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Adam Smith

2 of 6 portraits of Adam Smith

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Adam Smith

by James Tassie
1787
3 1/2 in. x 2 1/2 in. (89 mm x 64 mm) oval
NPG 3237

Inscriptionback to top

Incised on the truncation: ADAM SMITH/IN HIS 64TH YEAR/1787 and Tassie F.

This portraitback to top

In 1793 Dugald Stewart, who had known Smith, stated that ‘the medallion of Tassie conveys an exact idea of his profile, and of the general expression of his countenance’; it is the only satisfactory likeness of Smith and was conceivably modelled from the life. [1]
It was copied in Wedgwood paste, [2] and a reduced version in enamel was described by Gray as taken from a gem engraved by Thomas Warner after Tassie; [3] a derivative bust by Boog appeared on a Scottish penny token of 1797. [4]

Footnotesback to top

1) D. Stewart, Biographical Memoirs, 1811, p 117; L. S. Ross, The Life of Adam Smith, 1995, p 410.
2) Illus. R. Reilly and G. Savage, Wedgwood the Portrait Medallions, 1973, p 309.
3) J. M. Gray, 'The Portraits of Adam Smith' in J. Bonar, Catalogue of the Library of Adam Smith, 1894, p XXIII; J. M. Gray, James and William Tassie, a biographical and critical sketch with a catalogue of their portrait medallions of modern personages, 1894, no.358.
4) Illus. L. Forrer, Dictionary of Medallists, I, 1904, p 215.

Referenceback to top

Gray 1894a
J. M. Gray , James and William Tassie, a biographical and critical sketch with a catalogue of their portrait medallions of modern personages, no.356.

Gray 1984b
J. M. Gray, 'The Portraits of Adam Smith' in J. Bonar, Catalogue of the Library of Adam Smith, pp xxi-xxiii.

Provenanceback to top

Sotheby’s, 18 April 1945, lot 110, bought Leggatt for the NPG.

Reproductionsback to top

B. L. Prevost 1796; anon. 1796 (Scots Mag.); J. Beugp 1801; W. Ridley 1802 (European Mag.); J. Horsburgh 1828; R. C. Bell 1872; J. Brown; W. Holl. Engravings by Mackenzie 1809 and by C. Picart from a drawing by John Jackson 1811 show the coat elaborated (D. Stewart, Biographical Memoirs, 1811).


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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