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John Bunyan

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John Bunyan

by Thomas Sadler
oil on canvas, 1684
29 1/2 in. x 25 in. (749 mm x 635 mm)
Purchased, 1902
Primary Collection
NPG 1311

Sitterback to top

  • John Bunyan (1628-1688), Author of 'The Pilgrim's Progress'. Sitter associated with 24 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Thomas Sadler (1630?-1685), Artist. Artist associated with 7 portraits.

This portraitback to top

A tinker by trade, Bunyan turned to religion and became a travelling preacher. Refusing to conform to the doctrines of the Church of England, he was imprisoned for unlicensed preaching between 1660 and 1672 and again in 1675. During his second period of imprisonment he wrote one of most influential religious book in the English language. The Pilgrim's Progress first appeared in 1678 and went through ninety editions in the next one hundred years. Bunyan wrote in simple and forceful language based on the Bible and on the rhythms of everyday seventeenth-century speech. The book he holds in this portrait could represent either the Bible or the Pilgrim's Progress and perhaps was intended to suggest both.

Related worksback to top

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Audio Guide
  • Smartify image discovery app
  • 100 Writers, p. 33
  • Cooper, John, Visitor's Guide, 2000, p. 44
  • John Cooper, National Portrait Gallery Visitor's Guide, 2006, p. 44
  • Piper, David, The English Face, 1992, p. 112
  • Piper, David, Catalogue of Seventeenth Century Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery, 1625-1714, 1963, p. 44
  • Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery: An Illustrated Guide, 2000, p. 76
  • Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery, 1997, p. 76 Read entry

    Most people's idea of the Restoration is dominated by images of the Court, so it is useful to have a corrective in this portrait of John Bunyan, tinsmith, soldier and preacher, best known as the author of The Pilgrim's Progress. It was painted by Thomas Sadler, about whom little is known apart from the fact that he is thought to have been a pupil of Lely. It shows Bunyan aged 56, broad-faced, clutching a Bible and dressed in a plain brown coat with an unexpectedly ornate lace collar.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 87
  • Waterhouse, Ellis Kirkham, The dictionary of 16th & 17th century British painters, 1988, p. 236

Events of 1684back to top

Current affairs

James, Duke of York's influence grows within Charles II's government; the Admiralty commission is abolished, allowing James to resume his role as lord admiral, in all but name. A new generation of Tories, supporters of James are bestowed with influential roles, including Sir George Jeffreys, recently appointed Lord Chief Justice.

Art and science

Italian decorative artist, Antonio Verrio, is appointed 'principal Gardiner and Surveyor' to the King.
Author, John Bunyan, publishes the second part of his Pilgrim's Progress.


Luxembourg surrenders to French forces. Renewed fighting between the French Bourbons and the Spanish Habsburgs had broken out the year before when French troops laid seize to Luxembourg and entered the Spanish Netherlands. Charles II rejects Spanish demands for assistance, determined to remain detached from the conflict.

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