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John Locke

John Locke, by Michael Dahl, 1696 -NPG 5385 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Later Stuart Portraits Catalogue

John Locke

by Michael Dahl
1696
29 7/8 in. x 25 1/8 in. (759 mm x 637 mm) oval
NPG 5385

Inscriptionback to top

Inscribed centre left: John Lock, and on the original canvas verso: John Lock Esq/M Dahl pinx/Ao.1696.

This portraitback to top

See NPG 114.
Acquired framed together with a portrait (by another hand) of the Dublin scientist William Molyneux, Locke’s close friend from 1692, see NPG 5386. According to the inscribed date on NPG 5385, it may be identified as the portrait painted for Molyneux in London in August-September 1696, an episode described in the Locke correspondence without mentioning the artist’s name.
In June 1696 Molyneux in Dublin asked Locke for his portrait, proposing to send a young gentleman called Howard [1] only to ‘look on you’ and ‘afterwards to look on a Pictur of yours which I hear is at Mr Churchils’; [2] if Churchill’s picture is ‘like you’ then Howard will borrow it and have it copied, saving Locke the trouble of sitting, otherwise ‘I shall trouble you to sit at your Leasure … for such a Hand as Mr Howard shall procure to take your Picture’. [3] Howard had called on Locke by 4 August. [4] The portrait was finished by 12 September 1696, [5] and was finally received from Howard by Molyneux on 6 April 1697. Locke had not apparently been saved from the trouble of sitting, as Molyneux particularly thanked him for ‘the Many Idle Hours you spent in Sitting for it to gratify my Desire’. [6] If the identification of this portrait as NPG 5385 is correct, Molyneux was being exaggeratedly polite, since there are only minor variations (in the stock, drapery and wig) from NPG 114.

Footnotesback to top

1) Probably the Dublin-born painter Hugh Howard (1676-1738) who was in London (being made FRS in 1696) before travelling in Holland and Italy 1697-1700; Molyneux described him in 1696 as ‘skild both in the Judicious and Practick part of Painting; for his advancement wherein He is now kept at London’ (Locke Corr., V, no.2100).
2) Unidentified. Presumably Awnsham Churchill (d. 1728), the Whig bookseller; MP 1705-10.
3) Locke Corr., V, no.2100.
4) Ibid., no.2115.
5) Ibid.; p 699n1 identifies the portrait as NPG 5385.
6) Ibid., no.2240.

Referenceback to top

De Beer 1989
E. S. de Beer, ‘Locke’s Portraits’ in The Correspondence of John Locke, VIII, 1989, Appendix I, p 447.

Locke Corr., V, p 699n1.

Steegman 1962
J. Steegman, Portraits in Welsh Houses, II, 1962, p 169, no.12 as by Dahl c.1695.

Provenanceback to top

William Molyneux; by descent to Mrs C. C. Molyneux of Trewyn, near Abergavenny, by whom bequeathed 1981.

Exhibitionsback to top

Locke Exhibition, Messrs. Bumpus, London, 1932; Lyme Park 1983–.


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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