Thomas Pechell was the son of Lieutenant Colonel Sir Paul Pechell, first Baronet, whose portrait by Gainsborough also belongs to the Museum (1990.200). In 1799, when the present work was painted, Thomas was a major in the army. According to the inscription on the back of the canvas (see Notes), he was in the service of Queen Charlotte for thirty-four years, presumably from 1784 until her death in 1818. He succeeded his father in 1800, and assumed the additional surname of Brooke the following year, in compliance with his mother’s will. In 1814 he was promoted to major general. His uniform, which is that of a staff officer or aide-de-camp, is probably the one he wore as a gentleman usher of the privy chamber (correspondence of 1998 from Stephen Wood of the Scottish United Services Museum, Edinburgh). His wife, Charlotte, whom he married in 1783, was the younger daughter of Lieutenant General Sir James John Clavering, commander in chief in India, and his wife, born Lady Diana West. The couple had two sons and a daughter.
This picture and its pendant (MMA 46.13.4), thickly painted, are among the few pairs from Hoppner’s late years. Both sitters look out, engaging with the viewer, while the elegant, restricted tonality of Charlotte's portrait contrasts with the more varied palette of Thomas's. His portrait cannot be cleaned owing to the defective medium, which may be bituminous. At some time in the past, an attempt was made to retouch the disfiguringly wide drying cracks, and the retouching has in its turn discolored.
McKay and Roberts (1909) presume that a portrait called Capt. Pechell, included in the 1823 Hoppner estate sale as number 14, is either a study or a replica.
[2010; adapted from Baetjer 2009]
the sitter, Major General Sir Thomas Brooke Pechell, 2nd Baronet, Paglesham, Essex (until d. 1826); by descent to Sir Alfred Plantagenet Frederick Charles Somerset, Enfield Court, Middlesex (in 1909); [Sulley and Co., London, until 1929; sold to Scott & Fowles]; [Scott & Fowles, New York, 1929–30; sold to Neilson]; Mrs. Francis (Helen Swift) Neilson, Chicago (1930–d. 1945)
Pittsburgh. Carnegie Institute. "A Survey of British Paintings," May 10–June 12, 1938, no. 31 (as Sir Thomas Brooke Pechell, lent by Mrs. Francis Neilson).
Palm Beach. Society of the Four Arts. "European Masters of the XVII and XVIII Centuries," January 13–February 5, 1950, no. 13.
William McKay and W[illiam]. Roberts. John Hoppner, R.A. London, 1909, p. 200, date the picture 1799, mention that it belonged to Colonel Sir Alfred Plantagenet Somerset, and note that the Capt. Pechel of the Hoppner sale of 1823, no. 14, must have been a study or replica.
John Human Wilson. "The Life and Work of John Hoppner (1758–1810)." PhD diss., Courtauld Institute of Art, London, 1992, vol. 1, pp. 215–16; vol. 2, fig. 72, notes that this portrait and its pendant are among the few pairs from Hoppner's late years; comments on the strong lighting of the face and the scumbling of the hair, which merges with the background.
Katharine Baetjer. British Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575–1875. New York, 2009, p. 197, no. 97, ill. (color).
Inscribed (on back of canvas): Painted by Hoppner of London / 1799 / Major General. / Sir Thomas Brooke Pechell Bart. Geolº Usher Privy Chamber. / 34 Years to her Majesty Queen Charlotte / He Died June 1826