- Also known as
Sir Robert Ker Porter
primary name: Porter, Robert Ker
- individual; painter/draughtsman; official; British; Male
- Life dates
- Scottish artist, traveller and diplomat. Studied painting under Benjamin West (q.v.) at Somerset House; became a captain in the Westminster militia (1803-1804); appointed historical painter to the Russian Tsar (1804) and in 1811 married Mary von Scherbatoff, a Russian princess and cousin of Alexei Nikolaevic Olenin, President of the Academy of Fine Arts (1764-1843); served with the British army in Spain; knighted by Gustav IV of Sweden (1806) and by the Prince Regent (1813); he recorded and drew ruins at Persepolis and other sites in Iran for the Russian Academy of Fine Arts (1817-20). For this work he was awarded the order of the Lion and the Sun by the Qajar ruler Fath Ali Shah, whose portrait he painted. Later in life he became involved in South American politics as consul in Venezuela (1824). Author of Travels in Georgia, Asia, Armenia, Ancient Babylonia, during the years 1817, 1818, 1819 and 1820 (London 1821/22). He is buried in St Petersburg. Albums of his drawings survive in the British Library and Hermitage St Petersburg. His full-length portrait in Russian military uniform was painted by George Harlowe (1808) and engraved by W. O. Burgess (published 1843, the year after his death). Other portraits consist of a three-quarter canvas by his colleague John James Masquerier (1797); drawing of his head and shoulders for Public Characters of 1800-1801 published by R. Phillips (London 1801); portrait by Sharp (Feb. 1803); half-length oils by J. Wright (engraved by Anthoine Cardin, 1806); silhouette with Jane and Anna Marie Porter and a niece, by Auguste Edouart (1829; in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery); oils by Pedro Castillo of Valencia, Venezuela, executed in Caracas for President Jose Antonio Paez; three-quarter length portrait in oils by L. B. Adams, R. A., commissioned by Mr John Boulton (in the Fundacion John Boulton in Caracas). A sketchbook is in the British Library (Add MS.18283). In 1844 the British Museum had purchased drawings from his sister Jane, and at the sale at Christie's after her death (sale 25.vi.1850), the British Museum purchased a number of works by him (lots 4,5,6,7,15) which are mostly now in the British Library MSS; later that year all purely figural drawings were removed and deposited in the P&D department (now 1850,1021.2 to 9; presumably 1850.1021.1, a drawing of sphere by Benjamin West which was transferred at the same time, was also from Ker Porter's collection).
- 'Dictionary of National Biography' XLVI, pp 190-92; Walter Dupouy, 'Sir Robert Ker Porter's Caracas Diary', Caracas 1966 or 1969; R.D. Barnett, "Sir Robert Ker Porter - Regency artist and traveller", 'Iran' X (1972), pp. 19-24, pls I-XII; Nina E. Vasilieva, "About the history of Sir Robert Ker Porter's album with his sketches of Achaemenid and Sassanian monuments", 'Archaeologische Mitteilungen aus Iran' 27 (1994), pp. 339-48, pls 104-11; Simpson, St J.,"From Persepolis to Babylon and Nineveh: the rediscovery of the ancient Near East", 'Enlightenment. Discovering the World in the Eighteenth Century' (Sloan, K., ed.), London: British Museum Press, 2003, pp. 192-201, 293-94.