All images © British Library
** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE **
** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE **

(Double click image to enlarge)

Reynolds submitted this portrait of John Manners, Marquess of Granby, to the 1766 Society of Artists exhibition, as a celebration of Granby'ssuccessful contribution to the Seven Years War against France (1756-63). The Commander-in-Chief of the British Forces in Europe is here representedby Reynolds standing on the battlefield at Vellingshausen. This battle, which took place in July 1761, can be viewed as the positive turning-point for the British, as it marked a chief victory against the French.Granby is depicted as a typical eighteenth-century martial hero, wearing his elaborate military attire and positioned authoritativelyat the forefront of an on-going battle.

Yet Reynolds adds an element of animation to the composition – not only through the narrative ofVellingshausen, but also through the intriguing positioning of Granby, his black page, and his horse. All three face in different directions, surveying the battlefield; this visual sweep reflecting their commanding dominance over the scene and their continuing engagement in the conflict – a notion which is further emphasised by the use of dark chiaroscuro in the stormy sky. The relationship between Granby and his page is especially important as it reinforces a sense of pictorial hierarchy. This hierarchy can be identified with both Granby's own aristocratic social status, but also links to the growing empire of Britain, and the fact that a black and a white man are working in tandem. Although the page is still regarded as lower socially, separated from the general by the horse's rump, and partially obscured by it, he still plays a key role in the image.

As well as portraying Granby as the archetypalpublic, martial hero, Reynolds also allows the spectator a privileged glimpse into Granby's privateside. This is primarily demonstrated by the profile of Granby's bald head, without his wig – which is sharply juxtaposed against his charger's dark, flowing mane – but also through his gloved and un-gloved hands. Granby's gloved left hand is firmly placed on his horse, reflecting his active, public militaryduties, yet his un-gloved right hand is bare and uncovered, and thus emblematic of Granby's more private, humane, 'gentlemanly' identity. This is further emphasised by the fact that Granby is pictured as if having just dismounted his horse in preparation to shake the hand of his defeated foe – the Marshall Duke of Broglie, for whom the picture was commissioned – highlighting that Granby is also a civilised and magnanimous man, apposite to the contemporary 'polite' culture of sensibility. Granby's facial profile can be viewed as confirming this interpretation, by emphasising that there are two sides to his character, just as there are to the portrait – the public and the private.

By Nicole Prattis