- Museum number
Portrait of Sir Robert Bruce Cotton (1571-1631), oval with shields of arms at the top and the date '1629' at the bottom. Head and bust, turned half-r., eyes looking full.
Oil painting on canvas
- Production date
Height: 84.50 centimetres
Width: 68 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- According to E Croft Murray (P&D Register) the identity of the artist is supported by a print after this portrait engraved by Robert White. 'C. Johnson' is given as the name of the painter. This was published as the frontispiece to 'Bibliotheca Cottoniana, 1696'.
Sir Robert Bruce Cotton (1571-1631), politician and antiquary, devoted much of his life to the preservation of the records of English literature and history, many of which had been dispersed by the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, and to which he added many contemporary official papers. Cotton, a Member of Parliament, was influential as an expert on precedents and made his library widely available to others. Involvement in the murky politics of the time led to difficulties. He was briefly arrested during the reign of James I and in 1629 the library was sealed on the orders of Charles I. It was eventually restored to the family and was subsequently given to the nation in 1700 by his grandson Sir John Cotton (1621-1702), 3rd Bt. After years of neglect the Cotton collection, which included a coin cabinet, was in 1753 entrusted to the British Museum by Act of Parliament. Among its great treasures are the Lindisfarne Gospels, Beowulf and two copies of Magna Carta. The Cottonian manuscripts were transferred to the British Library in 1973 but the BM retains the Cotton coin cabinet.
The List of Portraits ... (1842, 1879) refers to the portrait being in the 2nd compartment and describes it as 'Sir Robert Cotton, A.D. 1629. From the Cottonian Library'.
The British Museum owns a confusing selection of portraits of the Cotton family who amassed and handed over to the nation one of the three founding collections. These are:
(1) Sir John Cotton (1621-1702), attr. Hayls, bought 1931.
(2) Sir Thomas Cotton (1592-1662), given by Mrs Bowdler.
(3) Sir Thomas Cotton (1592-1662) (previously identified as Sir John Cotton), attr Cornelius Johnson, came with the Cottonian Library.
(4) This portrait, Sir Robert Bruce Cotton (1571-1631), attr. Cornelius Johnson, came with the Cotton Library.
(5) Sir Robert Cotton, presented in 1792 by Paul Methuen, Esq. of Corsham (transferred to National Portrait Gallery 1879).
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
Montagu House (1761)
Montagu House, Upper Floor, Room 7 (10 Feb 1810)
Eastern Zoological Gallery (1842, 1879)
- Repaired and glazed by Buttery, 1893.
Examined 2.iv.63. Could be improved by cleaning. Evidence of new blistering in lower r. hadn corner. In need of expert attention.
For most recent condition report see Lynne Harrison, DCDS 2.8.05
For Conservation Report March 2008 see Conservation Merlin requisition no. 91988.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- The painting is said to have been acquired by the Museum in 1753 as part of the Cottonian Library. This had been given to the nation in 1700 and was in 1753 entrusted to the British Museum by Act of Parliament as one of the three founding collections.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number