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Jonathan Swift

1 of 26 portraits of Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift, by studio of Charles Jervas, based on a work of 1709-1710 -NPG 4407 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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.

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