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Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Robert Adam (1728-1792), Architect

Aspects of Adam’s iconography have been surveyed by J. Steegman & C. K. Adams, Architectural Review, XCI, 1942, p 77, and by I. G. Brown, 'Commemorative Portraits of Robert Adam', Burlington Magazine, CXX, 1978.

1755-56
Painting by Allan Ramsay. Painted in Rome, where Adam called it ‘near finishd’ on 24 May 1755, but it was still incomplete, or undelivered, on 8 November; listed with the Adam family in London 1781 (A. Smart, ed. J. Ingamells, Allan Ramsay, a complete catalogue of his Paintings, 1999, no.601).

1756
Etching by G. F. Piranesi, an imaginary classical medal with the profile heads of Piranesi and Adam, within the dedicatory plate of Piranesi’s Campus Martius, etched in 1756 and published in 1762 (illus. G. Beard, Work of Robert Adam, 1978, pl.10). The Adam profile was separately engraved, pub. W. Richardson 1808 (illus. Connoisseur, IX, 1904, p 31). A curiosity, of limited use as a likeness.

Miniature by Laurent Pêcheux, bust length, showing a wart on his right cheek. Private Scottish collection. Exhibited Lord Mansfield, Kenwood, 1971 (58), reasonably identified with the Pêcheux portrait painted in Rome described by Adam on 8 November 1756 as a head and shoulders to be finished within two weeks (A. Smart, Allan Ramsay, 1992, p 293n24). Probably the miniature of Robert Adam offered for sale from Blair Adam at Sotheby's, 11 June 1926, lot 86.

c.1770-74
Painting attributed to George Willison, see NPG 2953.

before 1791
‘Bust of Mr R. Adam in plaister by Hokings’, Adam sale, Christie’s, 22 May 1818, lot 10; the sculptor identified as James Hoskins (R. Gunnis, Dictionary of British Sculptures, 1968 ed., p 211).

before 1792
Silhouette with Adam’s sister, Mrs Mary Drysdale, in 1792, from which John Clerk of Penicuik modelled a clay bust (I. G. Brown, 'Commemorative Portraits of Robert Adam', Burlington Magazine, CXX, 1978, p 448).

1792
Death mask and bust by Joseph Nollekens (I. G. Brown, 'Commemorative Portraits of Robert Adam', Burlington Magazine, CXX, 1978, pp 445-46). Nollekens designed a monument for Adam incorporating a bust; preparatory drawing in the Victoria and Albert Museum (E.4369.1920; illus. J. Physick, Designs for English Sculpture, 1969, p 11).

Medallion by James Tassie, undraped classical bust, smooth faced (Scottish NPG, PG 201; J. M. Gray, James and William Tassie, a biographical and critical sketch with a catalogue of their portrait medallions of modern personages, 1894, no.5). A comparable ivory relief is at Blair Adam (illus. J. Lees-Milne, Age of Adam, 1947, pl.44). Although this profile looks younger than the other Tassie medallions, it probably dates from after April 1792.

Medallions by James Tassie, using the same profile, showing two warts (on his cheek and below his ear, cf. Pêcheux 1756 above): a draped classical bust (Scottish NPG, PG 434; J. M. Gray, James and William Tassie, a biographical and critical sketch with a catalogue of their portrait medallions of modern personages, 1894, no.6), and with wig, coat and neckcloth, dated 1792 (Scottish NPG, PG 262; Victoria and Albert Museum, 414.1323.1885; J. M. Gray, James and William Tassie, a biographical and critical sketch with a catalogue of their portrait medallions of modern personages, 1894, no.4). On 1 April 1792 Tassie wrote ‘Nolleckens did mould the face after decease from that we will be enabled to make a model’ (I. G. Brown, 'Commemorative Portraits of Robert Adam', Burlington Magazine, CXX, p 446).

Doubtful Portraits
Attributed to Batoni, sold Christie’s, 26 June 1964, lot 106 (A. M. Clark, ed. E. P. Bowron, Pompeo Batoni, 1985, p 373, as not by Batoni); by Raeburn, Aberdeen Art Gallery (illus. J. Greig, Raeburn, 1911, pl.4), and unattributed, RIBA, London (illus. J. Swarbrick, Robert Adam & His Brothers, 1915, p 26, and see The Burlington Magazine, XCVI, 1954, p 102).

On 11 May 1772 ‘Mr Adams of the Adelphi’ is entered in Reynolds’s sitter-book, but there is no known portrait. On 11 and 16 November 1780 a ‘Mr Adams’ sat to Romney (H. Ward & W. Roberts, Romney, A Biographical and Critical Essay with a Catalogue Rainsonné of his Works, 1904, I, p 93). Adam has been identified in plaster medallions by Zucchi in the ceiling of 20 Portman Square and above a fireplace at Mersham-le-Hatch (the former showing him some ten years older than the latter; J. Lees-Milne, Caves of Ice, 1983, pp 36-37).



This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, National Portrait Gallery, 2004, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.