Mourning Portrait

Richard Mansergh St. George commissioned this portrait following the 1792 death of his wife, Anne Stepney. St. George’s profound grief over her death and the pain of his wartime head wound thrust him into deep depression. He is shown here clutching his head at her tomb that bears the Latin inscription “NON IMMEMOR” (not forgotten). 

The artist, Irishman Hugh Douglas Hamilton, painted St. George without the black silk head wrap that he typically wore to cover the scar from the silver plate in his head. According to one of his acquaintances, St. George stopped wearing a silk cap as early as 1796. This choice could have been tied to his reentry into the British Army in 1794. St. George is shown here wearing the blue uniform of the British 18th Light Dragoons. He first purchased a cornet’s commission (the lowest ranking officer) to join the regiment and then rose to the rank of lieutenant. That was unusual because he had already achieved the higher rank of captain in 1778. St. George may have accepted a lower rank in order to put his commitment to the British Empire on display as a revolutionary movement for Irish independence was on the rise.

People who saw this portrait of St. George on exhibit in Dublin in 1801 proclaimed it as one of Hugh Douglas Hamilton’s finest works. One viewer described it as showing “a man versed in misfortune, whose accounts with the world are closed and who cares not how soon he should be removed to another.”

Portrait of Lieutenant Richard Mansergh Saint George
Painted by Hugh Douglas Hamilton
ca. 1796
Oil on Canvas
National Gallery of Ireland, Purchased, 1992 (part Lane Fund)
Photo © National Gallery of Ireland