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Regency Portraits Catalogue

Sir Benjamin Thompson, Count von Rumford (1753-1814), Scientist; founder of the Royal Institution

Sanborn C. Brown and Kenneth Scott, 'Portraits of Benjamin Thomson, Count Rumford' in Antiques, March 1956, pp 242-5 is perfunctory but with useful illustrations. I acknowledge special help for this entry from Mr James Garvin of the New Hampshire Historical Society.

c.1783
Oil by Gainsborough in the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, oval head and shoulders in scarlet civilian coat. There is no record of Gainsborough's ever having had a sitting from Thompson and the provenance cannot be traced further back than 1908 but the portrait is undoubtedly a fine work from his hand and may be the portrait his daughter referred to in her bequest to Joseph B. Walker: 'a Portrait in oil of the Count, in the uniform of a British officer, taken at the age of thirty in London' (Complete Works with Memoir by the Rev George Ellis, 1876, I, p 649). It is discussed in Sanborn C. Brown, Benjamin Thomson, Count Rumford, 1979, appendix pp 407-8. A variant possibly by G. Dupont, bequeathed to the New Hampshire Historical Society by Rumford's daughter in 1852, has epaulettes and facings added and represents him in uniform as Lieutenant-Colonel of the King's American Dragoons, a regiment he raised himself in 1781.

1790
Miniature by Peter Paillou at Christie's 18 December 1974 (50), three-quarter-length seated in blue coat writing at a table with green cloth, paper and a Rumford grate; in the background a Rumford stove and shelf loaded with grates; possibly one of four versions, signed and dated 1790.

1792
Paste medallion by Tassie listed in J. M. Gray, James and William Tassie, 1894, p 144, dated 1790; however copies at Sotheby's 13 April 1976 (146) dated 1795 and at Broadlands and Royal Institution are dated 1796 and all seem to be based on the Kellerhoven profile of 1792; Ridley's stipple engraved in The European Magazine, 1 March 1797 possibly relates to the Tassie medallion as does the Rumford Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences designed by Moritz Furst.

Oils by Kellerhoven, see NPG 1332.

1797
Drawing by G. Dillis in Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, Munich, was engraved by Rauschmayr 1797; Dillis, Roman Catholic priest and Professor of Drawing is mentioned briefly in the Countess's narrative (Complete Works with Memoir by the Rev George Ellis, 1876, I, p 305).

Bust made for his birthday in March 1797 is mentioned in the Countess's narrative (Complete Works with Memoir by the Rev George Ellis, 1876, I, pp 316-17).

1799
Portrait by W. Lane, probably a drawing, was exhibited RA 1799 (455); a drawing by Lane of Rumford and his daughter is signed on backboard: W Lane Oct 1799 and bears his trade label: Portraits Drawn by W Lane, No.10 Hamilton-Street, Piccadilly, or At the Sitter's Residence. This Option Being highly favourable to Characteristic Likeness in general (photograph in NPG). Another, 'in colored chalk, cabinet size, by Lane, taken in 1809 - the one most cherished by his daughter', was bequeathed by the Countess to Joseph B. Walker (Complete Works with Memoir by the Rev George Ellis, 1876, I, p 650).

c.1799
Oil by J. R. Smith in Royal Society (acquired in 1917) to which he was elected 1779, three-quarter-length seated in dark blue coat, green breeches, pale blue Ribbon and Star of White Eagle, exhibited RA 1800 (560); mezzotint by J. R. Smith published 2 April 1801; lithograph vignette published Vincent Brooks as frontispiece to Frederick Edwards, Our Domestic Fireplaces, 1870. An oil copy is in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Boston, Mass. and a pastel copy, probably from the mezzotint, is in the New Hampshire Historical Society collection.

1800
Etching by Gillray, 'The Comforts of a Rumford Stove/vide Dr G—rn—ts Lectures/Js Gillray des & fect - ad vivum', published 12 June 1800, whole-length warming his backside before a Rumford fireplace. He also appears as an amused spectator in Gillray's satire 'Scientific Researches!' published 1802 (see under Davy). Coloured impressions are in Works of Gillray in NPG library.

c.1800
Silhouette by unknown artist, profile to right, hair in queue, Benjamin Count Rumford/FRS ..., probably the 'small profile of him in shade' that made his young daughter imagine him 'dark in complexion, possibly sunburnt' (H. B. Jones, The Royal Institution, 1871, p 57).

c.1801-4
Miniature by Henriette Rath probably painted in Paris during his journeys between London and Munich, or at the time of his marriage to Mme Lavoisier in 1804; it is known from Middlemist's stipple engraving.

c.1802
Oil by Anne Louise Girodet in collection of M le Comte de Chabrol, half-length to left slightly smiling (reproduced Antiques, p 244).

1812
Oil by Rembrandt Peale in American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Boston, exhibited 'Return to Albion', NPG Washington, 1979 (30) reproduced p 41 and in Apollo, CX, 1979, p 348.

Undated
Oil by J. G. Edlinger in Bayerischen Staats-gemäldesammlung, Munich, undated but about 1812 (reproduced Antiques, p 244).

Small oil attributed to Prud'hon at Harvard University.

In his statue by Caspar Zumbusch in the Maximilian Strasse, Munich, he wears Bavarian military uniform, Ribbon of White Eagle and gown of Académie des Sciences. The memorial in the English Garden in Munich bears a medallic profile deriving from Tassie. The Royal Society Rumford Medal, founded in 1796, was re-designed by Charles Wiener in 1863 and bears Rumford's profile taken, not from the Royal Society J. R. Smith portrait as stated in the Dictionary of National Biography but from the Kellerhoven oil in the Royal Institution (Complete Works with Memoir by the Rev George Ellis, 1876, I, p 249). A bust of Faraday used to stand poised precariously on the Rumford stove in the Manager's Room at the Royal Institution until about 1928 (reproduced Proc of Rl, XXXIX, 1963, p 375).

Posthumous
1862
'Men of Science Living in 1807-8' by Gilbert (NPG 1075).



This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: Richard Walker, Regency Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, 1985, 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.