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This 4ft 1in by 3ft 3in (1.25 x 1.00m) oil on canvas of the hard-grafting Whig politician was painted by Charles Jervas (1675-1739) and depicts Walpole as the First Lord of the Treasury (Chancellor of the Exchequer), a role he fulfilled before becoming prime minister in 1721.

As an outstanding historian and devoted biographer of Walpole, Professor Plumb could provide an unbroken lineage of the painting’s ownership, from the Barnham manor
of Suffolk landowners and friends of Walpole, Nicholas and Dorothy Bacon, to the Bond Street premises of Thomas Agnew and Sons, where Plumb purchased the portrait in 1965.

Plumb was appointed professor of modern English history at Christ’s College the following year and became something of a celebrity academic in 1970s Britain, scripting the Huw Weldon television series Royal Heritage. Beneficiaries of Plumb’s tutelage include the television historian Simon Schama, and Cheffins are expecting a good turn-out of town and gown at the sale.

Tate Britain has already expressed an interest in the portrait, which was restored in the 1960s and is conservatively expected to fetch £20,000-30,000.

Other highlights from the Plumb estate include a Minton garniture at £7000-10,000, a drawing of George IV by Thomas Lawrence, at £18,000-20,000 and a Jacob Cuyp portrait of a young girl with a pretzel in one hand and a spaniel dog on a lead (a bit like an American President) which is expected to make £20,000-30,000.