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Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Alexander Pope (1688-1744), Poet

Although sensitive about his image, Pope's appearance is well charted at most stages of his life. He probably sat to a dozen artists and, apart from drawings and miniatures, some nineteen major types and numerous versions are known. An unusually large number survive, from the earliest at the age of seven to the late accounts of c.1742 by Richardson and Vanloo. Portraits, often commissioned by admirers, are now widely dispersed and few collections possess more than one example. The Gallery holdings lack significant sculpture but include the important whole length by Jervas (NPG 112) painted early in the sitter's career, the fine late portrait by Richardson (NPG 1179) and the telling small drawing by Hoare (NPG 873). An exhibition of the major portraits was held in the Gallery in 1961. The comprehensive study by W. K. Wimsatt, 1965, incorporated new information and versions not here detailed. A supplement is being undertaken by J. C. Riley, 1977.

The first portrait inscribed A.Pope. Anno Aetatis/7 and the only one known before his health was impaired, is probably the picture described 'drawn ... when about ten years old: in which his face is round, plump, pretty and of a fresh complexion'. William Mannick, the family priest, further noted that he had often heard the sitter's mother say that 'he was then exactly like that picture: as I have often been myself told that it was the perpetual application that he fell into, about two years afterwards, that chang'd his form; and ruin'd his constitution. - the Laurel-branch, in that picture was not inserted originally; but was added, long after, by Jervas'. [1] The portrait, first seen in an anonymous sale, Christie's, 21 October 1960, lot 19, is now at Yale from the collection of the late Mr James M. Osborn.

During the years of rising fame the main portrait types are the two by Jervas, 1714-27, discussed under NPG 112, and three by Kneller, [2] the earliest of which, 1716, showing Pope with the Iliad, was engraved by Smith (J. Chaloner Smith, British Mezzotinto Portraits, 1878-83, 203) and lettered in the second state G. Kneller ... Pinx 1716/J. Smith fec. et ex.1717. An oil corresponding with the engraving at Raby Castle, collection Lord Barnard, is signed and dated 1719; [3] it shows the opening lines at the beginning of the third volume of Pope's edition of the Iliad, IX, published 1717. The portrait is likely to have been painted for Lord Oxford's famous library at Wimpole and may be a repetition, the prototype perhaps being one of the undated versions in the collection of Lord Bathurst, Lord Crawford or another known to have been in the possession, 1858, of the Rev. Mr Gunnery. [4] Pope and Kneller were neighbours on card-playing terms by 1717 [5] but no specific references to portraiture around this date are known. The second type, a profile with laurel wreath framed by an uroboros, the ancient symbol of eternity (serpent biting its own tail), at the Hirsel, by descent in the collection of the Earls of Home and there since at least c.1804 when listed by Harding, [6] is signed GK in monogram and dated 1721. The concept is reminiscent of Kneller's profile of George I 'for the coinage' (q.v.), and, as Wimsatt plausibly suggests, it may relate to Pope's reworking c.1719-21 of the lines To Mr. Addison, Occasioned by his Dialogues on Medals. [7] A studio drawing, possibly a pattern, is in the British Museum. [8]

From the letter to his publisher Tonson, written probably in May 1722, it appears that a sitting for the third type was delayed by Pope's work on his edition of Shakespeare. In August 1723, however, two months before Kneller's death, Pope informed Lord Harcourt '... I shall not be any way disappointed of the Honour you intend me, of filling a place in your Library with my Picture. I came to Town yesterday, & got admission to Sir Godfrey Kneller, who assur'd me the Original was done ...’. [9] The portrait, dated 1722 and still in the Harcourt collection, at Stanton Harcourt, is inscribed rather than signed and shows the sitter with his arm resting on a volume of Homer.

Jonathan Richardson the elder, a worthy if less fashionable painter, had been acquainted with the Pope family from an early date and with the sitter from c.1716. A drawing of Mrs Pope (her brother-in-law was the miniaturist Samuel Cooper), in the collection of W. S. Lewis, Farmington, Connecticut, is inscribed on the back in the artist's hand from a Dr. done by Candle light abt the Year 1703; another, 1717, is of the sitter's father on his deathbed. [10] Four oil types by Richardson and some thirty-five [11] drawings survive representing the sitter between c.1718 and 1741. The earliest canvas of c.1718 at Hagley shows him seated, nearly whole length, with his dog Bounce, a Great Dane; A. Pope is inscribed on its collar. Although the type has been given to Vanloo, the attribution published in The English Connoisseur, 1766, is surely correct. Authorship and dating are further confirmed by a drawing of the head on which Richardson wrote, Alex. Pope Esq./Painted abt the year 171~[8]/14 Feb: 1735/6. A version at Yale University is without the dog.

