The sitter is James Willis, Consul-General of Senegambia. He is examining a map inscribed 'BAMBOUK' and signed 'J. RENNEL / 1798'. He is dressed in a white powdered wig tied with a black silk ribbon, a scarlet cloak with gold frogging, a white stock, and cream breeches. His papers on the table are inscribed 'COMMUNICATIONS / MR LEDYARD'S AND AFRICAN GEOGRAPHY'. In the shadowy background, instead of a standard English parkscape, is a bit of African forest with a lion nonchalantly on the prowl. The portrait was actually painted in London.
Willis was the third son of Richard Willis (1724–1780) and Bethia Legge (1734–1778). In 1795 he married Flora Wynch (1776–1842) and their daughter, Rhoda Susan Willis (1809–1873), was the second wife of Sir Athur Hallam Elton (1818–1883), 7th Baronet and MP.
Where to see this painting?
National Trust, Clevedon Court
Tickenham Road, Clevedon, Somerset, England, BS21 6QU
If you are planning a visit to see this painting, check with the collection first. Paintings can be moved at short notice.