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John Simpson

3 of 22 portraits by Angelica Kauffmann

John Simpson, by Angelica Kauffmann, circa 1777 -NPG 1485 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

John Simpson

by Angelica Kauffmann
circa 1777
29 in. x 24 in. (737 mm x 610 mm)
NPG 1485

Inscriptionback to top

Inscribed (or possibly a reinforced signature), bottom right: Angelica Kauffman pinx.

This portraitback to top

Simpson is an intruder within the National collection, NPG 1485 having been accepted in 1908 as a portrait of the actor John Palmer (q.v.), although it had previously been sold as a portrait of Simpson. The correct identity had been established by 1924 [1] and in 1925 the portrait was lent to Newcastle.
A replica is in a private collection in Sussex. [2] Both derive from the signed three-quarter length by Kauffmann dated 1777, formerly with the sitter’s descendants, which otherwise differs principally in showing a large urn to the right instead of the hat, and no slashes in the costume. [3] A miniature by John Smart, sold Christie’s, 14 October 1998, lot 160, apparently derived from Kauffmann’s composition. Kauffmann also painted three-quarter length portraits of his mother, dated 1767 (the year her husband sat to Reynolds), and of his wife. [4]
A silhouette inscribed John Simpson was sold Bonham’s, 2 February 2000, lot 4.

Footnotesback to top

1) Following Milner's visit to Eslington in 1922, see note 4.
2) Earl of Hardwicke sale, Christie’s, 27 June 1924, lot 140; exhibited Sussex and the Grand Tour, 1986 (27).
3) Sketched at Eslington Park by J. D. Milner in 1922 (Sir George Scharf's Trustees' Sketch Books, 43/n.p.); Eslington Park sale, Anderson & Garland, 2nd day, 6 November 1951, lot 490; G. C. Williamson & Lady Victoria Manners, Angelica Kauffmann, R.A., her life and works, 1924, p 203; last sold Christie’s, 28 January 1983, lot 41.
4) Both were sketched at Eslington Park by J. D. Milner in 1922 (Sir George Scharf's Trustees' Sketch Books, 43/n.p.); Eslington Park sale, Anderson & Garland, 2nd day, 6 November 1951, lots 491, 489; G. C. Williamson & Lady Victoria Manners, Angelica Kauffmann, R.A., her life and works, 1924, p 203.

Physical descriptionback to top

Blue eyes, brown hair, wearing a blue drape over a red Van Dyck costume, white stockings with blue rosettes at the knee and on the brown shoes; green chair and a green drape above; his black, plumed hat rests on a the pedestal bearing a classical relief of a grieving woman.

Provenanceback to top

By descent from Sir John Paul, 1st Bt., the sitter's son-in-law, to Aubrey John Dean Paul (1827-90); succeeded as 3rd Bt. 1868); his sale Christie’s, 5 July 1855, lot 41 (as John Simpson by Kauffmann), bought Watson; Charles Davis, by whom presented 1908 (as John Palmer).

1 The Christie’s day book says the pictures were ‘from Mr Gambart’; I am grateful to Margie Christian for this information.

Exhibitionsback to top

Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, 1925-94.


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.

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