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Henry Purcell

Henry Purcell, by Unknown artist, after 1695 -NPG 2150 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Later Stuart Portraits Catalogue

Henry Purcell

by Unknown artist
after 1695
23 in. x 21 in. (584 mm x 533 mm) oval
NPG 2150

Inscriptionback to top

Inscribed centre left: Mr Henry Purcell.

This portraitback to top

Related to the Closterman drawing NPG 4994, yet the head with the curled fair hair appears younger and angelic, and the drapery perfunctory. The engraved ‘vera effigies’ showing Purcell aged 24, is already heavy-featured, implying that NPG 2150 is a posthumous, idealised portrait. This in turn would indicate the alleged provenance is partly inaccurate, i.e. it could not have been given by Purcell to John Church, who may rather have commissioned it.
Another version sold Sotheby’s, 18 June 1947, lot 25c, from the collection of G. W. Hastings of Great Malvern, was with H. M. Calmann in 1948. A version copied by Sylvester Harding was engraved by W. N. Gardiner 1794 as ‘Henry Purcell/Musician & Actor [sic]/From an Original Picture in Dulwich College’, where such a portrait has otherwise never been recorded.

Referenceback to top

Cummings 1895
W. H. Cummings, The Musical Times, 1 November 1895, p 735.

Piper 1963
D. Piper, Catalogue of the Seventeenth Century Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery 1625-1714, 1963, p 291.

Provenanceback to top

[said to have been given by the sitter to his friend, see below] John Church (1675?-1741), lay-vicar at Westminster Abbey and gentleman of the Chapels Royal; his eldest son, the Rev John Church (d. 1785), Rector of Boxford, Suffolk; his daughter Mrs Strutt, who gave it to Joah Bates (1741-99), conductor;1 Edward Bates; Alfred Henry Littleton by 1894; his sale, Elliot, Son & Boynton, 17 March 1915, lot 344a as by Kneller, bought William Barclay Squire,2 by whom bequeathed 1927 as by Kneller.

1 This provenance from a written statement signed by Joah Bates, formerly on the verso, partly legible and now separately conserved: [This] picture was given by Purcell himself to Mr J..a…../Westminster Abbey & a great friend of Purcell when he was Organist the[re]/[Fro]m Mr Church it descended to his son the Revd Mr Church vicar of Boxford in/Suffolk; whose daughter Mrs Strutt presented it to me. Mrs Strutt had often heard her/father declare that his father used frequently to say it was a striking likeness/JB/25 Novr 1790. With this label is a printed extract from W. H. Cummings, ‘Portraits of Purcell’, discussing NPG 2150 and annotated by Squire Bought/at the/sale/after/A. Littlejohn’s/death/17 March/1915/by/Wm Barclay Squire/WBS/The mem. pasted above [referring to the other label]/is by/Joah Bates/WBS.
2 For whom, see Perth NPG 2153.

Exhibitionsback to top

10 Downing Street 1990–95.

Reproductionsback to top

W. Humphrys ‘from a drawing by Edw. Novello after the original picture by Sir Godfrey Kneller in the possession of Edward Bates Esq.’ (for Vincent Novello’s ed. of Purcell’s Sacred Music, 1832).


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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