Francis Cotes

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Francis Cotes
Lieutenant-Colonel the Hon. Edmund Craggs Nugent, wearing Van Dyck costume
Pastel on paper laid on canvas.
23 1/4 x 17 1/4 inches (590 x 437 mm)
Purchased on the Edwin H. Herzog Fund.

Signed and dated at lower right, "1748".

Painted for the sitter's family; The Edgar family (presumably Miss Katherine Edgar, the sitter's fiancee), Suffolk; and by descent to about 1900; sale, Christie's, London, 3 June 2004, lot 49, repr., as Francis Cotes; Lowell Libson Ltd, London, from whom purchased in 2005.

Mrs. Mileson Gerry Edgar, "Aedea Edgarorum: A Descriptive Catalogue of the Portraits at the Red House in Suffolk", 1868, p. 46, no. 2; Edward Mead Johnson, "Francis Cotes", Oxford, 1976, p. 55.


Francis Cotes was a well-established pastel and oil painter in England during the eighteenth century. Initially apprenticed to George Knapton, he was appointed a director of the Society of Artists in 1765 and, after painting two acclaimed double portraits for the Royal Family, he was instrumental in the establishment of the Royal Academy in 1768. His skills as a pastellist were very much appreciated by the British aristocracy, who had developed a high regard for pastel portrait painting during their travels in Europe. Executed when the artist was only twenty-two, this portrait already shows Cotes's personal style, characterized by a strong tonality and line, which sets it apart from the soft and more delicately worked pastels of the well-known Venetian artist Rosalba Carriera. The drawing is in its original frame. There is a later version of this portrait by Cotes, dated 1751, in the collection of Mrs. A. Alfred Taubman, New York. Also drawn in pastel, it shows the sitter, a prominent member of the British aristocracy, wearing the same Van Dyck costume. Eldest son of Robert Craggs-Nugent and Lady Emilia Plunkett, Edmund Nogent (1731-1771) became captain in the 85th Regiment of Foot Guards in 1759 and in 1763 attained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel to the First Foot Guards. The first work by Francis Cotes to enter the Library's collection, the pastel much strengthens the British holdings, especially in the category of portraits. It is also a significant addition to the collection's small group of pastels.

Associated names: 

Edgar, Katherine, former owner.

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