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Jonathan Swift

1 portrait of Jonathan Swift

Later Stuart Portraits Catalogue

Jonathan Swift

by Francis Bindon
circa 1735
49 1/2 in. x 38 3/4 in. (1257 mm x 983 mm) overall
NPG 5319

Inscriptionback to top

The scroll inscribed: Travels by Lemuel Gulliver/A Voyage to the Country of/the Houyhnhnms; an additional inscription at the foot of the scroll: F. Bindon Pinxt/17[26]1 was found to be an addition and removed in cleaning.

1 F. R. Falkiner, 'Of the Portraits, Busts and Engravings of Swift and their Artists', in The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift, XII, 1908 read this as ‘F. Bindon arm. 1737’; Collins Baker (note in archive) as ‘F Bindon Pinxt April 1730’.

This portraitback to top

Bindon painted four variants of Swift’s portrait between 1735 and c.1740, each using a similar head looking half right, showing Swift with wig, gown and bands, his half-undone waistcoat revealing a glimpse of his white shirt, holding a scroll (variously inscribed with reference to his works), his right hand with a distinctively long forefinger.
NPG 5319, showing in the right distance the houyhnhnms from Gulliver’s Travels, relates closely to Bindon’s three-quarter-length in the National Gallery of Ireland (598), in which the scroll is inscribed: Drapiers fourth Letter to the whole People of Ireland, and a statue of Apollo appears in the closed right background. [1]
Both portraits derive from the whole-length at Howth Castle painted in 1735, possibly the first of Bindon’s Swift portraits. It shows the scroll held with both hands, again inscribed Drapiers fourth Letter to the whole People of Ireland, and an elaborate background with the Genius of Ireland on the left trampling on the figure of Wood and indicating the Temple of Fame upper right [2] (William Wood, 1671-1730, the patentee of Wood’s halfpence, imposed on the Irish without consultation in 1722, but withdrawn from circulation in 1725, largely due to Swift’s protests in the Drapier Letters).
In 1874 Thomas Bateman of Moor Park purchased a portrait by Bindon from St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, ‘in all probability one of his replicas of the Howth picture painted a few years before’. [3]

Footnotesback to top

1) N. Figgis & B. Rooney, Irish Paintings in the National Gallery of Ireland, 2001, pp 83-85.
2) Illus. Crookshank & Glin, Painters of Ireland, 1976, p 41, and just visible in an interior view of Howth Castle, Country Life, LXVIII, 1930, p 319. Swift told Thomas Sheridan (15/16 June 1735) ‘I have been fool enough to sit for my picture at full length by Mr Bindon for My Ld Howth. I have just sate 2 hours and a half' (H. Williams ed., The Correspondence of Jonathan Swift, 1963-65, IV, p 352).
3) F. R. Falkiner, 'Of the Portraits, Busts and Engravings of Swift and their Artists', in The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift, XII, 1908, p 31.

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 38-39.

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

Provenanceback to top

1 [Paul Barry who gave it in 1847 to his son-in-law Col. Brereton of Kilcullen, Co. Meath; sold in Bennett’s sale rooms, Dublin, 1904, bought by the family of Swift MacNeill (descendants of Swift’s uncle, Godwin of Swiftsheath)] Lord Harmsworth, Mrs Macneil Dixon and the Hon. Eric Harmsworth MSS sale, Sotheby’s, 22 July 1980, lot 576, bought Leggatt for the NPG.

1 As given in F. R. Falkiner, ‘Of the Portraits, Busts and Engravings of Swift and their Artists’, in The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift, XII, 1908, p 38.

Exhibitionsback to top

Recent Acquisitions, NPG, 1982; Portraits of Writers 1984/5, no.13; Alexander Pope’s Twickenham, Orleans House Gallery, Richmond, 1988, no.29.


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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