The Strawberry Hill Trust appealed for help to buy the painting by William Hogarth (1697-1784). Walpole – the 4th Earl of Orford (1717-97) – lived at the Twickenham house and the portrait was on loan there from a private collection.
The trust had an opportunity to buy the painting from the private collection as it has been offered to the nation in lieu of death duties.
However, the painting had been valued at more than the tax due which meant there was a £230,000 funding gap.
The National Heritage Memorial Fund donated £115,000 and the Art Fund has given £90,000. The remaining £25,000 was raised via the Art Fund’s crowdfunding platform, Art Happens.
Auction house Christie’s has advised the trust on the acquisition.
The trust said the picture was of “exceptional interest” as it is the earliest surviving oil portrait of Walpole; a rare and significant example of Hogarth’s early mature pictorial work; the earliest-known commissioned picture of an identifiable sitter by Hogarth and his first-known portrait of a child.
The painting was commissioned by Horace’s father, Sir Robert Walpole (1676-1745), the first British prime minister, when his youngest son was aged 10 and a pupil at Eton.
Horace grew up to be an historian, collector, and social commentator and his home, Strawberry Hill, is one of the original and best-known examples of Gothic Revival architecture.