- Museum number
Portrait of Claudius James Rich (1787-1821), , H.L., turned half-l., eyes looking full, wearing black coat trimmed with gold braid.
Oil painting on canvas
- Production date
Height: 76.50 centimetres
Width: 63.40 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- A brilliant linguist, Rich joined the East India Company in 1804 and was appointed Resident at Baghdad in 1808. Here, in addition to his official duties, he collected coins, rare manuscripts and other material with the eventual aim of compiling a history of the area. He visited the site of Babylon on a number of occasions and published Memoirs on the ruins. His account of time spent in Kurdistan was published in 1836. He had a promising career with the Company ahead of him but in 1821 he died of cholera at Shiraz. His collection of medals, coins, gems, and engraved tablets, was bought by the Museum from his widow, Mary, daughter of the governor of Bombay Sir James Mackintosh, whom he had married in 1808. This laid the foundations of the British Museum’s Assyrian collections. Also purchased were his oriental manuscripts, now in the British Library. The portrait, which was posthumously copied from a miniature, was donated by Mrs Rich.
In a letter dated 17 August, 1825 the artist, Thomas Phillips RA (1770-1845) mentions that the portrait is a copy of a miniature:
'... In presenting the picture to the Trustees of the British Museum pray have the goodness to state that I much regret not having been supplied with better materials than an indifferent miniature to paint from and I should have been much better pleased had I been enabled to have sent them a better picture. I have sent it now because Mrs Rich will be better pleased at its being so, but when I return from abroad which I hope to do in Decr I shall then request of the Trustees to indulge me with it again for a short time to varnish it...'
The painting, in the 2nd compartment of the Eastern Zoological Gallery, is described in List of Portraits ...(1842, 1879) as 'Claudius James Rich, Esq., born 1787, died at Shiraz, 1821. Resident of the English East India Company at Bagdad from 1808 to 1821, whose collection of MSS, Medals and Antiquities is placed in the British Museum. Presented by his widow.'
The painting is published in Connoisseur CXLVII, No. 592, March 1961, p. 118.
- Exhibition history
Assyrian Basement, BM (23.4.1982)
Exhibition: 'Layard and his Successors. Assyrian Explorations and Discovery in the XIXth century', Assyrian Basement 1 July-31 August 1963.
Department of Oriental Manuscripts, Students Room
Eastern Zoological Gallery (1842, 1879)
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Book of Presents: 12 November 1825; Officers Reports (Sir Henry Ellis, Dept of Manuscripts), November 12 1825 - Mr Ellis has received a letter from Mrs Rich requesting he will present in her name to the Trustees a Portrait by Mr Phillips of her late husband Mr Claudius James Rich which she is anxious should be placed with the Mss purchased of her by the Government...'.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number