The Pybus family by Nathaniel Dance-Holland, ca. 1769
Pybus commenced his employment with the East India Company in 1742, at the tender age of fifteen. For the next two decades, he held various East India Company appointments in India and Sumatra, returning permanently to England with his wife and family in 1768.
In 1769, the year in which this group study of the Pybus family was most probably painted, Dance exhibited full-length portraits of George III and Queen Charlotte, at the newly founded Royal Academy, London (both paintings are now at Uppark House, Sussex). Pybus’s choice of the fashionable Dance to paint this family portrait indicates not only the sitter’s social aspirations but also the level of wealth he must have accrued through his employment with the East India Company. Indeed, Pybus (whose will refers specifically to ‘our family pictures by Dance’) seems to have commissioned at least three portraits from the artist. The National Gallery of Victoria acquired The Pybus family from a private collection in Victoria’s Western District, the work having passed down through the generations by direct family descent.