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Sir Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton, by Unknown artist, based on a work of circa 1727 -NPG 2081 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Later Stuart Portraits Catalogue

Sir Isaac Newton

by Unknown artist
based on a work of circa 1727
7 3/4 in. x 5 3/4 in. (197 mm x 146 mm)
NPG 2081

This portraitback to top

It is not established who moulded Newton’s death mask, of which NPG 2081 is a rather crude example, although Rysbrack was once proposed. [1] Several plaster masks exist, listed by Keynes [2] as follows:
Keynes Library, King’s College, Cambridge; formerly belonging to John Conduitt
The Royal Society, London; formerly belonging to Roubiliac
Wren Library, Trinity College, Cambridge; formerly belonging to Roubiliac
Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, Glasgow; presented by John Flaxman 1819
Grace K. Babson collection, Babson College, Babson Park MA (on loan to the Burndy Library, Dibner Institute MIT, MA), formerly belonging to Thomas Jefferson.

Footnotesback to top

1) K. A. Esdaile, Roubiliac’s Work at Trinity College, Cambridge, 1924, But cf. G. Vertue, Notebooks, Wal. Soc., XXVI, 1938, p 57, saying that Rysbrack’s bust of Newton was carved ‘immediately after his death from pictures or draughts’.
2) M. Keynes, The Iconography of Sir Isaac Newton to 1800, 2005, C.1-5, pp 75-76; other masks (C.6-7, p 76) are at the Archernhold Observatory, Treptow, Berlin, and in the Princeton University Library (from the Royal Society mask). P. Fara, Newton, the Making of a Genius, 2002, p 232, has emphasised how, by the mid-nineteenth century, Newton death-masks proliferated.

Referenceback to top

British Museum, 1867, p 22, no.70.

Piper 1963
D. Piper, Catalogue of the Seventeenth Century Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery 1625-1714, 1963, pp 249-50.

Provenanceback to top

Presented by Frank Baxter 1925.1

1 In a letter to The Times, 21 March 1927, Baxter (sculptor, 1865-after 1927) wrote he had no recollection of how he had come by the bust and could only suppose that it had ‘been the flotsam of some studio I had occupied’.

Exhibitionsback to top

La lumière au siècle des lumières, Galerie Poirel, Nancy, 2005.


This extended catalogue entry is from the National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Later Stuart Portraits 1685–1714, National Portrait Gallery, 2009, 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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