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Jonathan Richardson the Elder (attributed to)
(circa 1665-1745)
Garton Orme at the Spinet
circa 1707
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Garton Orme is seated at a small upright spinet, an early piano, with his hands on the keys. Sitting on what appears to be the base of a grand architectural column, he turns his face towards us with a direct and attentive stare: have we unexpectedly interrupted him, or is he waiting for our attention before he starts to play?

A column frames the right-hand side of the portrait and a drape is painted along the left-hand edge, making it appear as if the portrait was painted in the studio. Garton would have posed for the portrait for a long time, but it looks like we have just found him and that he has spontaneously swept aside the curtain and started playing.

At the time of the portrait Garton Orme was between ten and twelve years old. At the time, there was little concept of clothes specifically for children and they would be dressed in only slightly modified versions of adult dress. Here he wears the latest adult fashion: a sky blue collarless coat with deep cuffs and large silver buttons, white stockings and black shoes with pink turnover tongues. Despite his age, he is also carrying a sword at his hip, partly covered by his coat. We are reminded that he is a child by his eyes, mouth and rosy cheeks.

What does this say of childhood in the 18th century? Is this portrait an accurate reflection of Garton as a wealthy child or is it perhaps staged to project the family's culture, education, wealth and status?
Does this portrait tell us most about Garton or about his family's aspirations for him?

Jonathan Richardson (circa 1665-1745) was one of his generation’s foremost portrait painters, widely acclaimed for his formality and accuracy. He was also an art collector and author of the extremely influential treatises: An Essay on the Theory of Painting, 1775, and Essay on the Whole Art of Criticism as it Relates to Painting and an Argument in Behalf of the Science of the Connoisseur, 1779.

This portrait of Garton Orme at the Spinet has previously been attributed to both Sir Godfrey Kneller and Thomas Hill. However, it has recently been convincingly re-attributed to Richardson, due to the accurate likeness of its subject as well as the direct gaze - a distinct mark of his style.

Jonathan Richardson the Elder (attributed to) (circa 1665-1745)  Garton Orme at the Spinet   circa 1707
Materials and technique: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 122 x 96.5 cm
Holburne Museum: A375
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