Lord Herbert was just twenty when he commissioned this portrait of himself. He sat to Batoni shortly after he arrived in Rome at the end of the Grand Tour which he had commenced in 1775 with the Reverend William Coxe and Captain John Floyd. He started his sightseeing of the city in the company of Sir John Hippisley, unofficial envoy to the Vatican in whose company he hoped to see Rome in a proper way, without losing time on trifling objects, which would neither instruct or amuse me but which Antiquarians always carry People to for the sake of prolonging the time. The young Lord's earnest and serious-minded attitude points to the honour and distinction which he was eventually to achieve, firstly as a Knight of the Garter in 1805 and then as a General in 1812. Fittingly he chose to be painted in the scarlet coat with blue collar of a coronet in the 15th Light Dragoons, having obtained a commission just before he left England.
Batoni's expressive modelling of Lord Herbert's features combines the reflective and earnest nature of the sitter with a boyish innocence. The plainness of the composition typifies Batoni's later period where the earlier flamboyance has been restrained and grace and simplicity dominate. It is easy to understand why the Italian artists of that day thought of nothing, looked at nothing, but the work of Pompeo Batoni. [Benjamin West]
Commissioned by the sitter who spent five years on the Grand Tour between 1775 and 1780 with the Rev. William Coxe and Captain John Floyd.
Lady Mary van Hugel, granddaughter of the sitter.
Sir Sidney Herbert.
The Hon. Richard Smith, sold at Christies, London, 11th April 1975, lot 40 to the present owner.
Lord Herbert, editor, Henry, Elizabeth and George, The Pembroke Papers, 1939, illustrated.
The Earl of Pembroke, A Catalogue of the Paintings and Drawings in the Collection at Wilton House, 1968, number 199, illustrated plate 26.
Edgar Peters Bowron, editor, Pompeo Batoni, A Complete Catalogue of his Works with an Introductory Text, introduction by Anthony Clark, 1985, Oxford Phaidon, Illustrated.