Circa 1775 England

Portrait of Adj-General, Lt-Col. John Cosnan


1 in stock

Height 13 inches (33.02 cm)
Width 10 3/4 inches (27.30 cm)
Depth 1 1/4 inches (3.17 cm)

Signed and dated C. 1775
Dimensions listed refer to framed size

This portrait of John Cosnan depicts him in the staff uniform of Adjutant General to the Expedition to Portugal in 1762. Considerable service in some notable campaigns, particularly in North America, led to this senior position in the British army being attainable. Cosnan was appointed Captain of the 45th Regiment of Foot, and in 1755 this regiment was deployed to Canada as part of the Seven Years War (1754–1763) and saw its first actions in North America, fighting the French at the Capture of the Louisbourg Fortress (1758) and the city of Quebec (1759) as part of General Wolfe’s force. Cosnan was listed in Wolfe’s despatch of 2nd September at Quebec amongst other officers as being wounded and this possibly led to him later undertaking a position on the general staff as an acting Lieutenant-Colonel and Adjutant-General to Lord Loudoun on their arrival in Portugal in June 1762.

Between May and November 1762, the Spanish invaded Portugal, which was the principal military campaign of the Spanish–Portuguese War, 1761–1763, which in turn was part of the larger Seven Years’ War. Initially only involving the armies of Spain and Portugal, the French and British then intervened in the conflict on the side of their respective allies, although Spain and Portugal had originally both remained neutral in the Seven Years’ War which had been officially declared in 1756. Under Ferdinand VI, Spain had enjoyed good relations with the British, and so did not join with their traditional allies France against the British. This changed with the succession of a new monarch, Charles III, whose government switched to a more pro-French policy and in late 1761 the two states went to war.

Sometime after 1760, Cosnan married Bethia Palmer, widow of Herbert Palmer, the illegitimate son of Sir Thomas Palmer, 4th Bt.. In February 1763, she inherited “a considerable estate” from the Palmer family in both land and financial interests. He retired on half-pay in 1767, seeking a portrait of himself in his uniform from that time after having attained such a senior position in the army. Staff officers on foreign postings such as Portugal (and America) wore an undress uniform; as a Captain of the 45th Regiment and acting Lt. Col. rather than of General’s rank, Cosnan’s uniform has silver embroidered paired buttons, with lace on a red coat with blue facings.

It is likely that James Scouler studied in Edinburgh under William Delacour before moving to London sometime prior to 1769, and from this time he exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy until 1787. Most of the works shown were miniatures but by 1773 “chalk” portraits were also listed. Many of these works give an indication that Scouler was, not surprisingly, an artist who was keen on detail. These are still appearing on the art market, even after all these years, and this portrait of Cosnan depicts intricate work around the face and on the lace, buttons and epaulette, the overall colour and composition being both fresh and striking.

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