Unknown Artist, after Joshua Reynolds, William Windham (1750–1810)

Photo courtesy of Dave Penman (All Rights Reserved)


Country House
Mells Manor
William Windham (1750–1810)
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 73 cm, Overall width: 53 cm
Unknown Artist, after Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792)
Catalogue Number


The present portrait is a copy of a portrait by Joshua Reynolds of the politician William Windham (1750–1810), the original of which is now in the National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG 704). Windham, whose country seat was Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk, attended Eton College, where he excelled both academically and at sport. He studied subsequently at the universities of Glasgow and Oxford, where he graduated in 1771, gaining his MA in 1782. Already a staunch supporter of the Whig Party, in 1784 Windham was elected the Member of Parliament for Norwich. A friend of Samuel Johnson and Edmund Burke, Windham was evidently also a member of Reynolds’s social circle, which included prominently both Johnson and Burke.

Reynolds painted the original portrait of Windham in 1787 and exhibited it at the Royal Academy the following year. It was painted for Windham’s friend, George James Cholmondeley, Windham in turn commissioning a portrait by Reynolds of Cholmondeley for himself. Cholmondeley’s portrait is at Felbrigg Hall, the Windham family home.1 The copy at Mells Manor was evidently commissioned by Sir John Coxe Hippisley who was also a friend and political ally of Windham, who had assisted Hippisley in gaining his seat in Parliament, as the member for Sudbury, Suffolk, on his return from India in 1789. Even so, Windham complained of Hippisley at the time: ‘Instead of the daring spirit of the East in forming his projects and the activity and handiness of the bar in carrying them into execution, he looks at expense with the terrors of a trader and seems as helpless in the conduct of the business as a country gentleman’.2

It was perhaps in the hope of gaining further favour with Windham that Hippisley had named his second daughter, Windhamina Barbara, born in 1787, after him. However, the surface appearance of the portrait and the technique suggest it may have been painted somewhat later than the original, and possibly made from the engraving by John Jones, published in December 1792, rather than the original – since it does not appear to be a product of Reynolds’s own studio. The only other known copy of Reynolds’s original painting was sold at Christie’s, London, on 28 October 1949 (lot 159) and was attributed to Reynolds’s contemporary, John Hoppner, who made a separate portrait of Windham, an engraving of which was published in 1803 (National Portrait Gallery, NPG D4861).

by Martin Postle


  1. See David Mannings and Martin Postle, Sir Joshua Reynolds: A Complete Catalogue of his Paintings, 2 vols, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000, vol. 1, p. 480, no. 1918 (Windham), pp. 132–3, no. 363 (Cholmondeley).

  2. ‘John Coxe Hippisley [?1747–1825], of Warfield Grove, Berks.’, The History of Parliament: British Political, Social & Local History, (accessed 20 July 2020).


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