The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Adam Smith (1723-1790), Political economist

Dugald Stewart stated that Smith ‘never sat for his picture’ (Biographical Memoirs, 1811, p 117) and, the Tassie medallion apart, his iconography is very meagre.

1787
Medallion by James Tassie, see NPG 3237 and NPG 1242.

Medallion by James Tassie, undraped profile all’antico (illus. L. S. Ross, The Life of Adam Smith, 1995, front.). Example Scottish NPG (PG157). A similar bust used in a medal of 1787 attributed to John Milton (L. Brown, A Catalogue of British Historical Medals 1760-1960: The Accession of George III to the Death of William IV, 1980, no.268).

Etching by J. Kay, whole-length profile, his stick over his shoulder, ‘as a soldier carries his musket’, standing between Lord Rockville and Commissioner Brown (A Series of Original Portraits and caricature etchings, by the late John Kay, with biographical sketches and anecdotes, 1842, I, no.XXXIII).

1790
Etching by J. Kay, whole-length profile, standing by a table, ‘The Author of the Wealth of Nations’ (A Series of Original Portraits and caricature etchings, by the late John Kay, with biographical sketches and anecdotes, 1842, I, no.XXXIV).

c.1790?
Painting by an unknown artist, half length, with wig and dark-blue coat. Scottish NPG (PG 1472; illus. L. S. Ross, The Life of Adam Smith, 1995, cover). Approximately the same age as in the Tassie profile and probably a posthumous derivation from it (cf. J. M. Gray, 'The Portraits of Adam Smith' in J. Bonar, Catalogue of the Library of Adam Smith, 1894, p XXV-VI).

Posthumous
The many busts and statues include:
1845 Marble bust by Patric Park (Glasgow Art Gallery). 1851 Marble bust, by Carlo Marochetti (Town Hall, Kirkcaldy); a reduced bronze version in Balliol College, Oxford (illus. Portraits of Balliol College, 1990, p 26). c.1867 Marble statue by Johann Gasser (Hunterian Museum, Glasgow), and a number of reduced plaster versions. 1869 Statue by William Theed (rear façade of Burlington House, London). 1879 Statuette by Joseph Durham as a young man, seated meditating (J. M. Gray, 'The Portraits of Adam Smith' in J. Bonar, Catalogue of the Library of Adam Smith, 1894, p XXVIII). 1887 Statuette by Charles Macbride, used by H. S. Gamley 1904 for the figure of Smith on the north-west tower of the Scottish NPG. 1888 Marble bust by D. W. Stevenson (Wallace Monument, Stirling).
An unspecified plaster cast, ‘formerly in the collection of Sir Thomas Lawrence’, exhibited Crystal Palace (Samuel Phillips, The Portrait Gallery of the Crystal Palace, 1854, no.426).

Doubtful Portraits
Painting by Tyron Collopy, three-quarter length seated to right, his left hand raised, a copy of The Wealth of Nations on the table. Royal Museum of Scotland (see J. M. Gray, 'The Portraits of Adam Smith' in J. Bonar, Catalogue of the Library of Adam Smith, 1894, pp XXVI-VII).



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.