John Thomas Seton
in Van Dyck dress holding a porte-crayon
Oil on Canvas
Measuring 36 inches by 28 inches / 42 inches by 34 inches framed
In a carved and giltwood frame
John Thomas Seton (Seaton) was born with the advantage of court connections and was raised amongst the finest artists in eighteenth-century London, who congregated around Old Slaughters Coffee House on St. Martin's Lane and The Sublime Society of Beef Steaks at the Theatre Royal. Young Seton was the son of Christopher Seaton, Royal Gem & Seal Engraver to George Prince of Wales (later George III) and a founder of The Society of Artists of Great Britain (later amalgamated into The Royal Academy of Arts under founding president Sir Joshua Reynolds). Seton trained at the St. Martin's Lane Academy under Francis Hayman in the 1740s and 1750s. Between 1758 and 1759, he joined the fraternity of British painters studying in Rome, where he operated as an art buyer for Lord Bute on behalf of George, prince of Wales. He set up studios in Charing Cross, Covent Garden, Bath and Southampton, before moving to Edinburgh in 1772. He practised in Edinburgh as a society portraitist in the mid-1770s, during which period he send portraits to London for exhibition at The Society of Artists (1772) and The Royal Academy (1774). It was likely during this period in Edinburgh that the present self-portrait was painted.
In 1776, Seton traveled to Calcutta, where he quickly established a flourishing practice. He received commissions from the upper echelons of the British East India Company in Bengal, including Warren Hastings, Lieutenant-General Sir Eyre Coote, Chief Justice Sir Roberts Chambers, surgeon Ninian Lowis, and Maratha Empire statesman Nan Fadnavis. According to Ozias Humphry RA, Seton "returned to England after an easy time [in India]...with twelve thousand pounds in his pocket". In 1785, Seton returned to Edinburgh as a wealthy man and painted society portraits until his death in 1806.
John Thomas Seton (Scottish, 1738-1806) Self Portrait in Van Dyck dress c1775
Bonhams (London) British Paintings, October 26, 1989, lot 95.
Formerly with Dave Dallas Fine Art (London)