2 of 13 portraits of Edmond Halley
- Extended catalogue entry
Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue
by Richard Phillips
29 1/2 in. x 24 1/2 in. (749 mm x 622 mm)
Inscriptionback to top
Inscribed top right in script Dr Halley, the D and the H having later additions in the form of serifs over the varnish; these were removed on cleaning.
This portraitback to top
The design of this somewhat stiffly painted portrait corresponds with the engraving by Vertue published without date or source but entered under the year 1721 in his manuscript list of engravings. NPG 4393 is perhaps no more than a repetition and a more sensitive original may yet emerge. However, on the basis of the artist's most substantial portrait, a whole length of William Lowndes (1652-1724), Bank of England collection, there is little ground for optimism on this score.
Physical descriptionback to top
Pale blue eyes, eyebrows slightly puckered, fresh complexion with greyish upper lip and chin, grey wig with deep centre parting; white neck-cloth, brown velvet drapery over shoulders; dark brown background; dark brown painted oval; lit from top left.
Conservationback to top
A vertical loss running left of the parting in the wig, down into the forehead, and a small damage to his left eye, repaired; lightly cleaned and varnished, 1964.
Provenanceback to top
Bought through Leggatt's, Sotheby's, 21 October 1964, lot 1, the first of four lots from the collection of the Earl of Lucan which had evidently formed, or come to form, a library set. Lots 2, 3 and 4 were of Bolingbroke, Newton and Locke. It is not known who brought them together though the 1st Earl (1735-99) is believed most likely.  He and his wife, an amateur painter, were friends of Horace Walpole who mentions them in his Letters from 1776. The suggestion that NPG 4393 may have entered the Earl's collection later than the other three  has not been substantiated. The Bolingbroke has since been cleaned and beneath an inscription in small capitals (similar to those noted on the Newton and Locke at the sale) another, earlier one, was revealed in the same hand as that now seen on the Halley. This would suggest that NPG 4393 and Bolingbroke share a common descent, so far not established. It is possible that the lines of descent might also relate to one or more of the Royal Society portraits  (see All Known Portraits).
1) Information from the Earl of Lucan.
2) NPG Annual Report, 1954-55, p 39.
3) E. F. MacPike, 'Some Materials for a Pedigree of Dr. Edmond Halley', The Genealogist, new series, XXV, 1908-09, pp 9-14.
Reproductionsback to top
Engraved by G. Vertue, 1721.
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.
View all known portraits for Edmond Halley