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The Children of John Taylor of Bifrons Park

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The Children of John Taylor of Bifrons Park, by John Closterman, 1696 -NPG 5320 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Later Stuart Portraits Catalogue

The Children of John Taylor of Bifrons Park

by John Closterman
74 3/4 in. x 107 in. (1898 mm x 2718 mm)
NPG 5320

This portraitback to top

John Taylor MP had purchased Bifrons, near Canterbury, in 1694, just before NPG 5320 was painted. Of his children, Brook Taylor (who was to inherit Bifrons in 1729), was already distinguished by his studies of music and numbers when NPG 5320 was painted, and he became a famous mathematician. For his portrait attributed to Lewis Goupy (NPG 1920) and further iconography, see J. Kerslake, National Portrait Gallery, Early Georgian Portraits, 1977, pp 275-76.
First attributed to Closterman by Collins Baker in 1914. [1]
Rogers (1981) described NPG 5320 ‘with its sumptuous colouring and Frenchified elegance’ as ‘arguably Closterman’s masterpiece’; he also showed how the portrait elaborated the Taylor family motto, [2] Fama candida rosa dulcior: Olive and Margaret holding the attributes of fame - two trumpets and a wreath of orange blossom - with which they crown Brook, a prodigy of learning, and in the centre the seated Mary dispensing a white rose from her cornucopia, symbolic of the benefits of good fortune. The Taylor arms are said to be inscribed on the pediment of the distant temple. [3]
Closterman also painted half-length oval portraits of the children’s parents c.1695 (private collection). [4]

Footnotesback to top

1) ‘... after standing in front of it, and examining it all over with his eyes close to the canvas’, see J. D. Stewart, Godfrey Kneller, 1983, p 49n64, quoting from a MS list of ‘The Taylor Pictures … written by Ernest Taylor who gave the pictures to Ernest and Netta Trench …’ then belonging to Mr & Mrs Trench.
2) Rogers 1981 acknowledged the help of J. D. Stewart in interpreting the iconography.
3) For Taylor: gu. three roses ar. barbed vert, a chief vair which it is impossible to identify in NPG 5320 although stated to be there (letter from John Hayes, 21 August 1980, on file).
4) M. Rogers, ‘John and John Baptist Closterman: a catalogue of their works’, Wal. Soc., XLIX, 1983, nos 95, 96; pls 38, 39.

Referenceback to top

Kerslake 1977
J. Kerslake, National Portrait Gallery, Early Georgian Portraits, 1977, p 276.

Rogers 1983
M. Rogers, ‘John and John Baptist Closterman: a catalogue of their works’, Wal. Soc., XLIX, 1983, no.97.

Provenanceback to top

John Taylor of Bifrons, Kent;1 by descent to Ernest Taylor who gave it to Ernest and Nesta Trench; by descent to B. M. C. Trench; his sale, Sotheby’s, 9 July 1980, lot 129, bought Baskett;2 purchased October 1980.

1 Bifrons was rebuilt in 1770 by the Rev. E. Taylor and demolished in World War II by the Marquess of Conyngham.
2 Bought at Sotheby’s by John Baskett for the Yale Center for British Art; an Export Licence was withheld and the picture bought by the NPG.

Exhibitionsback to top

Closterman, NPG, 1981, no.12; The Swagger Portrait, NPG, 1993, no.21; Beningbrough 1982–.

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 Brook Taylor