Nathaniel Louis Cohen

1 portrait

Nathaniel Louis Cohen, by Fred Roe, 1908 -NPG 4123 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue

Nathaniel Louis Cohen

by Fred Roe
Oil on canvas, 1908
15 7/8 in. x 19 1/4 in. (407 mm x 489 mm)
NPG 4123


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Inscriptionback to top

On reverse of canvas inscr. in black ink: ‘MR. NATHANIEL L. COHEN / BY/ FRED ROE / R.I. / 13-XI-1908.’ [the words ‘NATHANIEL L.’ inserted as afterthought above words ‘MR. COHEN’].

This portraitback to top

This head was a preparatory sketch for Fred Roe’s large painting, A City Banquet, destroyed in 1941. [1] The scene showed a City livery dinner with the guest of honour, Sir Charles Swinfen Eady, thanking Francis Farnan, Master of the Clothworkers’ Company in 1907, on behalf of the guests. The ten figures arranged around the punchbowl included members of various different livery companies; three Royal Academicians (Hubert von Herkomer, Arthur Hacker and Frederick William Pomeroy); and two London County councillors, Sir Melville Beachcroft and Nathaniel Cohen. This subject painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1911 (222), when it was photographed for reproduction.

In fact the City Banquet project took at least three years from conception to completion. For instance, the pose in NPG 4123, with head sharply turned to the right, sketched in 1908, was not in the end adopted for the figure of Cohen; and in the finished painting he appeared almost full-face in the group at right. It was the artist’s son Frederic Gordon Roe who presented the sketch to the National Portrait Gallery in 1959, together with valuable information on both sketch and the final painting, drawn from the entries in his father’s ledgers: [2] ‘This head of Mr. Nathaniel Cohen was transferred to the large canvas 17 December, 1908, and Mr. Cohen gave a sitting for it on the following day; but a differently posed, nearly full-faced head of the same subject was substituted for it on 13 May and 2 June, 1909.’ [3]

Charles Swinfen Eady, the central figure in the City Banquet composition, was actually Fred Roe’s brother-in-law. [4] The completed painting, which remained with the artist and only arrived at the Clothworkers’ Company in 1921, had not been a livery company commission but Roe’s own project, and this explains in part the viability of such a long gestation.

The sketch, which is on a piece of unstretched canvas, was accepted for the NPG Reference Collection in October 1959. There are two other oil portrait sketches by Fred Roe in the collection, of Sir Coleridge Grove (NPG 2420) and Sir (Edward) Guy Dawber (NPG 4168).

Carol Blackett-Ord

Footnotesback to top

1) A City Banquet: Mr Justice Swinfen Eady replies for the Visitors, 58 x 94in; presented to Clothworkers’ Company 1921; destroyed night of 10/11 May 1941. For further details see Roe 1978, p.34.
2) Roe presented the Roe Ledgers 1885–1947, 4 vols, to the RA in 1964; see RA Archives, GB/0397.
3) Note by F. Gordon Roe, 18 May 1959, see NPG RP 4123.
4) For a pencil sketch by Roe of Eady (later Lord Swinfen), undated but inscr. ‘Mr Justice Swinfen Eady during song “Come into the Garden Maud” Clothworkers Dinner’, see Sketchbooks of Fred Roe, vol.I, p.11, NPG Reference Collection.

Physical descriptionback to top

Head-and-shoulders, three-quarters to right, dark hair centrally parted, dark moustache and beard, gold rimmed spectacles masking a slight squint, ruddy cheeks, wearing wing collar.

Provenanceback to top

Given by F. Gordon Roe, the artist’s son, October 1959.

View all known portraits for Nathaniel Louis Cohen