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Thomas Britton

Thomas Britton, by John Wollaston, 1703 -NPG 523 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Later Stuart Portraits Catalogue

Thomas Britton

by John Wollaston
29 1/4 in. x 24 1/2 in. (743 mm x 622 mm)
NPG 523

Inscriptionback to top

Inscribed upper left in yellow: Tho. Briton; formerly signed and inscribed, lower right: Aetat 63, 1703, J. Wollaston P.1

1 As recorded by Scharf in the NPG 1888 Cat. p 63 - but illegible today; in Sir Henry Ellis, List of Portraits suspended on the Walls of the Eastern Zoological Gallery, British Museum, 1843, no.114, his age is given as 61. The age of 63 does not agree with the date (which would better be 1708); Britton’s baptism on 14 January 1644 is recorded in the registers of St Mary’s, Rushden, Northants (photograph on file).

This portraitback to top

Wollaston described painting NPG 523 to John Hawkins: having completed his work early, Britton had decided to call one morning on his friend, but anxious not to appear disrespectful in his working dress he cried ‘small coal’ outside the artist’s studio, as if still on his rounds; Wollaston recognised his voice and asked him in, painting him ‘in his blue frock, and with his small coal measure in his hand, as he appears in the picture in the Museum’. [1]
Wollaston was also among the musicians who performed at Britton’s concerts.

Footnotesback to top

1) In 1775 Dorothy Richardson saw ‘a very good’ picture of Thomas Britton ‘over a door’ in the ‘British Museum 5th room’ (MS Tours, III, Rylands Library; extract in NPG archive).

Referenceback to top

Ellis 1843
Sir Henry Ellis, List of Portraits suspended on the Walls of the Eastern Zoological Gallery, British Museum, no.114 as ‘Aetat.61, 1703. By Woolaston’.

Hawkins 1776
Sir John Hawkins, A General History of Music, 1776, V, p 75.

Piper 1963
D. Piper, Catalogue of the Seventeenth Century Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery 1625-1714, 1963, pp 34-35.

Provenanceback to top

Sir Hans Sloane,1 the British Museum; transferred to the NPG 1879.

1 Sir John Hawkins, A General History of Music, 1776, V, p 79, records Sloane as a buyer at Britton’s posthumous sale in December 1714.

Exhibitionsback to top

Second Special Exhibition of National Portraits ( ... William and Mary to MDCCC), South Kensington, 1867, no.188; Handel House Museum, London, 2001–.

Reproductionsback to top

J. Simon (J. Chaloner Smith, British Mezzotinto Portraits, 27; reversed; with verses: Tho’ mean thy Rank, yet in thy humble Cell … So low a station, such a liberal Mind); W. Maddox c.1819 (reversed, without bucket, for J. Caulfield ed., Portraits, Memoirs, and Characters, of Remarkable Persons, I, 1819).

This extended catalogue entry is from the National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Later Stuart Portraits 1685–1714, National Portrait Gallery, 2009, and is as published 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.

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