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Sir Thomas Smythe (Smith)

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Sir Thomas Smythe (Smith)

by Simon de Passe, published by John Woodall
engraving, 1616
6 5/8 in. x 4 in. (168 mm x 102 mm) paper size
Given by the daughter of compiler William Fleming MD, Mary Elizabeth Stopford (née Fleming), 1931
Reference Collection
NPG D26047

Sitterback to top

Artistsback to top

  • Simon de Passe (1595-1647), Engraver. Artist associated with 202 portraits, Sitter in 4 portraits.
  • John Woodall (1556-1643), Surgeon. Artist associated with 1 portrait, Sitter in 3 portraits.

Related worksback to top

  • NPG D26049: Sir Thomas Smythe (Smith) (based on same portrait)
  • NPG D25352: Sir Thomas Smythe (Smith) (based on same portrait)
  • NPG D26048: Sir Thomas Smythe (Smith) (based on same portrait)

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Bolland, Charlotte, Tudor & Jacobean Portraits, 2018, p. 167 Read entry

    Sir Thomas Smythe was a merchant, politician and colonial administrator. His father, Thomas 'Customer' Smythe, had been the collector of customs duties in the port of London. The younger Thomas financed a number of international trade ventures, obtaining settlement rights to the Virginia colony from Sir Walter Ralegh; he was appointed the first governor of the East India Company when it was formed in 1600, and was also involved in the Muscovy Company. Suspected of involvement in Essex's rebellion in 1601, he was imprisoned for the rest of Elizabeth I's reign. James I freed him and gave him a knighthood before sending him as a special ambassador to the Russian tsar. During James's reign he obtained a royal charter for the Virginia Company of London and became the new colony's treasurer and de-facto governor, although he never travelled there. This engraving commemorates Smythe's many ventures. He holds a partly rolled chart, inscribed with the words 'Russia' and 'Virgi[nia]', while the corners of the composition are decorated with ships' anchors, a ship, and the barrels and bales of goods that he transported across the world. The engraving was included in John Woodall's The Surgions Mate (1617), which became a standard text to advise surgeons on ships on medical treatments at sea; Smythe had appointed Woodall as Surgeon General to the East India Company.

Events of 1616back to top

Current affairs

Playwright, William Shakespeare, dies in Stratford-Upon-Avon on 23rd April, after he contracted a fever. He is buried days later inside Holy Trinity Church in Stratford.
James I's second son, Charles, is invested as Prince of Wales at a lavish ceremony at Whitehall.

Art and science

Poet and playwright Benjamin Jonson, is granted a royal pension effectively establishing him as the first poet laureate in all but name.
Queen Anne commissions Inigo Jones to design a pavilion at Greenwich, the Queen's House.


Sir Walter Ralegh, released from prison, begins planning an expedition to Guiana in search of El Dorado. With established Spanish settlements in the area, Ralegh's expedition unsettled the court which sought lasting peace with Spain.
The Catholic Church places Nicolaus Copernicus's De revolutionibus, 1543, on its list of prohibited books.

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