It is always rather pleasing when a discovery ends up going home. I was fortunate enough recently to help the charity ‘Friends of Lydiard Park‘ secure for their collections at Lydiard House, Swindon a striking portrait of Holles St.John by John Vanderbank. Holles was the younger brother of John, 2nd Viscount St. John of Lydiard Park and step brother to the famous politician and political philosopher Henry St. John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke. As a younger son he pursued an interest in the stage and owned shares in Covent Garden Theatre which opened to a great fanfare in 1732. He quite possibly acted himself. A portrait of him as a young child hangs in the Drawing Room of Lydiard House already and it was felt that this portrait would compliment that and indeed the whole collection of St. John family portraits currently hanging there.
John Vanderbank (1694-1739) studied under Godfrey Kneller and founded the St.Martin’s Lane Academy in 1720, which Hogarth attended. George Vertue the antiquary and engraver, thought that only intemperance prevented Vanderbank from becoming the best portraitist of his generation. High living made him flee to France to escape debts with this portrait of Holles being painted sometime after his return c.1730. He died in 1739 due to consumption.