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Robert Boyle

2 of 32 portraits by Johann Kerseboom

Robert Boyle, by Johann Kerseboom, based on a work of circa 1689-1690 -NPG 3930 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Early Stuart Portraits Catalogue

Robert Boyle

after Johann Kerseboom
based on a work of circa 1689-1690
50 in. x 40 3/4 in. (1270 mm x 1035 mm)
NPG 3930

Inscriptionback to top

Inscribed, right: The great & truly Honble/ROBERT BOYLE Esqre un/to whom ye first Henry/Ashurst of Waterstock/Baronet was Executor, and left: J Kerseboom Pinxt.

This portraitback to top

A good contemporary version of the portrait by Johann Kerseboom, best represented in the Royal Society (presented by Boyle’s executors, 16 November 1692 [1]) and in the Royal Collection. [2] Millar speculated that NPG 3930 ‘may have been painted by Van der Vaart’. [3]
By 30 August 1689 Boyle had been persuaded, by his physician, Edmund King, to sit to Casaubon [Kerseboom]; [4] on 12 September 1689 Robert Hooke saw ‘Mr Boyles picture at Van der Vert ...’, and on 15 February 1690 he saw ‘at Sr Edm. King: Mr Boyles picture’. [5] The portrait was engraved by John Smith (J. Chaloner Smith, British Mezzotinto Portraits, 1878-82, 21) inscribed 1689. Vertue (Wal. Soc., XX, 1932, p 39) recorded a copy ‘with the alterations’ by James Maubert in the collection of Thomas Rawlinson (d. 1725).
Versions of the Kerseboom portrait include:

with Historical Portraits, London, 2008, from the Chemical Heritage Foundation, Philadelphia (the ‘Shannon’ portrait), inscribed below right: The Hon Rob:Boyle/Ob: 30 Dec:1690; from the Earls of Shannon, direct descendants of the sitter’s nephew, the Hon. Henry Boyle; probably autograph.

with Dr Richard Mead by 1731 (Vertue, Wal. Soc., XXIV, 1936, p 14); engr. Vertue 1738 & 1739 (D. Alexander, ‘George Vertue as an Engraver’, Wal. Soc., LXX, 2008, nos.789, 808), B. Baron 1744.

with the Chatsworth settlement at Bolton Abbey and formerly at Hardwick Hall (whence removed 1895 [6]).

from the Boyle School at Yetminster, Dorset, sold Christie’s, 7 December 2007, lot 153.

Williamsburg VA, College of William and Mary, presented by the 3rd Earl of Burlington 1732 (R. E. W. Maddison, ‘The Portraiture of Robert Boyle’, Annals of Science, XV, 1962, p 165).

Footnotesback to top

1) R. E. W. Maddison, ‘The Portraiture of Robert Boyle’, Annals of Science, XV, 1962, p 163; N. H. Robinson, The Royal Society Catalogue of Portraits, 1980, p 31.
2) O. Millar, The Tudor, Stuart and Early Georgian Pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen, 1963, no.332, pl.145. Vertue, Wal. Soc., XXVI, 1938, p 177, noted c.1739 that ‘[Johann, Frederick Kerseeboom’s [sic] nephew, a painter of portraits] painted Mr Boyles picture [i.e. Kensington] in poses. of Mr. Arnold’ [perhaps John Arnold, the nephew of John Van der Vaart?].
3) O. Millar, The Tudor, Stuart and Early Georgian Pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen, 1963, p 141. John Van der Vaart, 1647-1727, Kerseboom’s collaborator, who signed with him the portrait of the 1st Duke of Leeds, NPG 5718.
4) John Evelyn to Samuel Pepys (Evelyn, Letters & the second Diary, 1932, p 204).
5) Hooke’s Diary (R. T. Gunther, Early Science at Oxford, X, 1935, pp 148, 188).
6) R. E. W. Maddison, ‘The Portraiture of Robert Boyle’, Annals of Science, XV, 1962, pp 160, 166. Vertue, Wal. Soc., XXVI, 1938, p 60, recorded ‘a head painted in Oyl. of Sr.Robt.Boyle’ by Lely which Lord Burlington offered to lend to him to engrave. Listed at Kirkham (Hawkesbury, 1903a, p 15, no.30) as removed to Bolton in 1895.

Referenceback to top

Maddison 1962
R. E. W. Maddison, ‘The Portraiture of Robert Boyle’, Annals of Science, XV, 1962, p 170.

Piper 1963
D. Piper, Catalogue of the Seventeenth Century Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery 1625-1714, 1963, pp 31-32.

Provenanceback to top

From the Ashurst family of Waterstock House, Oxon. (Sir Henry Ashurst, 1645-1711 was one of Boyle’s executors), by descent to W. H. Ashurst; Christie’s, 12 June 1931, lot 106; presented by Eric Bullivant in memory of his wife, Kate Bullivant, 1955.

Exhibitionsback to top

Tercentenary Exhibition, Royal Society, London 1960.

Reproductionsback to top

See F. O’Donoghue & H. M. Hake, Catalogue of Engraved British Portraits in the ... British Museum, 3-10.


This extended catalogue entry is by John Ingamells, one of a limited number of entries drafted in 2010 for the incomplete catalogue, Early Stuart Portraits 1625-1685, and is as written then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.

View all known portraits for Robert Boyle

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