- Museum number
Portrait of Sir William Temple, head and shoulders in an oval, after Lely; a proof before title. 1679
- Production date
Height: 351 millimetres (trimmed)
Width: 258 millimetres (trimmed)
- Curator's comments
- (Text from Antony Griffiths, 'The Print in Stuart Britain', BM 1998, cat.149)
Temple was one of the leading diplomats of the reign of Charles II, with a special expertise in Dutch affairs (he published his 'Observations of the Netherlands' in 1673). He was at the peak of his influence in 1679, but subsequently withdrew from public affairs to his house and garden at Moor Park. In 1689 he employed the young Jonathan Swift as his secretary, and wrote a series of essays, which together with his letters and memoir, have ensured his place in English letters. His wife was Dorothy Osborne, and her letters to him before their marriage in 1654 have, since their first publication in 1888, been regarded as some of the great love letters in the English language.
The source of this engraving was a bust portrait by Peter Lely of which the most accessible version is in the National Portrait Gallery. Piper (p.152) dated the painting to the early 1660s, and the reason for its being engraved fifteen years later must have been Temple's prominence at the time. It is an excellent example of the quality of Vandrebanc's work, as well as evidence of his collaboration with Lely after Gascar's departure.
The deliberate production of proofs before letter was a feature of Continental, and especially French print publishing, and was introduced to London from abroad, initially by Simon de Passe and later by Lombard. Such proofs were aimed at collectors, who were thus guaranteed an early impression, when the plate was at its freshest and had not begun to wear; this became very important with mezzotints which wore quickly.
An impression of the lettered state, with Latin titles and the date 1679, is in the British Museum (P.5-243). It bears no publisher's address. This could mean one of three things: that it was a private plate, commissioned by the sitter or his family; that it was a book illustration; or that it was sold by the engraver directly rather than through the ordinary channels of print distribution.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number