Unknown Object 2

Governor Benyon v2

What we know about the painting…

This conversation piece features the Shelley family and includes a certain Mr Benyon. The information listed for the painting in the catalogue to the 1906 Whitechapel Gallery exhibition ‘The Georgians’, notes that Lady Shelley, Mr and Mrs Richard Shelley, Misses Fanny and Martha Rose Shelley, Capt The Hon. W. Fitzwilliam, Mr. Benyon, and Miss Beard were all featured in the image.

When Constance Russell included the above painting in Swallowfield and its Owners (1901), she attributed it to William Hogarth.[1] Constance Russell had direct access to the painting as at the time of writing she was living with it in Swallowfield Park, Berkshire. Unsurprisingly therefore, when the Russells lent the painting for ‘The Georgians’ exhibition in 1906, the Whitechapel Gallery also attributed this eighteenth-century conversation piece to William Hogarth.[2] More recently, however scholars have doubted this attribution.[3] When the Russells vacated Swallowfield Park in the early 1970s the painting was sold at Sotheby’s in 1973.[4] Its current whereabouts are unknown.

What we want to know about the painting…

The painting is of particular interest to The East India Company at Home, 1757-1857 project as it possibly features Richard Benyon, the focus of our next case study (Englefield House, Berkshire), or his relation Bernard Benyon. It also links to the Swallowfield Park Case Study because it features Richard and Elizabeth Shelley who became grandparents to Anne Barbara Whitworth the wife of Sir Henry Russell. As we are unsure of the provenance of the painting, however, it is difficult to tell to which Benyon the painting refers. If we can confirm Richard Benyon’s connection to the Shelley family that would be a very interesting link.

What we would like to know about painting…

– Who painted the conversation piece?

– When was the piece painted?

– Which ‘Benyon’ is referred to in the piece?

– Where is the piece now?

What do you know about the portrait…

Please add any information and the source of that information in the comment box below or email kate.smith@ucl.ac.uk.


[1] Constance Russell, Swallowfield and Its Owners (London and New York: Longman, Green and Co.,1901) , p. 206. http://www.archive.org/stream/swallowfielditso00russ#page/206/mode/2up/search/benyon

[2] The catalogue to ‘The Georgians’ notes that the painting was lent by Sir C. Russell and describes it as ‘A Family Group by HOGARTH (Lady Shelley, Mr and Mrs Richard Shelley, Capt The Hon. W. Fitzwilliam, Mr Benyon, and Miss Beard’. Many thanks to Elizabeth Einberg of The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art for the reference.

[3] When recently in contact with Mark Hallett at the University of York he questioned the Hogarth attribution.

[4] Clive Williams, The Nabobs of Berkshire (Purley on Thames: Goosecroft Publications, 2010), p. 176.

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