Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue: Folkes

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.

Contents Foreword Introduction Catalogue scope Abbreviations Arrangement of entries

Martin Folkes (1690-1754)

Antiquary and man of science; vice-president, 1723, and president, 1741-53, of the Royal Society; president of the Society of Antiquaries, 1750-54; published Tables of English Gold Coins, 1736, and Tables of English Silver Coins, 1745.

1926 Miniature by Bernard Lens, the Younger.
Watercolour on ivory, 3 9/32 x 2 9/16 in. (83 x 65.7 mm) oval; thick dark brown eyebrows, dark brown eyes, pale complexion, long plump face, full-bottomed yellow-grey wig falling to, and behind, his right shoulder; long white cravat, light brown velvet coat, open, his left hand on the quadrant of a scientific instrument.

Signed with initials, left, in monogram: BL. On the backing paper, now removed to the picture dossier: [M]artin Folkes Esq /[o]f the Royal Society / Born Octber 1690 died 28 Ju[. .], and, in another hand: This Miniature was the work/ of the celebrated Bernard Lens.

When listed by Farrer, 1908, at Hardwick House, Suffolk, [1] NPG 1926 was catalogued as Folkes painted by Lens in 1720. No date is now visible on the miniature or its case. The inscription given by Farrer read: Sir Martin Folkes, P.R.S. Born, Oct. 1690. Died 28 June 1754. Taken in 1720. It is not known when the miniature entered the collection at Hardwick nor is any connection with the family immediately apparent. The features of the sitter agree well with established portraits, particularly with the Richardson of 1718. The instrument shown seems to be a mural quadrant with telescope, but has not been precisely identified. The drawing, perhaps inaccurate, might represent a portion of Hadley's octant of 1731, now in the Science Museum. It is distinguished from it by having, for instance, a telescopic sight, the eyepiece being just below Folkes' hand. [2] 

Condition: good.

Collections: received, 1922; bequeathed by G. Milner-Gibson-Cullum, with other portraits. 

Exhibited: 'International Exhibition of Miniatures', Brussels, 1912, British section (as ‘Sir' Martin Folkes).

Literature: R.E. Raspe, A Descriptive Catalogue of a General Collection . . . by James Tassie, 1791; M.I. Webb, ‘Roubiliac Busts at Wilton', Country Life, CXIX, 1956; Marc Girouard, 'Hogarth and His Friends', Country Life, CXXXIX, 1966. 


The field is rich. A painting, now lost, is known from the engraving by J. Smith, 1719, lettered J Richardson Pinx 1718 and a drawing inscribed Mr Fowkes with a date, bottom right, now illegible is in the Fitzwilliam. Another also on vellum, in the British Museum, with a heavier face and a different cap is inscribed on the back with the sitter's name and dated 8 December 1735. Both are stamped with the Richardson collection mark. [3] An oil by J. Vanderbank, 1736, at Hillington Hall in 1909, [4] engraved by Faber junior, 1737, with a bust of Newton in the background, possibly denotes the sitter's connection with the Royal Society where there is the fine Hogarth of 1741. Another oil from Hillington Hall [5] depicting the sitter as president of the Society, corresponds with the engraving by McArdell after Hudson who also painted members and friends of the ffolkes family c.1748-50. A fine bust by Roubiliac inscribed M. FOLKES ... MDCCXLIX, at Wilton in the Earl of Pembroke's collection, [6] makes much of the sitter's protruding lower lip. Dr Maty purchased the plaster bust in the British Museum at the sculptor's sale in 1762. The posthumous monument by Tyler and Ashton in Westminster Abbey, [7] dated 1788, is only of moderate iconographical value. A tracing in the Gallery archives, of a profile to the right, after an unknown original, shows Folkes at a fairly advanced age. He has been suggested for the stout and, so far, unidentified patron in Hayman's self-portrait in his studio [8] (see below, Hayman, Francis, NPG 217). [Editor's note, 2013: the 'patron' is now generally identified as Grosvenor Bedford.]

Medals by Dassier, 1740, [9] and by an unknown artist, 1742, [10] are in the British Museum [Editor's note, 2013: that by Dassier is also in the National Portrait Gallery]. A wax medallion attributed to Tassie is inthe Württembergisches Landesmuseum, Stuttgart. [11


1. Farrer, p.151.
2. Information from H. Tait, British Museum.
3. F. Lugt, Les Marques de Collections, Supplement, The Hague, 1956, pp. 406-07.
4. Duleep Singh, I, p.245 (11), then property of Sir William Browne ffolkes.
5. Ibid,(10).
6. Exh. 'British Portraits', 1956-57 (171), also 'Painting and Sculpture in England 1700-1750', Liverpool, 1958 (47); Esdaile, pp.90-91; Webb, p.805.
7. Whinney, pl.115a.
8. Girouard, p.189.
9. Medallic Illustrations, II, p.558.
10. Ibid, p.571.
11. Raspe, II, p.741 (14183).