The remaining Richardson portraits are late. A second type is the straightforward account, three-quarter face, best represented at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. [12] A smaller version owned by Mrs H. W. Poore, Sussex has also been attributed to Jervas. [13] Both are undated. A head at Petworth is perhaps a variant. The Boston portrait first noted, 1807, at Donington Park, seat of the Earl of Moira, was reputedly painted for Burlington. A date is established from the artist's etching of 1736 with the same face mask inscribed Amicitiae causa and a drawing in the collection of R. Warner, inscribed on the back Alex Pope Esqr 6 Sep 1736. [14] Compared with another drawing dated 22 February of the same year, [15] Pope looks a little young for forty-eight. It is possible that although dated 1736, the Warner drawing and the Boston oil might have been taken from an earlier portrait or idealised. The third type, discussed under NPG 1179, is the outstanding profile of c.1737 with laurel wreath. Another, more prosaic but apparently related profile in dark red fur-lined coat, of which NPG 561 is a poor example, is of c.1738. The final portrait, similar to the last but three-quarter face and about half life-size, in the Fitzwilliam Museum is signed with monogram and dated 1742. A version from the collection of the Marquess of Dalhousie which has passed to Lady Lindsay, Colstoun, bears an inscription on the back This picture Mr Pope sat[e] to my father for at my request for me 1742. [16]

Also discussed by Wimsatt, often for the first time, are thirty-four extant drawings by Richardson - yet more are lost. Many are small scale in pencil on vellum about six inches high, in the manner of the plumbago draughtsmen. Among the best of these are two of July 1741 showing Pope asleep. [17] There are a few more formal life-size chalk drawings, akin to the artist's self-portrait (see Richardson). A number of the drawings relate to the oils, some are repetitive, while still others explore the sitter's features in relation to those of Milton and Chaucer.

If Richardson can be said to have succeeded Kneller and Jervas as painter-in-ordinary to Pope, albeit with less assurance, he at least had an extended acquaintance with the sitter. Surviving examples do not suggest that the same privilege was given to Michael Dahl whose portrait, 1727, is discussed under NPG 4132.

Another artist whose portrait pleases posterity perhaps more than it did the sitter, is Michael Rysbrack. A fine though somewhat aloof marble given by Sir William Garrow (1760-1840) to his executor E. L. Badeley (d. 1868), who presented it to the Athenaeum is incised ALEX: POPE Poeta/M- -R-S-/1730. [18] [Editor's note, 2014: now National Portrait Gallery.] No sittings are recorded but an undated letter, apparently written in the summer of 1725, in which directions to the sculptor's house are given by James Gibbs, Lord Oxford's architect, suggest that Pope may well have visited him. Although Rysbrack would presumably have made a model, no clay, terracotta or plaster of this date is now known. The terracotta acquired by the Fitzwilliam Museum from Spinks in 1932 is posthumous. Completed by January 1761, it is one of a number of pieces discussed in letters from the sculptor to his patron Sir Edward Littleton of Teddesley Hall, Stafford. [19] Some form of the bust must, however, have existed by 29 March 1729 when The Weekly Journal or the British Gazetteer tartly versified: 'REISBRANK, no longer let thy Art be shown/in forming Monsters from the Parian Stone ...' and in November complaint was made that certain 'Gentlemen of the Dunciad' have gone so far as to 'libel an eminent sculptor for making our author's Busto in marble, at the request of Mr. Gibbs the Architect'. A verse generally accepted as Pope's, sent by him to Lord Oxford, proclaimed: ‘Tis granted Sir: the Busto's a damn'd head/Pope is a little Elf/All he can say for't, is, He neither made/the Busto, nor himself'. [20] In 1732 Vertue included 'Mr Alex Pope a Marble' in the list of thirty-nine items 'Modelld from the life many Nobleman Ladies & Learned men and others'. In 1734 a Mr Gerard wrote, 'Pope ordered several Pictures and Busts of Himself, in which he would have been represented as a comely Person; but Mr. Rysbrack scorning to prostitute his Art, made a Bust so like him, that Pope returned it without paying for it'. [21]

An oil roundel by William Kent [22] over a door at Chiswick House is signed and dated on the back 1735, as is another of Inigo Jones, similarly framed, in the same room. The quality, as in other paintings by Kent, is rather weak and the interest lies more in its connection with Burlington (q.v.), the builder of Chiswick. The portrait was listed in a bed chamber in 1761 by Dodsley, with a companion roundel of Lady Burlington by Aikman. [23] An undated stone bust in the Temple of Worthies, Stowe, perhaps of the late 'thirties and attributable to Rysbrack, was made for Pope's friend Richard Temple, Lord Cobham.

