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Sir Marc Isambard Brunel

1 of 10 portraits of Sir Marc Isambard Brunel

Sir Marc Isambard Brunel, by James Northcote, 1812-1813 -NPG 978 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Regency Portraits Catalogue

Sir Marc Isambard Brunel

by James Northcote
1812-1813
49 1/4 in. x 39 in. (1251 mm x 991 mm)
NPG 978

This portraitback to top

Northcote's portrait was commissioned by Thomas Mudge, Brunel's partner and Lady Brunel's brother-in-law; Northcote was a friend of her family. It was painted in 1812, exhibited RA 1814 and paid for (20 guineas) in 1815 (James Northcote’s list of paintings, 1815). Charles Macfarlane, a friend of Brunel's son, described it without much enthusiasm: 'There is no adequate portrait of this very remarkable man. The picture then in the drawing room by Jemmy Northcote, though it presented something like a man of genius and very deep thought, was little more than a map of dear old Brunel's face. It would have required a man of much more fame and genius than Northcote to catch the variety and the play of the old engineer's countenance ...' (Charles Macfarlane, Reminiscences of a Literary Life, 1917, p 292). However Brunel's daughter Lady Hawes said the family infinitely preferred it to the Drummond portrait (NPG 89). The model block-shaping machine on the table is in the National Maritime Museum, reproduced Paul Clements, Marc Isambard Brunel, 1970.

Physical descriptionback to top

Three-quarter-length aged 44, seated in green leather armchair in crimson fur-trimmed coat, his hands resting on drawings of the circular saws he had invented for veneer work; also on the table are his proportional compasses, two books and a model of one of his block-making machines used in Portsmouth Dockyard.

Provenanceback to top

Brunel family and given by his grandson Henry Marc Brunel 1895.

Exhibitionsback to top

RA 1814 (224); Third Exhibition of National Portraits, South Kensington, 1868 (486) lent by Mrs Brunel; Victorian Exhibition 1892 (322); loan to House of Commons since 1976.

Reproductionsback to top

Mezzotint by Charles Turner 30 March 1815 (Alfred Whitman, Charles Turner, 1907, 77), the NPG impression given by Brunel's daughter Lady Hawes.


This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: Richard Walker, Regency Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, 1985, 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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