- Extended catalogue entry
Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue
by Thomas Gainsborough
23 7/8 in. x 19 3/4 in. (606 mm x 502 mm)
Inscriptionback to top
A manuscript label at the bottom of the stretcher, in an early hand and partly illegible, after touching with ammonium sulphate in 1928, was read by Hake: This portrait of Mr. Gibbs I by Gainsborough [belongs] to FANNY BULLEN.
This portraitback to top
The portrait is of Gainsborough's Ipswich period, probably the mid 'fifties, and is very close to that of 'an unknown man', collection Mrs Isherwood Kay,  sometimes suggested as a member of the Gibbs family. The music has not been identified. It is not one of Corelli's violin sonatas nor one of the Eight Solos, Gibbs' only known published work, which appeared in 1748.
Footnotesback to top
Physical descriptionback to top
Brown eyes, large nose, fresh complexion, grey wig to below ears; white shirt, black waistcoat, plain grey velvet coat with turned-down collar; a row of bound volumes of music on a shelf behind, the red panels of the spines lettered in gold Corelli and Gem.[iniani], also a writing stand with white quill, ink pot and music manuscript marked SONATA; plain brown background; lit from left.
Conservationback to top
A blister between the two books was laid in 1931.
Provenanceback to top
Bought, 1928, through Leggatt's; at Christie's, 20 June 1919, lot 65, anonymous property [George Bullen], bought (in?) Wheeler, and again at Christie's, 27 January 1928, lot 117, by order of Bullen's executors, bought in.  Exact descent has yet to be established but from correspondence with R. H. Lingwood (pseudonym 'Rambler') of the East Anglian Daily Times, apparently confirmed by the manuscript label read in 1928, it would seem to come through John Bullen of Lowther, Westmorland, rector of Newbourn, Suffolk, and of Kennet, Cambs., who married 21 October 1757, Anne, the sitter's elder daughter and executrix. In 1936 C. Allix, agent to the Duke of Devonshire, told Steegman that the picture had belonged to his family and hung in his home at Swaffham until sold, about 1922, at Foster's in Pall Mall for £25, the vendors having no knowledge of its previous history, thus implying another version; none appears to be recorded.
1) E. K. Waterhouse, Gainsborough, 1958 (353), where purchaser given as Gooden and Fox, and the portrait (NPG 2179) referred to as ‘John' Gibbs.
Exhibitionsback to top
'Church Treasures of the Archdeaconry of Ipswich', Ipswich, 1965.
This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Kerslake, Early Georgian Portraits, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1977, 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.
Watch our playlist exploring scientific techniques used by the Gallery to unlock the secrets behind our Tudor portraits.
Subjects and themes
Search the collection by themes - from pets to weddings!
Black History Month
Take a tour exploring our Collection created by Alayo Akinkugbe for Black History Month in 2020.
A Picture of Health
Learn about pioneers in medicine, health and social reform from 1840 to 1920.