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Richard Mead

Richard Mead, by Allan Ramsay; studio of Allan Ramsay, 1740 -NPG 15 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Richard Mead

by Allan Ramsay, and studio of Allan Ramsay
49 3/4 in. x 39 3/4 in. (1264 mm x 1010 mm)
NPG 15

Inscriptionback to top

Inscribed beside the letter, right: A. Ramsay 1740.

This portraitback to top

Despite the inscription or signature, and the resemblance to the fine full length in the Foundling Hospital inscribed Painted and Given by Ramsay 1747 [1], the quality of NPG 15 poses a problem of authorship. The inflexible handling is not unknown in Ramsay's early work, as for example in his portrait of Grant signed and dated 1739; [2] NPG 15 may, however, be from his studio [3] rather than autograph. In both portraits an envelope is shown addressed To/Dr Mead. In the Foundling Hospital painting the statue is of Hygieia, goddess of health; [4] the classical figure of Aesculapius in NPG 15 is from no recognisable model. [5] The bust behind the sitter's right shoulder, previously believed to be the bronze known as Homer or Pindar [6] but now identified as Sophocles, [7] is very like the head acquired by Mead in 1720 from Tart House, the London home of the Earl of Arundel's widow. [8] The Mead bust was purchased at his sale, Langford's, 13 January 1755, by the Earl of Exeter who presented it to the British Museum in 1760.
A version of NPG 15, perhaps earlier and with differences in the right hand, was presented c.1747-50 to the Society of Apothecaries by Dr Lancelot Burton Jackson. Another, 30 x 25 in., possibly a copy, now in the Bodleian Library, was given to the University by Swithin Adee, MD (d. 1786) of Corpus Christi. [9]

Footnotesback to top

1) B. Nicolson, The Treasures of the Foundling Hospital, p 76 (68).
2) Sir James Grant of Grant, Bart, exhibited 'Allan Ramsay (1713-1784) his Masters and Rivals', Edinburgh, 1963 (47).
3) As suggested by Prof. Smart verbally, 1975.
4) Nicolson, loc. cit.
5) Haynes, verbal, 1968.
6) Sir George Scharf, Historical and Descriptive Catalogue of the Pictures, Busts & etc. in the National Portrait Gallery, new and enlarged edition, 1888, p 307 and note.
7) Catalogue of Bronzes, British Museum (847).
8) D. E. L. Haynes, 'The Arundel Marbles', Archaeology, XXI, 1968, pp 206-07.
9) R. L. Poole, Catalogue of Portraits in the Possession of the University, Colleges, City and County of Oxford, 1912-25, I (255).

Physical descriptionback to top

Dark blue eyes, grey eyebrows, straight nose, compressed lips, double chin, long grey wig falling behind shoulders; dark brown velvet coat, plain white cravat with tasselled ends, white wrist ruffles; gilt sword hilt; on a ledge or table an open folio, a letter and an envelope addressed To/Dr Mead, a bearded classical bust behind and, in a niche right, a draped whole length statue, presumably representing Aesculapius, god of medicine.

Conservationback to top

Surface cleaned, varnished three times and lined between 1857 and 1902.

Provenanceback to top

Bought, 1857, from George Greenland of Anerly.

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.

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