'The house is full of images of him. However, the story ends sadly – he died at the age of 11, in 1922.'
Richard George Archibald Lucian Hungerford Crewe-Milnes, Earl of Madeley, 1914, by Philip de László (1869–1937), 26in diameter, West Horsley Place, Surrey.
Bamber Gascoigne chooses Richard George Archibald Lucian Hungerford Crewe-Milnes, Earl of Madeley.
‘Four years ago, I inherited unexpectedly, from my great-aunt Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe, a large Grade I-listed house of great beauty near Guildford called West Horsley Place. I hardly knew the house, but when I first walked into it as its owner, I discovered many paintings relating to my family.’
‘My favourite among them rapidly became this beautiful, but unashamedly sentimental portrait of the Duchess’s brother at the age of about three. Jack, as he was known, was a beautiful boy and obviously greatly adored.’
‘The house is full of images of him. However, the story ends sadly – he died at the age of 11, in 1922. We are now taking tours round the house and this image is part of a family display.’
Bamber Gascoigne is a historian and the quizmaster who originally presented University Challenge. He is a trustee of the Mary Roxburghe Trust.
John McEwen comments on Richard George Archibald Lucian Hungerford Crewe-Milnes, Earl of Madeley.
Philip de László described his temperament as ‘lively, passionate, impulsive’. It showed in his renowned speed as a painter, which enabled him to catch a finished likeness at a sitting.
His mature work has the freedom of a sketch, even in completed canvases, where invariably neutral backgrounds highlight the face and often he left portraits ‘unfinished’ except for the head and shoulders, as here.
Among his favourite artists were Reynolds and Lawrence, both of whom painted child masterpieces.
De László liked to engage his sitters in conversation to animate their expressions and encourage character-revealing opinions. His speed took artistic advantage of these exchanges. Often, friendship ensued. Marriage to Lucy Guinness, a member of a minor branch of the dynasty, eased social acceptance, particularly in England, where he settled in 1907 and immediately compounded his high Continental reputation as a portraitist.
Lucy’s parents’ disapproval – he was still relatively unknown when they first met and took time to learn English – delayed the marriage for eight years.
De László was born Laub, the son of a tailor in the Jewish quarter of Pest, the newer half of the Hungarian capital. He Hungarianised his surname, the ‘de’ signalling his ennoblement by the King of Hungary in 1912. Neglect to take British nationality until 1914, the year of this portrait, cost him dear. Sending money to his family in Hungary and giving a token £1 to a Hungarian prisoner on the run had him falsely imprisoned, from September 1917 to June 1919, as a ‘disloyal British subject’. Rightly, his popularity did not suffer. He even painted our present Queen.
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