- Extended catalogue entry
Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue
by William Cumberland Cruikshank, and James Hoskins
24 1/2 in. (622 mm) high
This portraitback to top
William Cruikshank, who had attended Johnson at his death, told his daughter that NPG 4685 was ‘from a cast after [Johnson’s] death' and that ‘all Dr Johnson’s friends had one of them’.  Immediately after Johnson’s death, Joshua Reynolds had ‘ordered Mr [James] Hoskins, in St Martin’s Lane, caster of figures to the Royal Academy, to make a plaster of Paris cast from his face’,  and a ‘plaister bust of Dr Johnson moulded after his death’ was in the Thomond sale, 26 May 1821, lot 48. A cast of the death mask is preserved in the Department of Anatomy, University of Edinburgh,  and two plaster casts from NPG 4685 were taken by Brucciani for the NPG in 1878. 
In 1796 a correspondent of the Gentleman’s Magazine recorded seeing a death mask of Johnson ‘some time since’ at ‘Mr Coade’s, the artificial stone maker, near Westminster Bridge’. 
Footnotesback to top
1) Letter from his daughter Mrs A. Thomas, [n.d., probably 1844], to her son-in-law, William Hutchins.
2) The Beauties of Johnson, 1797 ed., p XCIX. See also Thomas Tyers, Biography of Dr Samuel Johnson, 1785 ed., p 22: Johnson’s ‘face and shoulders were moulded and taken off since his death ... by Hoskins of St Martin’s-lane, from which a bust is made’ (quoted Johnson, Arts Council, 1984, p 137).
3) Death Masks and Life Masks, Edinburgh University, , p 17.
4) NPG 498a and 498b, the latter exhibited Samuel Johnson, Londoner, Royal Exchange, London, 1964.
5) Gentleman's Magazine, LXVI, 1796, I, p 298.
Provenanceback to top
1 William Cruikshank (Johnson’s physician); his daughter Mrs A. Thomas; given in 1844 to her son-in-law, William Hutchins; given in 1864 to the Royal Literary Fund, by whom presented 1969.
1 Taken from corr. copied from The Royal Literary Fund (including letters from Mrs A. Thomas to W. Hutchins, n.d., and from Mrs Isabella Hutchins to Scharf 28 November [1877?]).
Exhibitionsback to top
Johnson, Arts Council, 1984 (105).
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.
View all known portraits for Samuel Johnson
View a wide collection of video content on our YouTube channel from past projects to our latest films.
Artist and sitter interviews
Get insights into creating portraiture from BP Portrait Award 2020 artists and their sitters.
Watch our film created to say ‘goodbye’ to the Gallery before we closed for our major transformation project.