Explore highlights
Carved ivory bust of Sir Isaac Newton by David Le Marchand

  • Side profile facing right

    Side profile facing right

  • Side profile facing left

    Side profile facing left


Height: 24.000 cm

Gift of Matthew Raper III (1765)

P&E MLA Ivory Catalogue 455

Room 46: Europe 1400-1800

    Carved ivory bust of Sir Isaac Newton by David Le Marchand

    London, England, AD 1718

    The renowned mathematician and scientist

    Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), the renowned mathematician and scientist, was elected President of the Royal Society in 1702. It is unusual for such an important person to be shown in informal dress, with an open-necked shirt and without a wig. It may suggest that Newton preferred to be seen without the obvious signs of power. The ivory, as the inscription shows, was carved from life ('ad viv[um]'). A portrait of Le Marchand by Joseph Highmore (about 1723, National Portrait Gallery, London, on loan to The British Museum) shows him holding a similar bust of Newton.

    David Le Marchand (1674-1726) was born into an artistic family in Dieppe, a port where elephant tusks were shipped from West Africa and which was a well-known centre for working in ivory. Carved with drills, ivory can then be polished to a smooth, cream-coloured surface. This makes it ideal for use in portraiture.Wax models of the subject were usually made first, taken either from life, or from an engraving or painting, with the complex process of carving the ivory taking place at a later stage.

    On the back of the stand is inscribed: 'ISAACUS NEWTON / EQ: AVRA / AN: 1718 / Le Marchand / Sc.ad.vi'.

    A. Dawson, Portrait sculpture, a catalogu (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)

    C. Avery, David Le Marchand (1674-1726), (London, Lund Humphries, 1996)


    Browse or search over 4,000 highlights from the Museum collection

    On display: Room 46: Europe 1400-1800

    Shop Online

    Legacy of illuminated manuscripts, £8.99

    Legacy of illuminated manuscripts, £8.99