Collection online

oil painting

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Portrait of Voltaire (1694-1778), T.Q.L., standing, body nearly in profile to r., head turned half r., and eyes looking full, wearing dark green coat trimmed with gold lace, and holding book in his l. hand.

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 17thC
  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 81.8 centimetres
    • Width: 64.3 centimetres
  • Curator's comments

    This portrait of the great Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher, was described when acquired by the Museum as “Voltaire drawn by Mr Gardel, a young painter of Geneva”. The donor was a member of staff, Matthew Maty, of Huguenot origins, who was appointed in 1756. How Maty obtained it is not known but the artist Theodore Gardelle, described in the ODNB as “murderer and painter”, worked in Geneva, Brussels and France before coming to London in 1759. Gardelle is said to have known Voltaire at Geneva where he drew his portrait and enamelled it on a snuffbox. In February 1761 he is said to have argued with his landlady over her portrait and murdered her – he said that she had initially fallen during a struggle. Caught after an attempt to dispose of her dismembered body, he was tried and subsequently executed in the Haymarket, in April 1761. Voltaire’s pose is similar to that in the 1735 portrait by Maurice-Quentin de Latour (1704-88).

    The painting is mentioned in List of Portraits ... (1842, 1879) as being in the 5th Compartment of the Eastern Zoological Gallery and is described as 'Voltaire. Presented by M. Maty, M.D., 1760).

    The portrait is published in Connoisseur, CXLVII, No. 593, April 1961, p. 192.

    The portrait was for many years in the Director's Office, West Residence.


  • Bibliography

    • List of Portraits suspended on the Walls of the Eastern Zoological Gallery 74 (No. 75 in 1842) bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (BH/FF8/rack7)

  • Exhibition history

    Montagu House (1761)
    Montagu House, Base Storey, Room XIII (10 Feb 1810)
    Eastern Zoological Gallery (1842, 1879)
    Gold Ornaments and Gem Room.
    Director's Office (May 1950).
    Director's Residence (23 April 1982)

  • Condition

    Repaired and glazed by Buttery, 1894. Examined 2.iv.63. In good condition, but could be improved by cleaning and varnishing.

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    Standing Committee Minutes, Vol III, p. 645, 31 October 1760 'Voltaire drawn by Mr Gardel a young painter of Geneva... '; Book of Presents 31 October 1760; General Meeting (c.340): 30 October 1760 ”Voltaire drawn by Mr Gardel a young painter of Geneva...”

  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number



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Object reference number: PIC134466

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