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Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban

3 of 63 portraits of Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban

by John Vanderbank, after Unknown artist
oil on canvas, 1731?, based on a work of circa 1618
30 1/8 in. x 24 7/8 in. (765 mm x 632 mm)
Transferred from The British Museum, London, 1879
Primary Collection
NPG 520

Sitterback to top

Artistsback to top

  • Unknown artist, Artist. Artist or producer associated with 6578 portraits.
  • John Vanderbank (1694-1739), Portrait painter. Artist or producer associated with 99 portraits, Sitter in 1 portrait.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 27
  • Simon, Jacob, The Art of the Picture Frame: Artists, Patrons and the Framing of Portraits in Britain, 1997 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 8 November 1996 - 9 February 1997), p. 122, 156 Read entry

    Carved and gilt pine, mitred with narrow keys, narrow rebate, fine grade sand on the flat, damaged at bottom right corner, oil gilt except the plain surfaces which are water gilt. 3 1⁄ 2 inches wide.

    When the British Museum transferred some seventy portraits to the National Portrait Gallery in 1879 at least seven came in architectural frames of this unusual pattern.1 The Museum was established in 1753 in Montagu House and three years later selected the artist Arthur Pond, in competition with Andrea Casali, Andien de Clermont and a Mr Anderson, to restore the Montagu House wall paintings. It was a short step to giving Pond the additional responsibility of cleaning and framing the oil paintings in the collection, a task which passed to his assistant, Thomas Black, at his death in September 1758.2

    This portrait of James I's Lord Chancellor, Francis Bacon, was one of a group given to the Museum by its assistant librarian, the Revd Dr Andrew Gifford, which the Trustees in November 1758 ordered to 'be delivered to Mr Black to be cleaned repaired and framed where wanting'. Thomas Black received payments for his work of £33.6s in September 1759 and £17.18s in November 1760.3

    The frame type was probably established while Arthur Pond was responsible for the collection and is a very early example of a 'museum' frame chosen to be relatively inexpensive yet practical and sightly. Though still architectural in character, it lacks the projecting corners of the Kent frames made by Gosset for some of Pond's own work, (see NPG 6085) and the carving of shell and leaf on the top edge is quite shallow. It is possible that the frames were made for the British Museum by Gosset but the Museum accounts are unrevealing, since payment was not made directly to the framemaker, while Pond's own account books only cover the years to 1750 and his executorship papers are no more helpful.4

    1 The following National Portrait Gallery pictures retain British Museum frames of this type: Richard Baxter (NPG 521), called Duke of Monmouth (NPG 556) and called Sir William Walker (NPG 577). Four other frames of this kind have been removed from their pictures. Kent frames of different patterns but perhaps made for the British Museum are found on some larger portraits at the National Portrait Gallery.

    2 The account by J. R. Fawcett Thompson and F. Gordon Roe, 'Some Oil Portraits in the British Museum', Connoisseur, vol.CXLVII, 1961, pp 114-18, 189-95, can be supplemented from the following sources: British Museum General Meeting Minutes (vol.I, p 90); British Museum Committee Minutes (vol.I, pp 133-4; vol.II, pp 407, 437-8, 439, 466, 468, 475).

    3 British Museum General Payments (29 September 1759, 28 November 1760).

    4 Arthur Pond executorship papers (British Library, Add. MS. 23,725).

  • Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, p. 11

Events of 1618back to top

Current affairs

Francis Bacon, Viscount St Alban, is appointed Lord High Chancellor. He would be impeached for bribery three years later ending his political career.
Lord High Treasurer Thomas Howard, Earl of Suffolk, and his wife, Katherine, are charged with embezzlement and found guilty the following year.

Art and science

Jurist, politician and scholar, John Selden, publishes his History of Tythes, in which he concedes the legal right of the Church of England to collect tithes, but denies divine authority.
The Royal College of Physicians compiles the London Pharmacopoeia, a standard list of medicines and their ingredients.


Sir Walter Ralegh's voyage to Guiana tragically fails. Unable to find treasure, his attack against the Spanish settlement San Thomé, during which his son Walter dies, dangerously jeopardises Anglo-Spanish relations. Ralegh returns home and is executed for treason.
Start of the Thirty Years War, precipitated by the Bohemian Revolt.

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