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Jonathan Swift

4 of 26 portraits of Jonathan Swift

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Jonathan Swift

by Rupert Barber
pastel, circa 1745
23 7/8 in. x 19 7/8 in. (605 mm x 504 mm)
Purchased, 2013
Primary Collection
NPG 6961

Sitterback to top

  • Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), Satirist and divine. Sitter in 26 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Rupert Barber (1719-1772), Portrait painter and miniaturist. Artist associated with 4 portraits.

This portraitback to top

This pastel portrait was drawn at the time of Swift's death. A near-profile portrait of the author is set within a still-life where symbolic wreaths adorn his works Gulliver's Travels and The Journal of a Modern Lady.

Events of 1745back to top

Current affairs

Second Jacobite Rebellion: the Young Pretender, Charles Edward Stuart ('Bonnie Prince Charlie') lands in Scotland and proclaims his father king. Jacobite forces take Edinburgh and march into England as far as Derby but are forced to turn back due to lack of support.
The song later to become the British national anthem, God Save the King, is first performed at the Drury Lane Theatre in London in a setting by Thomas Arne.

Art and science

William Hogarth completes the six paintings of Marriage-à-la-Mode, his satirical take on upper-class eighteenth-century society.
West towers of Westminster Abbey are completed
Satirical writer Jonathan Swift dies.


War of the Austrian Succession: the French army defeat Austrian, Dutch and British forces under the Duke of Cumberland at the Battle of Fontenoy.
Madame de Pompadour becomes mistress to Louis XV of France.
Principle of the Leyden jar is discovered by German physicist, Ewald Georg von Kleist.
Artist Giovanni Batista Piranesi publishes the first of his Vedute (Views); a celebrated series of etchings of Rome.

Tell us more back to top

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Peter Symonds

01 July 2016, 15:04

This picture was originally in the collection of Dr Richard Mead (1673-1754). Mead's extensive art collection was sold in 1754 over three days, where this picture is listed: 'Lot 38: JONATHAN SWIFT, D. D. a profile in crayons by Mr. Barber. This is etched by Mr. Wilson, and prefixed to his life written by Lord Orrery'

By 1794, the picture was at Egremont House, Piccadilly, in the collection of George Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont (1751-1837). It was sold by him as part of a two-day auction at Christie's on Friday, 7th March, 1794: 'Lot 24: The portrait of Dean Swift, in crayons'.

There is also mention of this picture in William Monck Mason's 'The History and Antiquities of the Collegiate and Cathedral Church of St. Patrick, Near Dublin' (1820, p. 445): 'There is a portrait of Swift by Rupert, son of Mrs Barber, in crayons, in the possession of Mr. Lefanu, who married the daughter of Mr. Thomas Sheridan, author of the Life of Swift'.

If this is of interest, please contact me and I can send you copies of these documents.

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