Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue: Bradley

The following text is from the National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Kerslake, Early Georgian Portraits, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1977 (now out of print). For the most up to date research on the Collection, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text. This can be accessed by following the link with each portrait’s title.

In consulting the following, please note that apart from the reformatting which allows the printed catalogue to be made available on-line the text is as published in 1977. Footnotes in the original edition are given within square brackets.

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James Bradley (1693-1762)
Astronomer; FRS, 1718; vicar of Bridstow, 1719; Savilian professor of astronomy at Oxford, 1721; succeeded Halley as astronomer royal, 1742; Copley medallist, 1748; greatly influenced England's adoption of the reformed Gregorian calendar, 1752.

1073 After a portrait by Thomas Hudson, c.1742-7 Oil on mahogany board, 10 1/4 x 8 3/8 in. (261 x 213 mm); bluish-grey eyes, double chin, fresh complexion, long grey wig; black gown, open in front, white bands; painted oval.

A trade label G. Rowney & Co. / Artists' Colourmen,/ 51 Rathbone Place, London [1] formerly on the back of the board, has been removed to the picture dossier.

NPG 1073 is a copy, datable from the trade label to c.1833-40, probably taken from J. Faber junior's engraving of the same size. If engraved soon after it was painted, the type can be dated from the lettering Astronomus Regius to 1742-7. Bradley succeeded Halley as astronomer royal in 1742, and the picture, according to his editor S.P. Rigaud, was painted for his mother who died in 1747. The prototype is probably the Hudson now in the Royal Society; [2] both the age of the artist [3] and the sitter's apparent middle age make it unlikely to be earlier than 1742.

Condition: cleaned and varnished, 1896; squaring is now beginning to show underneath the face.

Collections: bought, 1896, from William Foat, an Aylesbury dealer, who had companion portraits of Sir William Herschel and Halley; previous history unknown.

Engraved: the type engraved by J. Faber junior (CS 41).

Literature: S.P. Rigaud, Miscellaneous Works and Correspondence of the Rev. James Bradley, 1832.

The Hudson is the earliest known portrait. At least two versions exist, one presented to the Bodleian in 1769 by the sitter's daughter Susanna and the other to the Royal Society by her husband, [4] the Rev Samuel Peach; the Rev J. Dallaway has also been given as donor. [5] The eyes in the Royal Society version are hazel. [6] When engraved by E. Scriven for C. Knight's Gallery of Portraits [7] and in the 'NPE', 1867 (342), the artist was given as Richardson. Harding lists the portrait as of c.1804, without artist's name. [8] The Macclesfield collection at Shirburn Castle where a portrait might be expected (the 2nd earl was the sitter's patron) has not been available for study. A portrait with nearly the same face mask as the Hudson but apparently by another hand, at the Royal Observatory, Herstmonceaux Castle, was first recorded in 1831. [9] It was apparently given, through the Royal Society, by Mrs Peach's nephew and executor Samuel Lysons. [10] Although not easily read in its present condition, there is no doubt that it was 'drawn at a more advanced age'. [11] Lysons also owned, in 1795, a small Indian ink drawing of about 1752 by James Ferguson. [12]

1. Post Office London Directory for 1833; in 1832 shown as Rowney and Forster and from 1840 ‘superfine oil and watercolour manufacturers', added.
2. Rigaud, pp.ci and civ, note m.
3. b.1701, noticed, 1733 by Vertue, III, p.66.
4. Poole, I, p.104 (258).
5. Rigaud, p.civ, note m.
6. Information, I. Kaye.
7. The Gallery of Portraits with Memoirs (Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge), VI, 1836, p.69.
8. Harding, II, f.180.
9. Information and photograph, P.S. Laurie, Royal Observatory.
10. Mrs Peach died 21 September 1812; see Rigaud, p.ci, note b.
11. Ibid, p.civ, note m.
12. Lysons, 1795, III, p.267 and note 60; see also Rigaud, Preface to his Miscellaneous Works . . . for relations between Lysons and Peach.

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