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

Elizabeth Carter ('Elizabeth Carter as Minerva')

© National Portrait Gallery, London

 Like voting
is closed

Thanks for Liking

Please Like other favourites!
If they inspire you please support our work.

Make a donation Close
  • Use this image
  • ShareShare this

Elizabeth Carter ('Elizabeth Carter as Minerva')

by John Fayram
oil on canvas, circa 1735-1741
35 3/8 in. x 27 1/8 in. (900 mm x 690 mm)
Lent by Paddy Barrett, 2008
Primary Collection
NPG L242

Sitterback to top

  • Elizabeth Carter (1717-1806), Scholar and writer. Sitter associated with 9 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • John Fayram (active 1727-1743), Artist. Artist associated with 7 portraits.

This portraitback to top

In 1741, Carter's publisher, Edward Cave, published a eulogy entitled 'On Miss CARTER's being drawn in the Habit of Minerva, with Plato in her Hand.' The poem alerted readers to this portrait depicting Carter as the goddess of wisdom who has laid aside the spear she usually carries in favour of a copy of Plato. As the poem explains, Minerva was an 'apt disguise' for Carter because both personified a combination of intellect, virtue and chastity. Together the painting and the poem reveal how Carter was presented as a moral role model for learned and creative professional women.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Pioneering Women, p. 37 Read entry

    Elizabeth Carter (1717-1806), poet, translator and writer, first became acquainted with her contemporary Dr Samuel Johnson via her contributions to the Gentleman’s Magazine. It was the start of a friendship that lasted half a century, during which he described her as someone who ‘could make a pudding as well as translate Epictetus from the Greek, and work a handkerchief as well as compose a poem’. One of the most learned Englishwomen of her day, Carter was a noted linguist, who spoke several European languages. She was also a classicist, who knew Hebrew, Arabic, Latin and Greek, and was especially celebrated, as Johnson acknowledges, for her translation of the Greek stoic philosopher Epictetus (All the works of Epictetus, which are now extant, 1758). Otherwise, a poet, an engaging wit and conversationalist, Carter established the first generation of Bluestockings, alongside such luminaries as Elizabeth Montagu, envisioning a more expansive role for women in the world. This portrait can be seen to celebrate her as a role model for learned and creative women everywhere, emphasising, as it does, her wisdom (via her presentation in the plumed helmet and armoured breastplate of Minerva, Goddess of Wisdom) and her intellect (through the volume of Plato in her hand, suggesting the area of her learning).

  • Smartify image discovery app

Events of 1735back to top

Current affairs

Second Parliament under George III. Robert Walpole maintains a substantial majority. Lord Bolingbroke gives up active opposition to Walpole and retires to France. Walpole moves into 10 Downing Street.
Welsh Methodist revival begins.

Art and science

Celebrated dandy Richard 'Beau' Nash appoints himself Master of Ceremonies at Tunbridge Wells.
William Hogarth founds the second St Martin's Lane Academy of Painting.
Lawyer and amateur meteorologist George Hadley publishes the first explanation of the trade winds


Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus publishes a 'system of nature', capable of classifying all living things.
Swedish chemist Georg Brandt discovers a new metallic element, which he names cobalt.
A revivalist movement in America, led by Jonathan Edwards, becomes known as the Great Awakening.
Composer Johann Sebastian Bach debuts his Ascension Oratorio in Leipzig.

Tell us more back to top

Can you tell us more about this portrait? Spotted an error, information that is missing (a sitter’s life dates, occupation or family relationships, or a date of portrait for example) or do you know anything that we don't know? If you have information to share please complete the form below.

If you require information from us, please use our Archive enquiry service. You can buy a print of most illustrated portraits. Select the portrait of interest to you, then look out for a Buy a Print button. Prices start at £6 for unframed prints, £25 for framed prints. If you wish to license this image, please use our Rights and Images service.

Please note that we cannot provide valuations.

We digitise over 8,000 portraits a year and we cannot guarantee being able to digitise images that are not already scheduled.

What can you tell us?close

There are occasions when we are unsure of the identity of a sitter or artist, their life dates, occupation or have not recorded their family relationships. Sometimes we have not recorded the date of a portrait. Do you have specialist knowledge or a particular interest about any aspect of the portrait or sitter or artist that you can share with us? We would welcome any information that adds to and enhances our information and understanding about a particular portrait, sitter or artist.


How do you know this? Please could you let us know your source of information.

* Permission to publish (Privacy information)
Privacy Informationclose

The National Portrait Gallery will NOT use your information to contact you or store for any other purpose than to investigate or display your contribution. By ticking permission to publish you are indicating your agreement for your contribution to be shown on this collection item page. Please note your email address will not be displayed on the page nor will it be used for any marketing material or promotion of any kind.

Please ensure your comments are relevant and appropriate. Your contributions must be polite and with no intention of causing trouble. All contributions are moderated.

Your Emailclose

Contributions are moderated. We'll need your email address so that we can follow up on the information provided and contact you to let you know when your contribution has been published.


Pioneer Podcasts

Listen to a series of podcasts exploring the lives of pioneering women, past and present.

Explore the podcasts

Untitled, c.1973 (Alex Chilton) by William Eggleston © Eggleston Artistic Trust

Eggleston Playlist

William Eggleston was closely associated with the alternative music scene in Memphis. Revisit our 2016 exhibition and listen to a special playlist.

Listen to the playlist

Archive interviews

Links to audio and transcripts of interviews with artists, sitters and historic recordings.

Watch, listen and read