Richard Edgcumbe was born to an aristocratic family whose Mount Edgcumbe home dates back to the mid 16th century. He became an active Member of Parliament, entering the House of Lords in 1795 after inheriting an earldom from his father, and became a member of the Privy Council in 1808. He was also an amateur actor and musician.
Sir Joshua Reynolds was the foremost portrait painter in England in the 18th century, and was extremely influential on later generations of artists. His poses were intended to invoke classical values and to enhance the dignity of his sitters, as is evident in his portrayal of this boy. His style incorporated strong lighting, rich color and bravura paint handling. He also made history and “fancy pictures.” As first president of the Royal Academy in London, he significantly raised the profile of art and artists in Britain. Reynolds is also known for his eloquent Discourses on Art, delivered to the students and members of the Academy between 1769 and 1790.
William Dickinson was a print seller and engraver in London, trading alone in business, mainly as a sole proprietor from 1773 to 1802. He was associated with Thomas Watson from 1776, and they traded as Watson and Dickinson from 1778 until Watson’s death in 1781. In the early 19th century he moved to Paris, although he still supplied the London market from there. He died in Paris in 1823. Dickinson exhibited at the Society of Artists from 1768 to 1776. One of the finest mezzotint engravers of his time, he engraved portraits after Sir Joshua Reynolds and others.
Full publication information: Painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds 1774. Engraved by W. Dickinson. Publish’d July the 2’d 1774 by W. Dickinson at Mr. Sledges Henrietta Street Covent Garden.
Knowles, Rachel. “Mount Edgcumbe — a Regency History guide.” Regency History. 21 August 2014. https://www.regencyhistory.net/2014/08/mount-edgcumbe-regency-history-guide.html (28 March 2019).
Maxted, Ian. “The London book trades 1775-1800: a preliminary checklist of members.” Exeter Working Papers in British Book Trade History. U.K.: Devon Library and Information Services. 24 July 2001. http://bookhistory.blogspot.com/2007/01/london-1775-1800-d.html (29 January 2009) (Dickinson).
Russell, Charles E. English Mezzotint Portraits and Their States: Catalogue of Corrections of and Additions to Chaloner Smith’s ‘British Mezzotinto Portraits.’ Vol 2. London: Halton & Truscott Smith, Ltd. New York: Minto, Balch & Co., 1926. p. 46.
“The Honorable Richard Edgcumbe.” British Museum. https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?assetId=139001001&objectId=1586572&partId=1 (28 March 2019).
“Sir Joshua Reynolds.” The Grove Dictionary of Art. New York: Macmillan: 2000. Online at Artnet.com: http://www.artnet.com/library/07/0717/T071710.asp (15 April 2002).
“William Dickinson.” National Library of Australia. 17 June 2004. http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-an9283218-1 (5 November 2004).