- Museum number
Portrait of Dr Matthew Maty (1718-76). H.L., standing, leaning over the back of a chair, head turned half-r., holding a book.
- Production date
Height: 772 millimetres
Width: 638 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Matthew Maty was of Huguenot extraction, his family having sought refuge in the Netherlands. He trained as a doctor at Leiden University and moved to London in 1740. Here he practised as a physician but also moved in literary circles, founding the Journal Britannique in 1747 and falling out with Dr Samuel Johnson, who in 1756 described him as “that little black dog!”. He was one of the first three Under Librarians appointed to the British Museum in 1756, taking charge of the Department of Printed Books the following year and transferring to ‘Natural and Artificial Productions’ in 1765. He was promoted to Principal Librarian (director) in 1772 but (ODNB) “did not achieve a great deal”.
In the 1842 List of Portraits.... this portrait, in the 2nd compartment, is described as 'Dr Matthew Maty, 2nd Principal Librarian of the British Museum, by Dupan. Bequeathed by himself 1776'. In the 1879 List of Portraits it is noted that the painting has been 'transferred to the Trustees' Board Room'. It was one of a number of portraits not transferred to the National Portrait Gallery in 1879 but, by agreement, retained by the British Museum because of its considerable historical importance for that institution.
The painting has been published in Connoisseur CXLVII, No. 592, March 1961, p. 118.
The P&D record notes 'cf. Edward Edwards, 'Anecdotes of Painting', 1805 p.145, note where is mentioned a portrait of Maty in the B.M. by Benjamin Wilson. This may be an error on the part of Edwards'.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
Montagu House, Ground Floor, Room I (10 Feb 1810)
Eastern Zoological Gallery (1842).
Old Board Room.(1879)
New Wing Boardroom (to 2003)
Trustees strongroom (in storage)
Boardroom (Feb 2007 - June 2015)
- Examined 2.iv.63. Needs cleaning and re-varnishing.
For most recent condition report see Lynne Harrison, DCDS, 2.8.05.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Original Papers, f. 300 - extract from Dr Maty's will. 'I leave to the British Museum my own picture drawn by the late Mr Dupan's hand of friendship, as likewise the Busts of Petrarch, Boccaccio, Machiavelli and Dante. Covering letter, 26 Septr 1776 - In consequence of the above article of Dr Maty's will, the Pictures and Busts are presented to the Honble the Trustees of the British Museum by Their most obedient humble Servant, Mary Maty, Executrix. Trustees General Meeting, 26 Sept 1776 (g.m. 755) (thanks for delivery of Bequest). 'Ordered that Dr Maty's Salary to Michaelmas be paid to his Executrix and that Thanks be returned to her for her Care in the Delivery of the several Articles bequeathed to the Museum by Dr Maty viz. his own Portrait, with the Busts of Petrarcha, Boccaccio, Machiavelli and Dante'.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: 1776,0926.1