Robert Bensley, William Powell, Richard Smith
Oil on canvas
Hubert : King John
John : King John
Messenger : King John
height (frame): 117cm
width (frame): 141cm
William Powell; Charles Mathews
RW/CKA 17 (William Smith as Bastard?)
1768 London S.A. (107) ("A scene in King John, act the fifth, scene the fifth")
1768 S.A. Special Exh. (74)
1833 London, Queen's Bazaar, Oxford Street, "Mr Mathews's Gallery of Theatrical Portraits" (16)
1968 Eastbourne, Towner Art Gallery & London, Kenwood House, "John Hamilton Mortimer A.R.A." (80)
1982-83 London, R. A. "Royal Opera House Retrospective 1732-1982" (192)
1997 London, Dulwich Picture Gallery, "Dramatic Art
Theatrical Paintings from the Garrick Club" (36)
See P0092 and PM0483 for the Valentine Green mezzotint after this painting
Valentine Green, 1769, pub. Wynne Ryland 9 January 1771, mezzotint 42.2x55.3
and Ryland 26 March 1771, mezzotint 42.2x55.3, insr: "MR. POWELL and MR. BENSLEY, in the Characters of KING JOHN and HUBERT. King John - Act 5th - Scene 5th"
Patmore, p.262; Fitzgerald, pp. 225-27; reproduced Mander & Mitchenson (1957), fig. 123; M. Webster, "Francis Wheatly (1970), p.18; "LS" pt 4, 1156, 1219, 1278, 1301; John Sunderland, "John Hamilton Mortimer", "The Walpole Society" (1936) 52: 125-26, reproduced fig. 31
Hubert (Bensley) stands left of centre. He wears black shoes with blue rosettes, silver hose, black breeches, a black doublet, a black belt, and a dark cloak with a white lining. King John (Powell) stands in the centre. He wears brown shoes with blue rosettes, silver hose, blue garters with rosettes, a red tunic trimmed with silver, a red velvet doublet heavily decorated with silver braid, embroidery and buttons, and a lace ruff. Over the doublet he has a purple velvet coat embroidered in silver and trimmed with ermine and silver braid. He has a sword in his blue sash. The Messenger (Smith) gestures towards the distant battle with his blue plumed brown hat. He wears brown leggings with armour over feet, shins, and thighs, a doublet, a white shirt, brown leather shoulder pads, breast plate and armour over shoulders, brown leather belt with sword, and a short red cloak.
The play was given a newly-dressed revival at Covent Garden on 23 September 1767, with Powell playing King John (a role he had acted for the first time in London on 20 March 1766 at Drury Lane) and Bensley playing Hubert for the first time. Richard Smith, who played the King's Messenger, has been confused in the past with William Smith, the more considerable actor who played Philip the Bastard. “King John” was given a second performance on 22 December 1767 a third on 3 May 1769, and then disappeared from the Covent Garden repertory until 1 December 1775.
The scene depicted is Act V, scene 3, rather than Act V, scene 5, as suggested on the mezzotint, or Act IV, as indicated by Mathews.
Sunderland (p. 32) points out Mortimer's close dependence on Zoffany in this picture, especially in relation to Zoffany's 1766 canvas showing Garrick and others in “Lethe” (Birmingham City Musseums and Art Gallery).