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Sir Isaac Newton (1642 - 1727)

Sir James Thornhill (Melcombe Regis 1675 - Stalbridge 1734)

Category

Art / Oil paintings

Date

1712

Materials

Oil on canvas

Measurements

1220 x 1020 mm

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Collection

Woolsthorpe Manor, Lincolnshire (Accredited Museum)

NT 427536

Summary

Oil painting on canvas, Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) by Sir James Thornhill (Melcombe Regis 1675 - Stalbridge 1734), 1712. A three-quarter-length portrait, seated, turned to the right, almost profile, gazing at the spectator, short grey hair, wearing a pale-brown dressing-gown lined with dark-green, shown on sleeves and lapels, over a white shirt. Pointing with his right hand towards a pair of fluted stone pillars on the right, drape on the left. Sir Isaac Newton was born at Woolsthorpe Manor and made his first experiments in gravity there, inspired by the fall of an apple from a tree. Until the purchase of this portrait, the house lacked family possessions or even a painted portrait of the great mathematician and this work established a vivid physical presence of the scientist. Thornhill's presentation of Newton without a wig focuses our attention on his head and, by implication, on the mind working within it. The National Trust has owned Woolsthorpe Manor since 1942, the 300th anniversary of Newton's birth, when the house was bought to serve as a permanent memorial to Britain's great scientist.

Provenance

Probably by descent from Sarah Newton within the Foulds family to Miss Dorothy Hylda Foulds (1901-1977); private collection; with Historical Portraits Ltd. (Philip Mould); purchased by the National Trust for £30,000 with the help of a grant of £14,000 from the Art Fund, 1994.

Credit line

Woolsthorpe Manor, The Newton Collection (National Trust)

Makers and roles

Sir James Thornhill (Melcombe Regis 1675 - Stalbridge 1734), artist

References

O'Donoughue 1912 Freeman O'Donoughue, Catalogue of Engraved British Portraits in the British Museum, 1912, Vol.Ill, p.330.; note 6, No.929, pp.315-6. Collins Baker 1953 C.H.Collins Baker, Antonio Verrio and Thornhill''s Early Portraiture, Connoisseur, CXXXI, 1953, pp. 10-3 Halll & Tilling 1975 A.Rupert Hall & Laura Tilling (ed.), The Correspondence of Isaac Newton, 1975, Vol.V, 1975, No.767, pp.7-8. note 5. Millar 1963 Oliver Millar, The Tudor, Stuart and Early Georgian Pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen, London 1963, 2 vols, no, 363 Piper 1963 David Piper, Catalogue of Seventeenth-Century Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery 1625-1714, Cambridge, 1963 , no. 2881 Robonson 1980 Norman Robinson, The Royal Society Catalogue of Portraits, 1980, pp.222-9. Manners and Morals: Hogarth and British Painting, 1700-1760, Tate Gallery, 15 October 1987 - 3 January 1988 , No. 12, pp. 40-1 Mould, 1994 Philip Mould Ltd., 1994, http://www.historicalportraits.com/Gallery.asp?Page=Item&ItemID=825&Desc=Sir-Isaac-Newton-%7C-Sir-James-Thornhill Ingamells, 2009: John Ingamells, Later Stuart Portraits 1685-1714, National Portrait Gallery, London, 2009, p.192

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