Admiral Sir Charles Saunders, circa 1713-75

A three-quarter-length portrait wearing flag-officer's undress uniform, 1748–67, a wig and the ribbon of the Order of the Bath. He leans his right arm on an anchor, gripping the anchor’s crown in his hand. With his left hand, he grasps the hilt of his sword. There is an empty sea in the right background and the sky is filled with dark clouds. Reynolds’s painted two versions of this portrait. The sittings for the first version took place in March and early April 1760, during the brief period that Saunders spent in London between his return from service in North American in January 1760 and his departure in late April that year for the Mediterranean, where he served continuously for the next five years as Commander-in-Chief. The second version of the portrait was painted around 1765. According to David Mannings’s catalogue raisonné, this version is probably the earlier of the two. If so, the ribbon of the Order of the Bath must have been added to the portrait at a later date, after Saunders was installed as a Knight of the Bath in absentia on 26 May 1761. Saunders sailed with Commodore Anson during his four-year voyage round the world, 1740–44, as a lieutenant in the 'Centurion', 64 guns. However, he was sent home with dispatches from Macao, arriving back in England in 1743. While in command of the 'Yarmouth', 64 guns, he played a distinguished part in Hawke's action with de l'Entenduère in 1747. He became Treasurer of Greenwich Hospital in 1754 and Comptroller of the Navy in 1755, and was second-in-command in the Mediterranean in 1756 and, by succession, Commander-in-Chief in 1757. In 1759, as a vice-admiral, he commanded the fleet and co-operated with Major-General Wolfe in the amphibious assault that led to the capture of Quebec. In 1765 he became one of the Lords of the Admiralty and, for a few months in 1766, First Lord. Reynolds trained as a portrait painter under Thomas Hudson in the early 1740s and, after working for a time in his native Devon, travelled to Italy in 1749. In 1753, he set up in London and rapidly began to make a name as portrait painter, profoundly influenced by his time in Italy. He became the first President of the Royal Academy in 1768 and was knighted in 1769. He was the most influential figure of the century in elevating British painting and portraiture. Reynolds borrowed poses from the old masters and by 1759 he had created social portraits in a new style that were deemed fresh and modern, and yet dignified the status of the sitter. (Updated April 2019.)

Object Details

ID: BHC3012
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Reynolds, Joshua
Date made: probably 1760; circa 1765
People: Saunders, Charles
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Measurements: Frame: 1604 mm x 1308 mm x 154 mm;Painting: 1270 mm x 1015 mm;Weight: 39 kg

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