Richard Tompson (Biographical details)

Richard Tompson (publisher/printer; dealer/auction house; British; Male; active 1659 - 1693 died)

Also known as

Tompson, Richard; Thompson, Richard


the Sun in Bedford Street, Covent Garden


Dealer, auctioneer and printseller. He published both engravings and mezzotints, and was closely linked with Alexander Browne (qv). His address was at the Sun in Bedford Street.
Tompson first appears in 1656 when he published a broadside (Thomason tracts, BL 669.f.20/38), and in 1659 as a picture dealer who had sold a landscape painting (A.Laing in 'Art and Patronage in the Caroline Courts', ed.D.Howarth, Cambridge 1993, p.123). In 1669 he was co-publisher with Tooker and Browne, of Browne's 'Ars Pictoria' (Griffiths cat.145). Between 1674-6 Robert Hooke records in his diary that he visited Tompson's shop on seven occasions and purchased prints and illustrated books from him, some new, some old. Between c.1674/5 and 1686, he and Browne jointly advertised the auctions they were conducting of paintings, prints and drawings, and they seem to have begun the first regular art auctions in London. In 1682 he acted as 'crier' at the auction of Lely's paintings (for all this see A.Griffiths, 'Early mezzotint publishing in England: Peter Lely, Tompson and Browne', Print Quarterly VII 1990, pp.130-45).
The earliest plate published by Tompson was an engraving by Arnold de Jode of the Infants Jesus and John Baptist embracing (Griffiths cat.145) after van Dyck; it was dedicated to Peter Lely who owned the painting and is called Tompson 'fautor' (patron or sponsor). The link with Lely helps to explain why in the series of mezzotints that Tompson published in the late 1670s thirty-seven are after Lely's paintings. Only two call Lely a knight, and this dates them before his knighthood in January 1680, and before the comparable series that Browne issued slightly later.
There is no reason to think that Tompson was himself a mezzotinter, and one of his plates is inscribed in pen 'van Somer fe.' (CS 22, in the BM). In addition there are at least nine mezzotints by named mezzotinters, and are to be found in Chaloner Smith under the names of Williams and others. Unlike Browne and Cooper, Tompson never applied for a license to secure his copyright in his prints.
Tompson also published another engraving by Arnold de Jode in 1667, the 'Education of Cupid' after Correggio, which he dedicated to Samuel Cooper. In the early 1680s he collaborated with Edward Cooper in three large plates by Vandrebanc after Verrio's frescos in Windsor Castle (see Griffiths cat.169), as well as in mezzotints by William Faithorne the younger (CS 27, after 1688) and John Smith (CS 29 in 1690).
The London Gazette of 5 October 1693 announced the auction of a 'collection of curious and valuable prints of Marc Antoine, Augustin Venetien and other the best masters, ancient and modern; all likewise paintings, drawings and plates etc. formerly belonging to Mr Richard Tompson deceased, will be sold by auction, at his late dwelling-house at the Sun in Bedford-Bury'. No copy of the catalogue survives, and so the buyers of the plates are not recorded. Cooper bought the plates engraved by Arnold de Jode.
A memorial mezzotint portrait of Tompson by Francis Place after Zoust was published by Tempest (CS 13; not dated). The spelling of his name varies: the earlier documents use Thomson, while the mezzotints use Tompson.


Chaloner Smith
Antony Griffiths, 'Early mezzotint publishing in England: Peter Lely, Tompson and Browne', in 'Print Quarterly' VII 1990, pp.130-45
Carol Blackett-Ord & Simon Turner, 'Early mezzotints: prints published by Richard Thompson and Alexander Browne', Walpole Society LXX 2008 (catalogue of 75 nos)