Valentine Green, Sir Joshua Reynolds, a mezzotint

Published in London, England, AD 1780

Reynolds's self-portrait proclaims his intellectual and artistic pedigree

More prints were made of paintings by Reynolds than any other British eighteenth-century artist. People knew his work chiefly through prints and Reynolds controlled the publication of his work carefully.

This mezzotint associates Reynolds with several great artists of the past. The deep shadows and furry textures evoke the expressive self-portraits of Rembrandt, an artist then very much in vogue. The pose is borrowed from a print after van Dyck, the greatest 'English' portrait painter. Reynolds leans against a portrait bust of the great Italian renaissance artist Michelangelo, as if to confirm his familiarity with and reliance upon the classical traditions. He is dressed in the robes a Doctor of Civil Law, a degree awarded to the painter by the University of Oxford in 1773. His garments stress his intellectual credentials and his status as a theorist.

Reynolds painted this self-portrait for the Royal Academy, of which he was President. It still hangs there. The painting was intended as a pair to one of the architect Sir William Chambers and they were to hang together in the Assembly Room of the newly-completed building in Somerset House. The talented mezzotinter Valentine Green (1739-1813) was one of very few engravers to join the Academy as an Associate.

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More information


T. Clifford, A. Griffiths, and M. Royalton-Kisch, Gainsborough and Reynolds in t (London, The British Museum Press, 1978)

N. Penny (ed.), Reynolds (Royal Academy of Arts and Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1986)

T. Clayton, The English print, 1688-1802 (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1997)


Height: 480.000 mm
Width: 380.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1902-10-11-2356


Bequeathed by William Meriton Eaton, Baron Cheylesmore


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