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John Horne Tooke

4 of 49 portraits of John Horne Tooke

John Horne Tooke, by John Raphael Smith, exhibited 1811 - NPG 6727 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

John Horne Tooke

by John Raphael Smith
pastel, exhibited 1811
26 in. x 18 7/8 in. (660 mm x 479 mm)
Purchased, 2005
Primary Collection
NPG 6727


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Sitterback to top

  • John Horne Tooke (1736-1812), Radical politician; MP and philologist. Sitter associated with 49 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • John Raphael Smith (1752-1812), Portrait painter, engraver and pastellist. Artist associated with 183 portraits, Sitter in 1 portrait.

This portraitback to top

This unusual 'sick-bed' portrait shows the radical politician, John Horne Tooke, a year before his death, when he was bed-ridden by chronic illness. Although it appears to be an intimate portrait, it was actually a very public work of art. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy and published as an engraving. Contemporary satirists ridiculed Horne Tooke for his support of the French Revolution. This portrait was no doubt intended to improve his public image by presenting him in a more sympathetic light. Horne Tooke appears as he would to a visitor or friend. He reclines on a very fashionable neo-Classical day-bed, surrounded by books. His special suit was designed to relieve some of the pain of his gout and rheumatism, whilst he remained presentable. At his feet is the third volume of his The Diversions of Purley (the first two volumes were published in 1786 and 1805) indicating his expertise in the study of languages. The portrait stresses Horne Tooke's moral and intellectual strength despite his physical suffering.