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Samuel Foote

Samuel Foote, by Jean François Colson, 1769 -NPG 4904 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Samuel Foote

by Jean François Colson
22 in. x 18 in. (559 mm x 457 mm)
NPG 4904

Inscriptionback to top

Signed, lower left: F Colson pinxt/a paris 1769. [the inscription indistinct]; the original canvas was inscribed verso: Original Portrait of/the Celebrated Dramatic Author/Samuel Foote Esq. 1

1 A modern handwritten label recorded this inscription on the original canvas.

This portraitback to top

This vigorous study was painted early in 1769 in Paris; having spent the winter there, Foote returned to London in February that year. [1] In 1805 his biographer wrote that while there were several prints of Foote in dramatic and private character, none of which were unlike, the most perfect likeness was ‘the French print published immediately after one of his trips from Paris, and which is prefixed to these memoirs,’ [2] i.e. the print by Godfrey as copied for the Memoirs by Caroline Watson. Godfrey’s elaborate print, exhibited in 1770, [3] was surely devised by Foote, whose pretence is apparent both in the title, SAMUELIS FOOTE ARM./MISCUIT UTILE DULCI, [4] and in the elaborate quartered coat of arms with motto, QUE SERA SERA - both otherwise unrecorded for the Foote family. [5]
Foote was a frequent visitor to Paris, where in 1775 he remarked that ‘the French were quite astonished at his figure and manner, and at his dress, which he obstinately continued exactly as in London’. [6]

Footnotesback to top

1) P. H. Highfill, K. A. Burnim & E. A. Langhans, A Biographical Dictionary of Stage Personnel in London, 1660-1800, V, p 344.
2) W. Cooke, Memoirs of Samuel Foote, 1805, II, p I. In mistakenly calling it a French print, Cooke probably confused it with Brookshaw’s plate after Cotes which was published in Paris in 1773 and shows a closely comparable head.
3) Society of Artists, London, 1770 (209).
4) Foote was armigerous, see below; the tag is from Horace Ars Poetica, 343, -omne tulit punctum qui miscuit utile dulci (he who blends profit with delight wins general approbation).
5) The Foote arms given in Burke’s General Armory were: vert a chev betw. three doves ar; a motto qui sera sera is cited for Edgell, Folkes, Bettenson and Wolferstan (by Washbourne 1847 and Elvin 1860); the arms appearing in the print are quarterly, 1 & 4, or., a vair gu., sa. and az.; 2 & 3 or, a fesse sa. with a mullet gu. betw. two guzes.
6) Boswell's Life of Johnson, ed. G. B. Hill & E. F. Powell, II, p 403n.

Physical descriptionback to top

Blue-grey eyes, powdered hair, white neckcloth, blue-grey velvet coat, gold embroidered waistcoat.

Provenanceback to top

Bonham’s, 4 April 1968, lot 30, bought Christopher Wood; Christie’s, 23 June 1972, lot 99, bought Kenyon for the NPG.

Exhibitionsback to top

Georgian Playhouse, Actors, Artists, Audiences and Architecture 1730-1830, 1975 (91).

Reproductionsback to top

R. B. Godfrey 1770 (oval); W. Ridley 1794 (oval); C. Watson 1805 (oval); S. Freeman, 1809 (Inchbald's Faces); W. Read; Orne & Butler 1888 (Doran's Annals of the English Stage).

View all known portraits for Samuel Foote