Thomas (1740–1825) and Martha Neate (1741–after 1795) with His Tutor, Thomas Needham
Sir Joshua Reynolds (British, Plympton 1723–1792 London)
Oil on canvas
66 1/8 x 71 in. (168 x 180.3 cm)
Gift of Heathcote Art Foundation, 1986
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 514
The children’s parents were Harris Neate (1706–1742) and Martha Barrow (1711–1794), who married in 1734. Harris, a merchant of Jamaica and London, died eight years later, and two years after that, his widow married Samuel Vandewall (1719–1761); the couple lived in London until Samuel's death. Martha Neate, the young girl depicted here, married John Williams of Panthowell, Trelech a’r Betws, Carmarthenshire, in 1766. Her brother, Thomas, married Charlotte Seward in 1771 and they eventually settled in the village of Binfield, near London, renting the house in which the great English poet Alexander Pope (1688–1744) had once lived. Their first child and heir was the Reverend Thomas Neate, born in 1775. The tutor, Thomas Needham, must have maintained his relationship with the family: he was a witness to the will of Martha's husband, John Williams, and was a beneficiary in Samuel Vandewall's will (National Archives, Public Record Office, Kew, Surrey, PROB 11/864 and 11/988; information provided by Gordon Balderston).
The picture must have been commissioned by either Martha Vandewall or by her second husband and would in either case have belonged to her. The portrait heads are forthright and direct and the children show a strong family resemblance. The lamb is awkward, though, and the arrangement of the tutor's right arm is not well managed. This elaborate, expensive picture, one of the artist’s first major commissions, must have been painted in London.
In 1968 Ellis Waterhouse listed two other Reynolds portraits of members of the family. The first, representing Samuel Vandewall (location unknown), was dated by Waterhouse to 1744–46. The second (location unknown) he called “Miss (?) Vandewall (or Neate?),” noting the existence of a faded label on the reverse that had been read “child born to Mr. Vanderwall after his marriage with Mrs. Neate.” Mannings doesn't include the first portrait and titles the second “Master or Miss Vanderwall," dating it about 1746 (see Mannings and Postle 2000, vol. 1, p. 452, no. 1785; vol. 2, fig. 27). The Vandewalls had a son, Joseph Moore Vandewall, who was born in London in the summer of 1745 and died there on February 28, 1748 (information provided by David Bridgwater in 2011). Presumably he was the sitter.
[2014; adapted from Baetjer 2009]
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower right, on edge of plinth): J Reynolds pinxit 1748
Mrs. Samuel (Martha Barrow Neate) Vandewall, London (?until d. 1794); the sitter, Thomas Neate, Binfield, Berkshire (?1794–d. 1825); Reverend Thomas Neate (1825–d. 1856); Reverend Arthur Neate (1856–d. 1870); Miss Mary Neate, Bampton, Farringdon (from 1870); Commander Charles Burnaby Neate (until d. 1916); Captain Arthur Charles Burnaby Neate (1916–at least 1918); [Horace Buttery, London]; ?Ogden Mills, New York (until d. 1929); Ogden L. Mills, New York (until d. 1937); Mrs. Ogden L. Mills, New York (1937–52; sale, Parke-Bernet, New York, January 23, 1952, no. 87, for $2,000); Josephine Mercy Heathcote Haskell, New York (until d. 1982); Heathcote Art Foundation (1982–86)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion," May 3–September 4, 2006, unnumbered cat. (p. 154).
William Cotton. A Catalogue of the Portraits Painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Knt., P.R.A. London, 1857, p. 55, lists "Neate, Thomas, of Binfield, Berks, and his Sister," with their tutor, in the collection of Rev. A. Neate.
Algernon Graves and William Vine Cronin. A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds P.R.A. Vol. 2, London, 1899, p. 688, suppose it to be the picture of the Neete [sic] family by Reynolds which was offered to the National Portrait Gallery, London, in January 1870 by Miss Mary Neete of Bampton, Farringdon.
"Two Early Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds." Walpole Society 6 (1918), pp. 105, 107–10, pl. XLIII, records the signature and date, the label, and details of the family history, observing that Thomas Neate died at eighty-four in 1825; suggests that this is Reynolds's first large-scale, multi-figure composition.
Ellis K. Waterhouse. Reynolds. London, 1941, pp. 37, 119 n. 10, pl. 10.
Ellis K. Waterhouse. "Sir Joshua Reynolds' Sitter-book of 1755." Walpole Society 41 (1968), p. 166, associates it with two others by Reynolds: that of "Samuel Vandewall," painted about 1744/46, who married in 1744 the widow of Harris Neate, and that of "Miss (?) Vandewall (or Neate?)," who was "born to Mr Vanderwall after his marriage with Mrs Neate".
David Mannings. "The Sources and Development of Reynolds's Pre-Italian Style." Burlington Magazine 117 (April 1975), p. 222, as whereabouts unknown; notes that Thomas Neate is wearing fancy dress.
David Mannings inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 26, New York, 1996, p. 271, as an example of Reynolds's early work where "compositions and poses were adapted rather awkwardly from the works of Anthony van Dyck".
David Mannings and Martin Postle. Sir Joshua Reynolds: A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings (The Subject Pictures catalogued by Martin Postle). New Haven, 2000, vol. 1, p. 350, no. 1332; vol. 2, colorpl. 4, fig. 47.
Katharine Baetjer. British Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575–1875. New York, 2009, pp. 60–62, no. 26, ill. (color).
The Neate family believed that the father of the two children was a friend of the young artist, and a diary once in the possession of Miss Eleanor Neate recorded a payment to Reynolds for a portrait, but the sum mentioned was thought too small to apply to this portrait group.
An old label was on the back of the picture: Boy the paternal grandfather of the Rev. A. Neate. / Girl sister of the above married — Williams of —, Esqre / Tall figure Needham tutor of the Boy. / Painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds (see Walpole Society 1918, p. 109). The label has not been preserved.
Extensive information about the Vandewall and Neate families was provided by David Bridgwater in 2011.