John Smeaton, by Richard Woodman, published by  Charles Knight, after a painting attributed to  John Hamilton Mortimer, early 19th century - NPG D41730 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

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John Smeaton

by Richard Woodman, published by Charles Knight, after a painting attributed to John Hamilton Mortimer
stipple engraving, early 19th century
11 3/8 in. x 7 7/8 in. (290 mm x 200 mm) plate size; 17 1/4 in. x 11 7/8 in. (438 mm x 301 mm) paper size
Purchased with help from the Friends of the National Libraries and the Pilgrim Trust, 1966
NPG D41730

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Julia Webb

25 September 2015, 09:58

Professor Robin Marshall FRS

The engraving by Richard Woodman, is attributed to Mortimer and it even says so on the print. However, this is a mistake and the painter was Mather Brown. John Smeaton's close friend Alexr Aubert FRS donated the painting to the Royal Society in 1799, seven years after Smeaton's fatal accident. The Royal Society has the letter that accompanied the donation and in the letter is says that the painting is by Mather Brown.

Publisher Charles Knight was always under heavy pressure and he just made a mistake when he typeset the attribution of the original painter on the print.

Dear Professor Marshall,

Thank you for this very useful information, which has been recorded for future researchers. The Royal Society online Picture Library for the painting, RS.9720, quotes the letter sent at the time of donation “I beg leave to present to the Royal Society a Picture of my late much esteemed Friend Mr. John Smeaton, Civil Engineer and Fellow of the Society, whose memory will ever be dear to all Lovers of Science & particularly to those who were acquainted with him it was painted by Mr. Mather Brown a few years before his death & is allowed to be a striking resemblance of him...“ [Letter, Alexander Aubert, 7 November 1799, to Sir Joseph Banks, Royal Society Letters, RSL/3/3].

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