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James Harris

James Harris, by Frances Reynolds, circa 1777 -NPG 186 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

James Harris

attributed to Frances Reynolds
circa 1777
49 1/2 in. x 39 1/2 in. (1257 mm x 1003 mm)
NPG 186

This portraitback to top

NPG 186 may be associated with an entry in the sitter’s diary, 24 February 1777, in which he recorded sitting to Mrs Reynolds. [1] It is a poor picture, hesitantly executed, [2] the head apparently derived from a now untraced wax medallion by Gosset. In the later nineteenth century the attribution wavered unrealistically between Reynolds [3] and Romney. [4] There is an exact copy at Wadham College, Oxford, [5] and a small watercolour copy remains with the sitter’s descendants.

Footnotesback to top

1) D. Burrows, letter of 15 February 1999 (NPG archives); R. Wendorf, Reynolds, 1996, p 78, lists Harris among Frances Reynolds’s sitters.
2) C. F. Bell first suggested it had been ‘cobbled together’ from different sources (undated letter; NPG archive).
3) A. Graves & W. V. Cronin, A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, II, p 440.
4) See H. Ward & W. Roberts, Romney, A Biographical and Critical Essay with a Catalogue Rainsonné of his Works, 1904, II, p 71; Mrs R. L. Poole, Catalogue of Portraits in the possession of the University, Colleges and City and County of Oxford, III, p 226, no.54.
5) Mrs R. L. Poole, Catalogue of Portraits in the possession of the University, Colleges and City and County of Oxford, III, p 226, inscribed verso: James Harris Esq, Author of Hermes 1780. Painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds; it was however engraved as by Romney (G. H. Every 1866).

Referenceback to top

Graves & Cronin 1899-1901
A. Graves & W. V. Cronin, A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, 4 vols., 1899-1901, IV, p 1335.

Ward & Roberts 1904
H. Ward & W. Roberts, Romney, A Biographical and Critical Essay with a Catalogue Rainsonné of his Works, II, p 71, as Romney.

Physical descriptionback to top

Blue-grey eyes, white-powdered wig, wearing a brown coat, green breeches and white stockings; he sits in a green chair, a deep red curtain behind him; on the table stands a book lettered: ARISTOTEUS/LOGIC ET ETHIC/VOL 1 & 2.

Provenanceback to top

By descent in the sitter’s family to the 3rd Earl of Malmesbury, by whom presented 1865.


This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, National Portrait Gallery, 2004, 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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