Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Sir James Dashwood (1715–1779)

Enoch Seeman the Younger (German, Danzig ca. 1690–1744 London)
Oil on canvas
96 x 60 1/4 in. (243.8 x 153 cm)
Credit Line:
Victor Wilbour Memorial Fund, 1956
Accession Number:
Not on view
Sir James Dashwood, here depicted at age twenty-three, devoted much of his energy and most of his fortune to the building and furnishing of Kirtlington Park, visible in the right background of this painting. The dining room from Kirtlington Park, with its masterful plasterwork decoration, is installed nearby.
James Dashwood, born in London in 1715, was educated at Eton and Abington. He took the Grand Tour from 1732 until 1736, succeeding his grandfather as second Baronet in 1734, during his travels on the continent. In 1739 he married Elizabeth Spencer; the couple had eight children. The Museum owns a portrait by Reynolds of their daughter Anne (50.238.2). Dashwood became high sheriff for Oxfordshire in 1738 and was high steward at the University of Oxford from 1759 until his death in 1779. He was elected a member of Parliament for Oxfordshire in 1761.

The manors of Northbrook and Kirtlington had come into the Dashwood family through Sir James’s grandmother Penelope Chamberlayne. From the time of her marriage in 1682 to the first Baronet, the Dashwoods had lived at Northbrook House. Sir James's great work was the building of a new house, Kirtlington Park, on high ground a mile south of the old mansion and ten miles from Oxford. Various architects contributed to the design of the house, and Capability Brown laid out the grounds. The foundations were dug in 1742, and in 1746 the Dashwoods moved in, although the building was still incomplete. One of the principal interiors was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum in 1931.

Since the picture is dated 1737 and Kirtlington Park was built between 1742 and 1746, the rudimentary view of the house in the background must have been added later, perhaps after the artist’s death. (There is a large old tear in the background below and to the left of the house.) Sir James must have commissioned this portrait of himself from Seeman, a respected and established but very conservative painter, not long after his twenty-first birthday. Another portrait by Seeman shows John, Lord Harvey, son and heir of the first Earl of Bristol (private collection) in the same pose and a similar costume. A portrait of George Venables Vernon, first Baron Vernon (private collection), signed and dated 1740, shows the pose reversed.

[2010; adapted from Baetjer 2009]
Inscription: Signed, dated, and inscribed: (lower right) Enoch Seeman / pinx.1737; (lower left) Sir James Dashwood Bart. / (Painted in the 23rd Year of his age) / Died 1779 Aged 64
Sir James Dashwood, 2nd Baronet, Northbrooke House and later Kirtlington Park, near Oxford (1737–d. 1779); Dashwood family, Kirtlington Park (1779–1947; on loan to Oxford City Buildings by 1922); Sir Henry George Massy Dashwood, 8th Baronet, Ledwell House, Ledwell, Oxfordshire (1947–56; on loan to Oxford Town Hall until 1956; sold to Agnew); [Agnew, London, 1956; sold to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion," May 3–September 4, 2006, unnumbered cat. (p. 153).

James Townsend. The Oxfordshire Dashwoods. Oxford, 1922, p. 31, ill. opp. p. 22, as "Sir James's great portrait by Enoch Seaman, 1737".

Preston Remington. "A Mid-Georgian Interior from Kirtlington Park." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 14 (March 1956), p. 157.

Elizabeth Allen in The Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 28, New York, 1996, p. 352, as "an exceptionally lively portrait" painted in 1738 [sic].

Katharine Baetjer. British Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575–1875. New York, 2009, pp. 39–40, no. 17, ill. (color), fig. 32 (detail).

Old Master Paintings: Part I. Christie's, New York. January 29, 2014, p. 119, fig. 1, under no. 46.

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