in 1789, Reynolds painted the Braddyll family in a group portrait (now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge), one of his last paintings.

Downman also portrayed Braddyll in 1785 [2]. The fact that the 1785 sketch is now in the British museum means that Mr. Braddyll was seen as one of the ‘Distinguished Persons’ that he had painted throughout his career. Sketches of these people were put together by the artist at the end of his life, and given to his daughter, and are now split between the Fitzwilliam Museum, and the British Museum. At this point in his career, Downman’s popularity was beginning to wane. However, this does not retract from the fame that he had in the previous decades of his life. He had been associated with popular artists, including Joseph Wright of Derby (1734-1797, with whom he travelled to Italy in 1773), and Benjamin West (1738-1820). This had not quite been enough to make him a full member of the Royal Academy, with whom he exhibited, but had disagreements.

Downman’s technique when it came to drawing portraits was particularly unique. He would begin with a chalk sketch, such as the 1785 sketch of Braddyll, on a fine sheet of paper. Then he would use coloured chalk or watercolour on the reverse, which would appear with a smoky appearance on the front of the portrait[3]. This may be the technique used in the present watercolour, especially given the appearance of the sky behind the sitter.

[1] A portrait of Braddyll was sold Christie’s, New York, Important Old Master Paintings, 25 May 1999, lot 82 by George Romney, stating that the sitter was painted in the uniform of the Yorkshire Yeomanry.

[2] This drawing was in the sketch books from Butleigh Court by Downman, now in the British Museum (1967,1014.181.48).

[3] G. Peppiatt, London, 2022, Romney and Downman, Works on Paper 1770-1820, p.4.

Object History

Private Collection, UK.

Object Details

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