A portrait of Holles St John of Lydiard Park by John Vanderbank, sold by Miles Barton for “a high four-figure sum”.

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Art dealer Miles Barton discovered the 3ft x 2ft 4in (91 x 71cm) oil “dirty and unattributed” and has since sold it for “a high four-figure sum” to the Trustees of the Friends of Lydiard Park. The Grade I listed Palladian house in Swindon was home for 500 years to the St John family.

The sitter was the younger brother of John, 2nd Viscount St John, and stepbrother to the famous politician and political philosopher Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke.

Not much is known about his life although it appears he was an enthusiast for the stage, possibly an actor, and had shares in Covent Garden Theatre when he died.

In a statement issued by the Friends of Lydiard Park, Sarah Finch-Crisp, who spotted the portrait for sale, said the discovery “will prompt fresh research into Holles’ life and times and Lydiard’s theatrical links”.

Vanderbank studied under Godfrey Kneller and founded the St Martin’s Lane Academy in 1720, which William Hogarth attended. “High living made him flee to France to escape debts with this portrait of Holles being painted sometime after his return c.1730,” said Barton.

He died from tuberculosis in 1739.