The party started here…

A unique image referencing the start of the British party system has been acquired by Tate Britain through the acceptance in lieu scheme. 

Painted in 1710 by John James Baker, it portrays the close-knit group of peers that formed the Whig Party towards the end of the reign of Queen Anne.

It shows, left to right, Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland Secretary of State); Thomas Wharton, 1st Marquess of Wharton (Lord Lieutenant of Ireland); John Somers, 1st Baron Somers (Lord President of the Privy Council); Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax; William Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Devonshire (Lord Steward and Privy Councillor); and Edward Russell, 1st Earl of Orford (First Lord of the Admiralty). The black servant is unnamed.  

It’ the only known portrayal of the group that had been instrumental in bringing William and Mary to the throne in the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and under William III started the system whereby the monarch called a single party to form a government.

They were also key to the Act of Union of 1707 that bound England and Scotland and led to the development of the British Empire’s power.

“It is a huge and ambitious painting, bringing to life the power of the early 18th century political elite in their full pomp” said Tate Britain’s director, Alex Farquharson. “Baker captures them at the height of their powers in the reign of Queen Anne and at the beginnings of the party-political system as we know it today. This work will add great depth to our exhibitions and displays of historic art at Tate Britain.”

It is thought to have been commissioned by Lord Orford – the dog’s collar bears his name –  from Baker, or Bakker, who is thought to have been from Antwerp and was the studio assistant of Sir Godfrey Kneller, the principal society painter of the time. As shown here, the Junto tended to meet in country houses between parliamentary sessions, formulating party strategy -not entirely successfully since the Whigs suffered a crushing electoral defeat later tin 1710.

The picture has been accepted in lieu of tax worth £210,000 in the scheme that is operated by the Arts Council

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