The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

George Stubbs

George Stubbs, by Ozias Humphry, 1777-1779 -NPG 1399 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

George Stubbs

after Ozias Humphry
1777-1779
20 3/8 in. x 16 in. (518 mm x 407 mm)
NPG 1399

Inscriptionback to top

An old ink inscription verso: 21 x 1 [5?] 5/8.

This portraitback to top

The head derives from a chalk study by Humphry dated 1777. [1] The composition was indifferently engraved (slightly reduced) by William Nicholls in 1809 [2] as Humphry pinx., ‘from a picture in the possession of Mrs Spencer’ - doubtless the ‘Three Quarter Length Oil Picture, being a Portrait of the late Mr George Stubbs, senior, painted by Humphry’, bequeathed by Stubbs’s companion Mary Spencer to a Mrs Mary Dean. [3] NPG 1399, hitherto attributed to Humphry, [4] would appear to be a copy of this lost portrait, made specifically for the Nicholls engraving; the execution is pedantic (and the card support suggests a working drawing). [5] A small oval half-length version by W. H. Craft, dated 1779, shows an almost identical head and may also derive from the lost Humphry portrait.
Stubbs is shown holding his Phaeton and the Chariot of the Sun, of which he kept an enamel painting on copper dated 1775 in his studio until his death [6] – although the Phaeton shown in NPG 1399 is clearly larger. [7] Stubbs evidently prized this subject which, although considered an ‘un-natural fiction’ by Wedgwood, was also produced as a Wedgwood plaque in 1783. [8]

Footnotesback to top

1) Private collection (illus. J. Egerton, Stubbs, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, 1984, no.1); Humphry had only returned to London from Italy in October 1777. Giovanni Fontana carved a bas-relief from this drawing for Joseph Mayer, the biographer of Stubbs.
2) Illus. C. Lennox-Boyd, R. Dixon & T. Clayton, George Stubbs, The Complete Engraved Works, 1989, p 4.
3) Her Will quoted in J. Egerton, Stubbs, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, 1984, p 26; Mary Spencer died in 1817.
4) Williamson 1917, p 244, even suggesting that it was the drawing exhibited by Humphry RA 1794 (374).
5) Jacob Simon points out that the good neo-classical frame could imply a late eighteenth-century date for NPG 1399.
5) Private collection, 37.5 x 46; illus. Fearful Symmetry, George Stubbs, painter of the English Enlightenment, exhibition catalogue, Hall & Knight Ltd, New York, 2000, no.27; for Stubbs’s concern with the subject, see nos.25-29.
6) C. Lennox-Boyd, R. Dixon & T. Clayton, George Stubbs, The Complete Engraved Works, 1989, p 379, supposed that a later and larger ceramic version may be depicted.
7) Wedgwood comment from B. Taylor, Wedgwood Soc., IV, 1961, p 220; for the plaques, see further F. Milner, Stubbs [in] Merseyside Collections, 1987, p 19, and Fearful Symmetry, George Stubbs, painter of the English Enlightenment, exhibition catalogue, Hall & Knight Ltd, New York, 2000, no.29.

Provenanceback to top

Stubbs’s son, George Townly Stubbs (d. 1815), to the Stamfords;1 A. Stamford, London; his widow, Mrs A. Stamford, from whom purchased 1905.

1 ‘[It] came direct from Townley [sic] Stubbs to the Stamfords. They have also two very large enamels by Stubbs of a lion & Tiger fighting & A Horse & Lion fighting size about 24” by 18” oval (letter from [T?] Winter of Reigate, acting for Mrs Stamford, 28 February 1905; NPG archive); the Stamfords had ‘always believed it to be by Stubbs himself’ (idem., 3 April 1905).

Exhibitionsback to top

Stubbs & Wedgwood, Tate 1974 (5); Stubbs, Tate Gallery, 1984 (2); Fearful Symmetry, George Stubbs, painter of the English Englightenment, 2000 (30, facsimile).

Reproductionsback to top

W. Nicholls 1809 (Sporting Mag.).


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.

View all known portraits for George Stubbs