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Samuel Butler

Samuel Butler, by Gilbert Soest, 1670s -NPG 2468 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Early Stuart Portraits Catalogue

Samuel Butler

by Gilbert Soest
1670s
47 3/4 in. x 40 1/2 in. (1213 mm x 1029 mm)
NPG 2468

This portraitback to top

The attribution to Soest is attested by several early 18th-century engravings [1] although the name of Lely was later preferred (showing commercial rather than stylistic acumen).
Soest’s portrait evidently shows Butler past middle age; both artist and sitter died in 1680/81, having spent their final years in some discomfort (Butler being ‘impoverished and unwell’, and Soest was nearly eighty at his death on 12 February 1681). NPG 2468 was probably painted c.1674 when the first combined edition of the first two parts of Hudibras, annotated by Butler, appeared.
There is a good version in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, (presented by Godfrey Kneller 1702 [2]), but when directly compared with NPG 2468 in 1930, C. F. Bell and C. K. Adams considered NPG 2468 the better version.
Half-length versions are in the Sterling Library, London University (from Chesterfield House), [3] in the YCBA, New Haven (B1974.3.14), [4] and formerly in the Hastings collection at Donington Park. [5]
A much reduced version of the whole composition is at Knole where listed in 1775. [6]

Footnotesback to top

1) F. O’Donoghue & H. M. Hake, Catalogue of Engraved British Portraits in the ... British Museum, 6 vols, 1905-25, 4-11; another early plate without artist’s name was by Faber I (J. Chaloner Smith, British Mezzotinto Portraits, 1878-82, 17); another type was published by A. Browne (J. Chaloner Smith, British Mezzotinto Portraits, 1878-82, 11; Turner 2004, B.15, a Lely pattern, standing three-quarter length, left hand at breast), and see G. S. Layard, Catalogue raisonné of engraved British portraits from altered plates, 1927, p 57, no.52.
2) Mrs R. L. Poole, Catalogue of Portraits in the possession of the University, Colleges, City and County of Oxford, I, p 62, no.154; Catalogue of Portraits in the Bodleian Library by Mrs R. L. Poole completely revised and expanded by K. Garlick, 2004, p 49; exh. Manchester 1857(BPG155), First Exhibition of National Portraits, South Kensington, 1866(960).
3) D. Piper, ‘The Chesterfield House Literary Portraits’, in R. Wellek & A. Ribeiro eds., Essays in Memory of James Marshall Osborn, 1979, p 189, no.6; from the Halifax sale, 2nd day, 7 March 1740, lot 32 (presumably the version from the Harley collection noted by G. Vertue, Notebooks, Wal. Soc., XVIII, 1930, p 66), and Harewood sale, Christie’s, 29 June 1951, lot 34; engr. Cook 1778 (‘Done from an Original Picture in the Collection of Lord Chesterfield’).
4) Bonham’s, 13 September 1973, lot 200; see Cormack 1985, p 147.
5) Earl of Moira sale, Christie’, 25 February 1869, lot 86; Sotheby’s, 11 June 1952, lot 152.
6) Sir William Musgrave, MS lists of portraits, British Museum, Add. MSS 5726E, vi, f.12, no.178; C. J. Phillips, History of the Sackville Family, 1929, II, p 438.

Referenceback to top

Piper 1963
D. Piper, Catalogue of the Seventeenth Century Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery 1625-1714, 1963, pp 49-50.

Conservationback to top

Lined; cleaned 1969; some discoloured retouching.

Provenanceback to top

Col. James Seymour;1 Dr Mead;2 his sale, 1st day, 20 March 1754, lot 7, bt. Jennings [Jennens]; Charles Jennens 1767;3 Sir Robert Peel, Drayton Manor; sale Robinson, Fisher & Harding, 6-7 December 1917, lot 79; Sydney Wise, London, from whom purchased 1930.

1 Engraved G. Vertue 1730 as Soest (D. Alexander, ‘George Vertue as an Engraver’, Wal. Soc., LXX, 2008, 605; for the Latin inscription, see under Doubtful Portrait).
2 Engraved G. Vertue 1744 as Soest (D. Alexander, ‘George Vertue as an Engraver’, Wal. Soc., LXX, 2008, 867).
3 The English Connoisseur, 1766, I, p 71 (as Zoust). Cunningham (see Johnson’s Lives of the Poets, ed. P. Cunningham, 1854, p 178) said ‘a poor small copy after Soest’ was in the Jennens collection and then in Lord Howe’s sale at Gopsall c.1854 – perhaps in error, or was this a second portrait?

Reproductionsback to top

G. Vertue 1730, 1744 (see nn 1, 2).


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.

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