The sitter was a nephew and pupil of the celebrated musicologist Dr. Charles Burney. In 1770 he married Dr. Burney's oldest daughter, Esther, called Hetty, whom he had known since childhood. C. R. Burney was a composer as well as a virtuoso musician. He and his wife are reported to have played brilliantly together on the harpsichord.
Use your arrow keys to navigate the tabs below, and your tab key to choose an item
Credit Line:Bequest of Mary Stillman Harkness, 1950
The sitter was the youngest son of Richard Burney of London and Barborne Lodge, Worcester, and a nephew and pupil of the celebrated musicologist Dr. Charles Burney (1726–1814). In 1770, he married Dr. Burney’s oldest daughter, Esther, called Hetty, whom he had known since childhood. The couple had five sons and three daughters. A composer and virtuoso musician, the younger Burney performed brilliant duets with his wife on two harpsichords. He eventually retired to Bath and in 1819 died at nearby Lambridge.
Gainsborough was an able amateur musician with a wide acquaintance in London’s musical circles, and there is every reason to suppose that he knew members of the Burney family. The high collar and large buttons of Burney's coat suggest a date of about 1780. The handling is fluid and assured. A drawing of the sitter inscribed “Mr. C R Burney” and traditionally ascribed to his brother, Edward Francisco Burney, belongs to the National Portrait Gallery, London.
[2010; adapted from Baetjer 2009]
the sitter, Charles Rousseau Burney (until d. 1819); by descent to Colonel Henry Edward Burney, Woburn Sands, near Milton Keynes, Bedfordshire (by 1907–30; posthumous sale, Christie's, London, June 20, 1930, no. 128, for £4,620 to Knoedler and Tooth); [Knoedler, London and New York, and Tooth, London, 1930; sold for £12,000 to Schley]; Evander B. Schley, New York (1930; sold to Knoedler and Tooth); [Knoedler, New York, and Tooth, London, 1930–34; sold to Harkness]; Mr. and Mrs. Edward S. Harkness, New York (1934–his d. 1940); Mrs. Edward S. (Mary Stillman) Harkness, New York (1940–d. 1950)
Milwaukee Auditorium. "Metropolitan Art Museum $1,000,000 Masterpiece Exhibition," March 7–14, 1953, unnumbered cat. (p. 20).
Austin, Tex. City Coliseum. "Texas Fine Arts Festival: Metropolitan Museum $1,000,000 Collection of Old Masters," April 18–26, 1953, unnum. checklist (p. 3).
Akron, Ohio. Akron Art Institute. March 21–April 25, 1954, no catalogue?
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Masterpieces of Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 16–November 1, 1970, unnumbered cat. (p. 95).
Bordeaux. Galerie des Beaux-Arts. "Profil du Metropolitan Museum of Art de New York: de Ramsès à Picasso," May 15–September 1, 1981, no. 108.
Constance Hill. The House in St. Martin's Street. London, 1907, list of illustrations, ill. opp. p. 288, as Charles Rousseau Burney, from the painting in the collection of Colonel Burney.
A. C. R. Carter. Christie's Season 1930. London, 1930, p. xxxviii, explains that the portrait was set in the paneling of the house in Woburn Sands and was therefore sold without a frame.
E[llis]. K. Waterhouse. "Preliminary Check List of Portraits by Thomas Gainsborough." Walpole Society 33 (1953), p. 13.
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 40.
Ellis Waterhouse. Gainsborough. London, 1958, pp. 56–57, no. 96, as probably from the later 1770s.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 188, ill.
Katharine Baetjer. "British Portraits in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 57 (Summer 1999), p. 40, ill. (color), observes that the sitter, who wears the lightly powdered hair and costume of about 1780, may have been acquainted with the artist.
Bettina Gockel. Kunst und Politik der Farbe: Gainsboroughs Portraitmalerei. Berlin, 1999, p. 128, fig. 110, dates the portrait of C. R. Burney to the late 1770s, noting that the fluent handling of the musical notation in the score the sitter leafs through is pleasing to the eye; compares Gainsborough's allusion to virtuoso technique in this portrait to Reynolds's portrait of Dr. Charles Burney, in which music theory is brought to the fore.
John Ingamells. National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits, 1760–1790. London, 2004, p. 82, ill., dates it 1775–80.
Katharine Baetjer. British Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575–1875. New York, 2009, pp. 100–101, no. 44, ill. (color).
The Met Collection API is where all makers, creators, researchers, and dreamers can connect to the most up-to-date data and public domain images for The Met collection. Open Access data and public domain images are available for unrestricted commercial and noncommercial use without permission or fee.
We continue to research and examine historical and cultural context for objects in The Met collection. If you have comments or questions about this object record, please complete and submit this form. The Museum looks forward to receiving your comments.