Weston Park’s great art collection comprises the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century painting collections amassed in London by Francis 1st Earl of Bradford of the first creation and his younger son, Thomas, Lord Torrington. To this, each successive generation has added further works, including portraits, Grand Tour acquisitions and a remarkable group of sporting works collected by the 3rd Earl of Bradford.


Art Unlocked is an online talk series by Art UK in collaboration with Bloomberg Philanthropies. This Curation is based on a talk by Gareth Williams, Curator & Head of Learning at Weston Park, on 25th January 2023. You can watch a recording of the talk on Art UK's YouTube channel.

6 artworks

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Sir Thomas Hanmer
Image credit: Trustees of the Weston Park Foundation

Sir Thomas Hanmer

Van Dyck’s portrait of Sir Thomas Hanmer demonstrates the mastery of the artist at elevating his sitter. Hanmer is also known from a portrait by Cornelius Johnson in the collection of the National Museum of Wales, in which he stares impassively, with sullen countenance, at the observer. In the Weston Park portrait, the artist has transformed Hanmer, with head held aloft and an artful pose, into an aloof and aristocratic man of substance. He looks away from the observer, gazing timelessly into the distance, whilst his silken tunic flashes with reflected light to create one of van Dyck’s masterpieces of male portraiture. It is the most exhibited painting in the collection – having been to seven exhibitions in the last fifty years.

Sir Thomas Hanmer
Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641)
Oil on canvas
H 107.5 x W 85.5 cm
Weston Park

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Mrs Moll Davis (1640–c.1721), Actress and Mistress of Charles II
Image credit: Trustees of the Weston Park Foundation

Mrs Moll Davis (1640–c.1721), Actress and Mistress of Charles II

Moll Davis’ portrait, like many of the other seventeenth-century portraits at Weston Park, was acquired by Francis Newport, 1st Earl of Bradford of the first creation. It represents a woman who was notable in society at that time – famous as an immensely talented musician and also infamous for her relationship with King Charles II. Lely shows her mastering a technically difficult chord on the guitar – her hands brilliantly painted. She gazes, coquettishly at the observer, her head at an engaging angle, with an open expression, whilst her dress and chemise is cut suggestively low. The painted flowers in a vase add colour and variety to the image and comprise highly scented freesias, adding to the painting’s sensual connotations.

Mrs Moll Davis (1640–c.1721), Actress and Mistress of Charles II
Peter Lely (1618–1680)
Oil on canvas
H 124.5 x W 99 cm
Weston Park

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Lady Lucy Boyle (1744–1792), Viscountess Torrington
Image credit: Trustees of the Weston Park Foundation

Lady Lucy Boyle (1744–1792), Viscountess Torrington

Gainsborough painted Lady Lucy Boyle, daughter of the 5th Earl and Countess of Cork and Orrery during his time in Bath. The work is thought to date from 1762, the year in which the sitter’s father died. She appears to be in mourning, wearing a black lace shawl and headdress. The lace is deftly painted by Gainsborough, its dark tones forming a figure of eight to give strong emphasis to the light tones of the face and neck. This outline forms a boundary with the lighter tones within the painted oval, giving the portrait a three-dimensional quality. Lady Lucy went on to marry the 4th Viscount Torrington and her daughter, another Lucy, married the 1st Earl of Bradford of the second creation – hence the painting finding its way to Weston Park.

Lady Lucy Boyle (1744–1792), Viscountess Torrington
Thomas Gainsborough (1727–1788)
Oil on canvas
H 76.2 x W 63.5 cm
Weston Park

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Two Horses Communing in a Landscape
Image credit: Trustees of the Weston Park Foundation

Two Horses Communing in a Landscape

This serene work of equestrian and landscape painting encapsulates two core interests of its painter George Stubbs – horse anatomy and also communication. Stubbs was fascinated by the anatomy of the horse and is well known for his practical dissections of horse carcasses by which he came to understand the bone structure and musculature beneath the flesh. He was also interested in the way in which the creatures communicated with each other and in this painting he places two horses face to face, communing by their sight and pose. The painting was an acquisition of Sir Henry Bridgeman, 5th Bt, the owner of Weston Park from the 1760s. The painting was recorded in 1777 as hanging over the dining room chimneypiece.

Two Horses Communing in a Landscape
George Stubbs (1724–1806)
Oil on canvas
H 124.5 x W 123.2 cm
Weston Park

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Orlando Bridgeman (1762–1825), 1st Earl of Bradford of the Second Creation
Image credit: Trustees of the Weston Park Foundation

Orlando Bridgeman (1762–1825), 1st Earl of Bradford of the Second CreationOrlando Bridgeman (1762–1825), 1st Earl of Bradford of the Second Creation

Orlando Bridgeman, 1st Earl of Bradford of the second creation, was a friend of the eventual King George IV – and attempted to emulate royal taste in many of his collecting activities. In his choice of sculptor for his own and also his daughter Lady Lucy Whitmore’s bust he employed Lorenzo Bartolini, an Italian sculptor whose great patron had been Napoleon Bonaparte. Bridgeman admired Napoleon as a leader - acquiring his portrait for the collection at Weston Park – and this interest might have influenced his choice. The bust, with its boldly carved drapery – was only recognised as the work of Bartolini in 2021 when David Wilson identified the modello for the work in the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence.

Orlando Bridgeman (1762–1825), 1st Earl of Bradford of the Second Creation 1822
Lorenzo Bartolini (1777–1850)
Marble
H 76 cm
Weston Park

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The Hon. Caroline Norton (1808–1877)
Image credit: Trustees of the Weston Park Foundation

Norton was a noted author and social reformer who has been considered by many to be a proto-feminist. When her husband accused her of adultery and then denied her access to her children, her campaigning led to the passing of the Custody of Infants Act 1839, the Matrimonial Causes Act 1857 and the Married Women's Property Act 1870. She has been the subject of a number of biographies although her bust at Weston Park – the work of Peter Hollins, one of the founders of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists – remains little known. The sculpture had been commissioned by Norton and was exhibited in 1832 in Bond Street, London. It remained, unpaid for in the sculptor’s studio until acquired by the 3rd Earl of Bradford for Weston Park in 1870.

The Hon. Caroline Norton (1808–1877) 1832
Peter Hollins (1800–1886)
Carrara marble
H 71 cm
Weston Park