Dartmouth College has acquired a celebrated portrait of its great benefactor, William Legge, the second Earl of Dartmouth (1731–1801), after whom the College is named. The three-quarter-length portrait in oil on canvas, completed in 1756, represents the sitter leaning to one side on a pedestal situated in a portico-like setting. The Hood purchased the painting at Sotheby’s London auction on 6 June 2007 with funds generously given by Jane Dance and David Dance D’40, T’41, Jonathan L. Cohen D’60, T’61, Frederick Whittemore D’53, T’54, Barbara Dau Southwell D’78 and David Southwell T’88, Raphael Bernstein DP, and an anonymous donor.
Pompeo Batoni was an acclaimed portrait painter in Rome who created iconic images of late-eighteenth-century British travelers. William Legge, like many aristocratic Englishmen of this era, deferred the start of his professional and political career for the opportunity to broaden himself through travel and the acquisition of foreign languages on the European Grand Tour. His correspondence indicates that during his continental travels from 1751 to 1754 he absorbed lessons from antiquity through the writings of classical authors on Roman history, visited sites where important events had transpired, and studied and collected sculpture and other artifacts.
Batoni’s portrait of Lord Dartmouth, who succeeded his grandfather to the title in 1750, was first owned by the sitter’s mother, Elizabeth Kaye, Countess of Guilford, and has remained in her family since it was painted. The portrait was begun during Lord Dartmouth’s sojourn in Rome in 1753, when he was accompanied on the trip by his stepbrother, Frederick North, 2nd Earl of Guilford (1732–1792), later prime minister during the period of the American Revolution. It was completed three years later and shipped to England. The principal supporter of Eleazar Wheelock’s Indian Charity School, Lord Dartmouth met Samson Occom in 1766; Occom was the first Native American student at Wheelock’s school (then in Connecticut) and had been sent to England to raise funds. Lord Dartmouth became president of the Board of Trade in 1765, Secretary of State for the colonies in 1772, and Lord Privy Seal in 1775, finally leaving Lord North’s government in 1782 after a brief period as Lord Steward of the Household.
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