Sir Kenelm Digby

1 portrait

Sir Kenelm Digby, by Sir Anthony Van Dyck, circa 1640 - NPG 486 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Sir Kenelm Digby

by Sir Anthony Van Dyck
oil on canvas, circa 1640
46 1/8 in. x 36 1/8 in. (1172 mm x 917 mm)
Purchased, 1877
Primary Collection
NPG 486


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Sitterback to top

  • Sir Kenelm Digby (1603-1665), Naval commander, diplomat and scientist. Sitter in 24 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641), Painter. Artist associated with 1010 portraits, Sitter associated with 31 portraits.

This portraitback to top

A naval commander, diplomat and scientist, Digby was considered to be 'the most accomplished cavalier of his time', and was sent by Charles I to ask for the Pope's help in the Civil War. An early member of the Royal Society, he was renowned for his tall stories and for his 'sympathetic powder' which was said to cure wounds when applied to the weapon which had inflicted them. A friend of the French philosopher Descartes, his prolific writings include an attack on Sir Thomas Browne's Religio Medici. He is shown in this portrait wearing armour and holding the baton of military command.

Linked publicationsback to top

Subjects & Themesback to top

Events of 1640back to top

Current affairs

Second Bishops' War. James Graham, Marquess of Montrose, leading the Scottish armies, occupies northeast of England. Defeat at the Battle of Newburn forces impoverished Charles to sign Treaty of Ripon. Long Parliament. Habeas Corpus Act is passed, abolishing the Star Chamber. Impeachment of Royalists, Earl of Strafford and Archbishop Laud.

Art and science

Author, James Howell, writes Dodona's Grove, a historical allegory of events since 1603. A renowned royalist, Howell's anti-parliamentary remarks in the book would later attract accusations from parliamentarians. The last Caroline masque before the outbreak of civil war, Salmacida Spolia by Sir William Davenant, is performed at Whitehall Palace.

International

Frederick William becomes Elector of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia. The Elector's policy of religious tolerance benefited his state during the religious struggles dominating the Thirty Years' War. The Bay Psalm Book is published, the first book to be printed in British North America.

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