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Sir Isaac Newton

3 of 46 portraits of Sir Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton, studio of Enoch Seeman, circa 1726-1730 - NPG 558 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Sir Isaac Newton

studio of Enoch Seeman
oil on canvas, circa 1726-1730
50 in. x 58 1/4 in. (1270 mm x 1480 mm)
Transferred from British Museum, 1879
Primary Collection
NPG 558


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Sitterback to top

  • Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), Mathematical scientist. Sitter associated with 46 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Enoch Seeman (1689 or 1690-1744), Painter. Artist associated with 18 portraits, Sitter in 2 portraits.

This portraitback to top

An immensely influential mathematical scientist, in one year (1665-6), when driven from Cambridge by plague, Newton formulated a series of important theories concerning light, colour, calculus and the 'universal law of gravitation'. According to tradition, he developed the latter theory after seeing an apple fall from a tree. He published Principia Mathematica (1687) and the Optics (1704), and was knighted in 1705. Newton, who was President of the Royal Society from 1703 until his death, is seen in this portrait by Vanderbank seated at a table. Before him is a celestial globe and an open volume, probably the third edition of his Principia Mathematica.

Linked publicationsback to top

Events of 1726back to top

Current affairs

Mary Toft allegedly gives birth to sixteen rabbits in Godalming Surrey and becomes the subject of considerable controversy, involving the King's own physician Nathaniel St Andre. The story is later revealed to be a hoax. The Craftsman, a polemical political periodical, is launched by opposition leaders Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke and William Pulteney, 1st Earl of Bath.

Art and science

St Martin-in-the-Fields church in London is completed to the design of the architect James Gibbs. Jonathan Swift publishes his bitterly satirical Gulliver's Travels. Poet Alexander Pope produces an English language translation of Homer's Odyssey. Poet Allan Ramsay opens the first circulating library in Edinburgh.

International

French writer Voltaire begins an exile in England which lasts three years. City of Montevideo is founded by the Spanish in Uruguay.

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Peter Nockolds

23 April 2016, 21:47

Further to the above the beam of light which falls on the globe corresponds to the unopened copy of the Optics. It falls on the point of heaven which represents the apples of the Hesperides, corresponding to the well-known story of the discovery of gravity. And the copy of the Principia is open at a section relating to the attraction dealing with 'The Attractive Forces of Spherical Bodies'. In other copies of this portrait the Principia is open in different sections. This rather suggests that, contrary to Keynes, this is the master copy of the portrait.

Peter Nockolds

22 April 2016, 05:30

The celestial globe is very unusual in that the celestial pole is horizontal. Twelve lines can becseen radiating from the pole of the ecliptic, surrounded by the constellation Draco. These lines will cross the ecliptic, the apparent path of the sun through heaven, to form the twelve signs of the zodiac. This must refer to Newton's work on chronology in which he discusses the origin of the zodiac: an unauthorised abridgement of his chronology appeared in Paris in 1725. It's interesting that Seeman feels able to refer to it. This bears comparison with Newton's monument in Westminster Abbey. I may be able to send more info if you are interested. (sent from Moscow)

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