There follow the type by Roubiliac of 1738-42 discussed above under NPG 2483, the medal by Dassier recorded by Vertue, 1741, as from life, the portraits by Hoare of c.1739 (NPG 299) and of c.1742 (NPG 873), and finally the important three-quarter length by Vanloo of 1742. The original, in the collection of Lord Mansfield, was painted for William Murray, 1st Lord Mansfield, and given to him, a fellow member of the Scriblerus Club, by the sitter. Murray, as a young man, was also painted by Vanloo (NPG 474). A replica of the portrait of Pope, formerly in the collection of the Earl of Upper Ossory, belongs to W. S. Lewis and an early copy mentioned in a MS list of 1775 is at Knole. [24] Although attributed to Jervas, Faber junior's mezzotint after the portrait (J. Chaloner Smith, British Mezzotinto Portraits, 1878-83, 294) confirms Vanloo's authorship of the prototype; it is lettered Alexander Pope: Poeta Anglus, ob. Ao 1744 Aetat: 57. Hanc Imaginem ex ipso Archetypo a Vanlo picto 1742 expressam viro Honorabili Guilelmo Murray Solicitatori Generali apud quem Deponitur Humillime D.D.D. Johannes Faber ...

1) W. K. Wimsatt, The Portraits of Alexander Pope, 1965, p 5.
2) Ibid, pp 27-72.
3) Ibid, pp 35-36, pl. 5.1.
4) Ibid, pp 37, 43-44, pls 5.2, 5.3.
5) Ibid, p 32.
6) G. P. Harding, List of Portraits ... in Various Mansions of the United Kingdom ... MS, c.1804, NPG archives, II, p 29.
7) W. K. Wimsatt, The Portraits of Alexander Pope, 1965, pp 50-59.
8) A good oil copy, in my view by Richardson, was sold from the Earl of Sefton's collection, Croxteth Park, Liverpool, Christie's, 17 September 1973, lot 1020.
9) W. K. Wimsatt, The Portraits of Alexander Pope, 1965, p 60.
10) Ibid, pp 80-81.
11) Including a lead on vellum, now at Yale, similar to W. K. Wimsatt, The Portraits of Alexander Pope, 1965 (31) from the L. G. Duke sale, Christie's, 29 April 1970, lot 121.
12) W. K. Wimsatt, The Portraits of Alexander Pope, 1965, p 203.
13) Ibid, p 201.
14) Ibid, p 177, pl.32.
15) Ibid, pl.34a.
16) Ibid, pp 220-21, pl.55.1. The prototype may nevertheless be the Richardson of 1738 from Anthony Storer's collection, Christie's, 24 November 1972, lot 62, now at Mellon Centre, Yale. See W. K. Wimsatt, The Portraits of Alexander Pope, 1965 (56) and p 145.
17) W. K. Wimsatt, The Portraits of Alexander Pope, 1965, pp 166, pl.19 (13), 19 (14).
18) Ibid, pp 100-06.
19) M. I. Webb, Michael Rysbrack Sculptor, 1954, pp 76-78, 203-05, 223; W. K. Wimsatt, The Portraits of Alexander Pope, 1965, pp 346-47.
20) W. K. Wimsatt, The Portraits of Alexander Pope, 1965, pp 101, 104.
21) Ibid, p 104.
22) Walpole's description in 1760, 'Horace Walpole's Journals of Visits to Country Seats & etc', edited P. Toynbee, Walpole Society, XVI, 1928, p 23, implies this is by Aikman, but the Anecdotes of Painting in England ... collected by George Vertue; digested... by Horace Walpole, edited J. Dalloway and R. N. Wornum, 1862, p 778 n.1, refer to this roundel as by Kent.
23) R. and J. D. Dodsley, London and Its Environs Described, II, p 116; see also W. K. Wimsatt, The Portraits of Alexander Pope, 1965, pp 127-29.
24) W. K. Wimsatt, The Portraits of Alexander Pope, 1965, p 320.


This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Kerslake, Early Georgian Portraits, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1977, 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.