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Henry Purcell

Henry Purcell, by John Closterman, 1695 -NPG 4994 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Later Stuart Portraits Catalogue

Henry Purcell

by John Closterman
1695
15 in. x 11 1/4 in. (381 mm x 286 mm)
NPG 4994

Inscriptionback to top

Inscribed lower left in pencil: Purcell (apparently in an early 18th-century hand); verso: study of an arm and a hand gripping a baton.1

1 J. D. Stewart suggested some similarity to the right arm of the Borghese Gladiator (note of 7 April 1974 on file). Rogers in Master Drawings from the National Portrait Gallery, exhibition catalogue, Tulsa, Miami, Washington DC, Ottawa, NPG, Manchester, Carlisle, Canterbury, 1993-95 pointed out that it resembled illustrations from medical textbooks on bleeding as a medical technique.

This portraitback to top

A worn but ingratiating drawing, perhaps the earliest drawing of an English composer to survive and Closterman’s only known portrait drawing. Traditionally attributed to Kneller, but not compatible with Kneller drawings of the same period. [1] In 1981 Malcolm Rogers considered there could be little doubt that it was Closterman’s study for a portrait of Purcell painted in 1695 or shortly after his death, as engraved by Robert White as frontispiece to Orpheus Britannicus 1698. Closterman’s finished portrait is untraced, see NPG 2150.
A copy in the British Museum (1885-5-9-1897), of similar size, shows a different technique and is retouched on the jaw, hair and neck. [2]

Footnotesback to top

1) As J. D. Stewart confirmed (letter of 28 March 1974, on file).
2) Black chalk on lilac paper, spotted, stained and with damaged edges; J. D. Stewart, Godfrey Kneller, 1983, D92 as rejected attribution; E. Croft-Murray & P. Hulton, British Museum, Catalogue of British Drawings: XVI and XVII centuries, 1960, pp 389-90 (Kneller no.10), said to be from the collections of Dr Burney; exhibited British Museum, Purcell and Handel, 1959, no.55 attributed to Kneller; Age of Charles II, RA, 1960, no.528 as by an unknown artist, ‘possibly Closterman’.

Referenceback to top

Rogers 1983
M. Rogers, ‘John and John Baptist Closterman: a catalogue of their works’, Wal. Soc., XLIX, 1983, p 257.

Simon & Saywell (eds.) 2004
Complete Illustrated Catalogue, NPG, ed. J. Simon & D. Saywell, 2004, p 508.

Provenanceback to top

1 William Seward (1747-99),2 by whom given to Dr Charles Burney (1726-1814) 1791; his son’s [Archdeacon Charles Burney 1757-1817] sale, 8 August 1814, lot 1031 as by Kneller, bought Bartleman;3 his sale, 20 February 1822, lot 1426, ‘small head of Purcell, after Kneller’; deposited at the British Museum 1964-71 by W. G. Skillicorn who sold it at Christie’s, 4 June 1974, lot 20 as by Kneller, bought Leggatt for the NPG; purchased with help from the Pilgrim Trust, the Worshipful Company of Musicians, and private benefactors 1974.

1 Much of this provenance had previously been associated with the British Museum drawing.
2 Seward’s ink inscription and dedicatory letter were removed from the backing in 1967 at the British Museum (now separately preserved in the NPG): ‘Pu[rcell] the Musician/dra[wn] some have suppo[sed] by Sir Godfrey/Kneller’ and: ‘Carolo Burney/Artis Musicae Doctori/Viro/Orphei Britannici nil exemplari/Arte sua praestantissimus/Necnon bonis literis excultissimo/moribus ingenuis/Ac orationis lepore ac gratia ornatissim[o?]/Hanc Purcelli Imaginem/& &/Illius Amantissimus/W S/1791’. The wooden backboard was also inscribed in ink: ‘Given by William Seward/ to Dr Burney’ and ‘Sir Godfrey Kneller’.
3 Presumably the vocalist James Bartleman (1769-1821).

Exhibitionsback to top

Closterman, NPG, 1981, no.9; Master Drawings from the National Portrait Gallery, Tulsa, Miami, Washington DC, Ottawa, NPG, Manchester, Carlisle, Canterbury, 1993–95, no.9; Henry Purcell, British Library, 1995–96, n.n..

Reproductionsback to top

T. Holloway 1798, ‘from a Drawing by Sr Godfrey Kneller in the possession of Dr Burney’.1

1 According to J. W. Callcott (E. Croft-Murray & P. Hulton, British Museum, Catalogue of British Drawings: XVI and XVII centuries, 1960, p 390, quoting British Library, Add.ms 27693, f.22), in 1793 members of the Graduates’ Meeting decided to sponsor an engraving of Burney’s drawing of Purcell but ‘the delay of the artist, together with the resignations and death of several members who had pledged themselves to support the undertaking render the future publication extremely hypothetical, as the concern is now entirely limited to the risqué of a few.’ Presumably this became Holloway’s plate.


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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