- Museum number
Portrait of John Evelyn, bust-length, in an oval frame, with drapery and books in the lower part; traditionally known as 'le portrait grec' or 'le petit Mylord'. c.1650
- Production date
Height: 242 millimetres
Width: 174 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Text from Antony Griffiths, 'The Print in Stuart Britain', BM 1998 cat.81)
Evelyn left England for Paris in July 1649, soon after the execution of Charles I, and remained there, barring a two-month return, until the end of 1651. These years mark the apogee of his print collecting. His diary records how on 30 April 1650 he went to visit Stefano della Bella, then about to return from France to Italy, and Perelle, the landscape engraver. In July his servant Richard Hoare wrote to him: 'I shall not faile to order your prints, according to your commands ... your Great Booke will not hold half of them, so I hope you will not be wanting long for ordering and disposing those which I cannot put in, yourselfe' (BL Add.Ms.15948, f.53).
Evelyn noted in his diary for 13 June 1650: 'I sate to the famous sculptor Nanteuil (who was afterwards made a knight by the French King for his art) who engrav'd my picture in copper.' Nanteuil's autograph undertaking to engrave for 20 pistols (200 livres, approximately ,12 at the time) a plate exactly resembling the original drawing in crayon is dated 24 June. On 9 July Hoare wrote to him from Paris: 'Monsieur Nantu: hath begun your plate, and (as he tells mee) it will be most convenient to grave the face last, wherefore you may not expect a proofe as soone as you thought; however he is not altogether determined on that matter and perchance I may send you a proof of the effigies within this fortnight, or three weeks at the farthest' (both in the Evelyn papers in the British Library).
On 8 November Nanteuil presented Evelyn with the original chalk drawing signed and dated 1650; the diary entry notes that it was 'an extraordinary curiosity'. It remained in the possession of Evelyn's descendants. At the same time Nanteuil drew his wife and parents-in-law, Sir Richard and Lady Browne. The plate was Evelyn's property, and he gave impressions to those who asked; as late as 1698 he found one for Thoresby ('Letters of eminent men addressed to Ralph Thoresby', 1832, II pp.346-7,358,383). The plate was last reprinted in 1818 to illustrate William Bray's 'Memoirs ... of John Evelyn'; since then it has been lost. Six impressions before letter are recorded, a large enough number to prove that they were run off deliberately for Evelyn to give as special presents.
In 1669 Evelyn sent Pepys a manuscript 'Directions for improving a short visit to Paris'. In it he wrote: 'And if you stayd so long to have your own pictures engraven by le Chevalier de Nanteuille you would bring home jewels not to be parallel'd by any mortal at present, and perhaps by none here after. He is the the greatest man that ever handled the graver, and besides, he is a scholar and a well-bred person. And Monsr. du Bosse (the other) is a plain, honest, & worthy & intelligent good man; both my singular friends and correspondents for those matters of art &c.' (Chamberlain p.xi). A letter of 1669 from Nanteuil to Evelyn among the Evelyn papers is connected with this visit.
Nanteuil was the finest engraver of his day. In 1650 he was still a young man, and Evelyn showed the same ability to spot talent as when he had commissioned drawings in Rome in 1645 from the twenty-year-old Carlo Maratta. Evelyn used to give impressions from it to his friends. Samuel Pepys commissioned a similarly-sized plate from Robert White, which he employed for a bookplate. Evelyn commissioned his bookplate from Abraham Bosse, and two designs for it are among the Evelyn papers, although it was never executed. There is also a curious invoice from Bosse in May 1652 which includes the sum of 30 livres 'pour M.Nanteuil et pour Bosse pour le petit dessein et pourtrait de M.Tuetlin'. One wonders whether Bosse had added the lettering to Nanteuil's plate.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- This print carries no indication of provenance on its verso other than Philipe's blindstamp with no initials. However, it seems to have entered the Museum collections together with P,4.223. Given that it was typical of Cracherode to have the same print in both a proof state and a complete one, and given that it was typical of him also to collect prints inscribed 'P. Mariette' on the verso (as is the case with P,4.223), it is possible to assume that P,4.222 and 223 came from Cracherode's collection.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number