Nathaniel Hone the Elder

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Self-portrait by Nathaniel Hone, circa 1760
Self-portrait by Nathaniel Hone

Nathaniel Hone RA RHA (24 April 1718 – 14 August 1784) was an Irish-born portrait and miniature painter, and one of the founder members of the Royal Academy in 1768.

The son of a Dublin-based Dutch merchant, Hone moved to England as a young man and, after marrying Molly Earle - daughter of the Duke of Argyll - in 1742, eventually settled in London, by which time he had acquired a reputation as a portrait-painter. While his paintings were popular, his reputation was particularly enhanced by his skill at producing miniatures and enamels. He interrupted his time in London by spending two years (1750–1752) studying in Italy.

As a portrait painter, several of his works are now held at the National Portrait Gallery in London. His sitters included magistrate Sir John Fielding and Methodist preacher John Wesley, and General Richard Wilford and Sir Levett Hanson in a double portrait.[1][2]

Nathaniel Hone, 1718-84, Portrait of Harry Earl Aged 15, Dated 1758, Watercolour on ivory V&A Museum no. P.4-1958[3] Victoria and Albert Museum, London

He courted controversy in 1775 when his satirical picture The Conjurer (National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin) was seen to attack the fashion for Italian Renaissance art and to ridicule Sir Joshua Reynolds (it also included a nude caricature of fellow Academician Angelica Kauffman, later painted out by Hone), and was rejected by the Royal Academy. To show his reputation was undamaged, Hone organised a one-man retrospective in London – the first such solo exhibition of an artist’s work.


The family is related to an array of notable people, including the Viscounts Valentia, Earls of Abercorn, before their elevation to the Dukedom, the Beckford family and the old Dutch landed family the van Vianens, who hold the hereditary title of Vrijheer. Distant cousins of Nathaniel include Sir Charles Hardy and William Beckford. His great-grand-nephew shared the same name and was also a notable Irish painter, known as Nathaniel Hone the Younger (1831–1917). He is also a relation to painter Evie Hone.