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.

Jonathan Swift

Later Stuart Portraits Catalogue

Jonathan Swift

by studio of Charles Jervas
based on a work of 1709-1710
30 in. x 25 in. (762 mm x 635 mm)
NPG 4407

This portraitback to top

Jervas painted Swift twice, in London 1709-10 and in Ireland 1718-19. NPG 4407 is a version of the first type.
When Swift left London in May 1709 a Jervas portrait was left unfinished. On his return in September 1710 (when ‘they tell me I am grown fatter and look better’), Swift promptly told Stella he was going to Jervas ‘to finish my picture’; on the 11th he sat for four hours and the painter ‘gave it quite another turn, and now approves it entirely; … If I were rich enough I would get a copy of it and bring it over’. [1] In October he told Stella he would ‘try some contrivance to get a copy of my picture from Jervas. I’ll make Sir Andre Fountain buy one as for himself, and I’ll pay him again and take it, that is, provided I have money to spare’. [2]
NPG 4407 appears to be studio work. The original portrait is presumed to be that in the Bodleian Library, presented by Swift’s printer, John Barber, in 1739. [3] Versions recorded at Knole, [4] and on the London art market in 1988 (from Sotheby’s, 28 November 1973, lot 30, and Darnley sale, Christie’s, 1 May 1925, lot 35). Alexander Pope copied Dr Swift several times while he worked in Jervas’s studio in 1712-13. [5]
The type was first engraved by G. Vertue in 1715. [6]

Footnotesback to top

1) H. Williams ed., Swift, Journal to Stella, 1948, pp 9, 13-14.
2) Ibid., p 71. It is not known what happened to this idea.
3) Mrs R. L. Poole, Catalogue of Portraits in the possession of the University, Colleges, City and County of Oxford, I, p 98, no.246; Catalogue of Portraits in the Bodleian Library by Mrs R. L. Poole completely revised and expanded by K. Garlick, 2004, p 299; exh. Second Special Exhibition of National Portraits ( ... William and Mary to MDCCC), South Kensington, 1867, no.140. William Richardson told Swift (10 April 1739) that ‘Mr alderman Barber made a present to the university of Oxford of the original picture done for you by Jarvis … [but] first a copy was taken’ (H. Williams ed., The Correspondence of Jonathan Swift, 1963-65, V, p 143). Barber owned the portrait by 1723-24, see NPG 258.
4) C. J. Phillips, History of the Sackville Family, 1929, II, p 426.
5) Pope told his friend Caryll (31 August 1713): ‘I have thrown away three Dr Swifts … my masterpieces have been one of Dr Swift …’ (Pope, Corr., I, 1956, p 189); see M. Mack, Pope, 1985, pp 857-58n., and Betterton in this Catalogue
6) D. Alexander, ‘George Vertue as an Engraver’, Wal. Soc., LXX, 2008, no.157. In a letter datable October 1714 Jervas told Pope ‘I intend this day to Call at Vertue’s [to] see Swift’s brought a little more like’ (Pope, Corr., I, 1956, p 262).

Referenceback to top

Falkiner 1908
F. R. Falkiner, ‘Of the Portraits, Busts and Engravings of Swift and their Artists’, in The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift, XII, 1908, pp 5-6.

Simon & Saywell (eds.) 2004
Complete Illustrated Catalogue, NPG, ed. J. Simon & D. Saywell, 2004, p 601.

Provenanceback to top

The Earls of Lonsdale; Lowther Castle sale, 2nd day, 3rd series, 30 April 1947, lot 1939 (as Swift, school of Kneller); bequeathed by Sir Harold Herbert Williams (1880-1964)1 1964.

1 Kt. 1951, literary scholar, editor of Swift’s Journal to Stella 1948 and Correspondence 1963-65.

Exhibitionsback to top

Le Livre anglais, Bibliothèque nationale, Paris, 1951; Voltaire, musée de l’Ile de France, Château de Sceaux, 1978; lent to Government offices 1978–79.


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.

View all known portraits for Jonathan Swift