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18th-century oil painting vandalized at Amherst’s Jones Library being restored


AMHERST — A large, 18th-century portrait of an English nobleman that was vandalized in the spring is being restored and should be back on display at the Jones Library next month. Police were alerted to the vandalism at 5 p.m. May 30, and estimated the damage at $31,000. The investigation remains open, police said Thursday. The portrait was painted by Sir William Beechey in the 1790s, according to the Jones library’s head of special collections, Cyndi Harbeson. The artist lived from 1753-1839, and painted the British royal family of that era along with other rich and famous people.

“Portrait of an English Nobleman” by William Beechey, a portrait dating to the 1790s, was vandalized in May. This is the portrait as it appeared at Jones Library in Amherst in March.

For years, the library has tried to identify the nobleman in the painting, but to no avail. “We haven’t been able to name exactly who he is. We have tried,” Harbeson said. Research indicates he was an earl, she said. According to, “An earl’s robe of estate has three bars of ermine on the cape.”

Sir William Beechey, self-portrait, c. 1800

Prior to it being vandalized, the portrait was prominently displayed along a wall in the main entrance of the library. On a small wooden table under the artwork, the library displayed information about the painting, with the headline, “Who is this?” The description said: “It is not Lord Jeffery Amherst and it is not Samuel Minot Jones (the library’s benefactor).” The canvas, measuring 65 by 50 inches, was gifted to the library in 1926. It came from the estate of William Burnett, who lived from 1861-1924.

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