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Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue: Mead

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

Richard Mead (1673-1753)

Physician; son of Matthew Mead, nonconformist minister of Stepney; studied at Utrecht and Leyden; MD Padua, 1695, and Oxford, 1707; began practice in Stepney, 1696, in the house where he was born; Mechanical Account of Poisons, published 1702, at once established his reputation; FRS, 1703, and council member from 1715 until his death; instrumental in introducing inoculation; attended, among other leading figures, Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Robert Walpole, Bishop Burnet, George I, also physician-in-ordinary to George II; persuaded Thomas Guy to bequeath his fortune to the hospital which bears his name; unrivalled as a private collector, moved, 1720, to Great Ormond Street where his gallery of rare books, MSS, coins and objects of vertu was open to all who cared to visit it.

4157 By Jonathan Richardson, c.1738
Oil on canvas, 30 x 25 in. (762 x 635 mm); dark blue eyes, brown eyebrows, long straight nose, pimple beside his right nostril, double chin, white wig centre-parted resting on his right shoulder; white cravat, brown velvet coat, unbuttoned; plain brown background.

On the stretcher an old MS label reads: Doctor Mead / By Richardson; on the back of the canvas a MS extract from The College of Physicians Quarterly, October 1879, and, apparently in the same hand: This is the portrait of Dr. Richard Mead.

A drawing with the same face mask and a study of the lips, lower left, in the British Museum since 1902, is inscribed Dr. Meade / 5 Oct. 1738. A profile drawing etched in reverse and lettered Richard Mead. M.D. / J. Richardson f. 1739 is in the Ashmolean Museum; another, also there, is nearly full face and close to the one in the British Museum. Both are stamped with the small R, bottom right, associated with the collection of the younger Richardson [1] whose property, sold posthumously in 1772, included a further portrait of the sitter on vellum by the elder Richardson. NPG 4157 is a typical Richardson.

Condition: somewhat rubbed; discoloured varnish removed and thin areas touched in, 1961; transferred at some time to a wedged stretcher but apparently not relined.

History: bought, 1960, from J.F. Da C. Andrade.

15 Studio(?) of Allan Ramsay, 1740
Oil on canvas, 49 3/4 x 39 3/4 in. (1264x 1010 mm); dark blue eyes, grey eyebrows, straight nose, compressed lips, double chin, long grey wig falling behind shoulders; dark brown velvet coat, plain white cravat with tasselled ends, white wrist ruffles; gilt sword hilt; on a ledge or table an open folio, a letter and an envelope addressed To / Dr Mead, a bearded classical bust behind and, in a niche right, a draped whole length statue, presumably repre­senting Aesculapius, god of medicine.

Inscribed beside the letter, right: A. Ramsay 1740.

Despite the inscription or signature, and the resemblance to the fine full length in the Foundling Hospital inscribed Painted and Given by Ramsay 1747 [2], the quality of NPG 15 poses a problem of authorship. The inflexible handling is not unknown in Ramsay's early work, as for example in his portrait of Grant signed and dated 1739; [3] NPG 15 may, however, be from his studio [4] rather than autograph. In both portraits an envelope is shown addressed To/ Dr Mead. Inthe Foundling Hospital painting the statue is of Hygieia, goddess of health; [5] the classical figure of Aesculapius in NPG 15 is from no recognisable model. [6] The bust behind the sitter's right shoulder, previously believed to be the bronze known as Homer or Pindar [7] but now identified as Sophocles, [8] is very like the head acquired by Mead in 1720 from Tart House, the London home of the Earl of Arundel's widow. [9] The Mead bust was purchased at his sale, Langford's, 13 January 1755, by the Earl of Exeter who presented it to the British Museum in 1760.

A version of NPG 15, perhaps earlier and with differences in the right hand, was presented c.1747-50 to the Society of Apothecaries by Dr Lancelot Burton Jackson. Another, 30 x 25 in., possibly a copy, now in the Bodleian Library, was given to the University by Swithin Adee, MD (d.1786) of Corpus Christi. [10]

Condition: surface cleaned, varnished three times and lined between 1857 and 1902.

Collections: bought, 1857, from George Greenland of Anerly.

Literature: G. Wolstenholme and D. Piper, The Royal College of Physicians of London Portraits, 1964; D.E.L. Haynes, 'The Arundel Marbles', Archaeology, XXI, 1968.


A leading practitioner as well as a distinguished scholar and collector, Mead was most frequently portrayed between the years 1725 and his death, 1754. The main collection of portraits is in the Royal College of Physicians. [11] These include a drawing of 1725 by the antiquary William Stukeley, a miniature by Lens now somewhat damaged, painted the following year, and two versions of a profile by Arthur Pond, the artist and dealer, dated 1739 and 1743. A half length by Dahl datable on costume to c.1730 lent to the 'NPE' 1867 (381) by the sitter's descendant Sir H.S. Wilmot, Bart, [12] is now missing. The Richardson drawings (NPG 4157, above) and the first Ramsay type (NPG 15, above) belong to this period.

The finest portraits were taken in Mead's later years. An undated three-quarter length presented to the College of Physicians by Dr Charles Chauncey in 1759 is possibly by Hoare, c.1740. The drawing by Joseph Vanhaecken, Scottish National Gallery (2164), is related to the Ramsay whole length of 1747 in the Foundling Hospital. A bust by Roubiliac was commissioned after the sitter's death by Dr Askew and the marble given by him to the College of Physicians in 1756; its presentation of Mead's 'real features' was much commended. [13] A terracotta model for it purchased at Roubiliac's sale [14] was presented, 1762, to the British Museum by Dr Maty who wrote a biography of the sitter. Scheemaker's monument in Westminster Abbey is dated 1754.


1. W.K. Wimsatt, The Portraits of Alexander Pope, 1965, pp.151-52, and references there cited.
2. Nicolson, p.76 (68).
3. Sir James Grant of Grant, Bart, exh. 'Allan Ramsay (1713-1784) his Masters and Rivals', Edinburgh, 1963 (47).
4. As suggested by Prof. Smart verbally, 1975.
5. Nicolson, loc. cit.
6. Haynes, verbal, 1968.
7. Scharf, p.307 and note.
8. Catalogue of Bronzes, BM (847).
9. Haynes, pp.206-07.
10. Poole, I (255).
11. Wolstenholme and Piper, pp.282-91.
12. The then owner of Queen Caroline by Amigoni, painted for her physician Mead (now NPG 4332, see above, Queen Caroline).
13. Wolstenholme and Piper, p.290.
14. Esdaile, p.103.

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