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Samuel Johnson

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    1834,0212.21

  • Title (object)

    • Samuel Johnson
  • Description

    Portrait seen half-length to right, head almost in profile, his hands towards his chest with fingers bent, his eyes almost closed; wearing loose robe with open collar; books on shelf behind; state with title and publication detail; after Reynolds (Mannings 1012). 1770
    Mezzotint

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1770
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 460 millimetres
    • Width: 332 millimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        Lettered below the image with the title, and "Sir Joshua Reynolds pinxt. / James Watson fecit / R. Sayer Excudit / London, Printed for Robt. Sayer Map & Printsellor [sic] No. 53 Fleet Street, Published as the Act directs 10 July 1770.".
  • Curator's comments

    Text from 'Gainsborough and Reynolds in the BM', BM 1984, cat.111:
    Samuel Johnson was perhaps Reynolds' closest friend, and was painted by him five times. This is the second and was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1770. The original is now at Knole; a replica is in the Tate Gallery. Reynolds' memoirs of Johnson are published by F. W. Hilles: 'Portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds', 1952, pp. 66-80.
    Mrs Piozzi records Johnson's reaction to one of his portraits: "When Sir Joshua Reynolds had painted his portrait looking into the slit of his pen, and holding it almost close to his eye, as was his general custom, he felt displeased, and told me "he would not be known by posterity for his defects only, let Sir Joshua do his worst". I said in reply, that Reynolds had no such difficulties about himself, and that he might observe the picture which hung up in the room where we were talking, represented Sir Joshua holding his ear in his hand to catch the sound. "He may paint himself as deaf if he chooses (replied Johnson), but I will not be 'blinking Sam'".' ('Anecdotes of the late Samuel Johnson', 1786, p.248.) Commentators have always linked this story to the portrait type in which Johnson is shown near-sightedly peering at the book he is reading. It appears, however, to be equally applicable (or inapplicable) to this composition.

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  • Bibliography

    • Goodwin 70.III bibliographic details
    • Chaloner Smith 1883 82.II bibliographic details
    • Russell 1926 82.III bibliographic details
    • Hamilton 1884 p. II bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (British XVIIIc Unmounted Roy)

  • Exhibition history

    1984 London, BM, 'Gainsborough and Reynolds in the BM', cat.111

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition date

    1834

  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number

    1834,0212.21

Portrait seen half-length to right, head almost in profile, his hands towards his chest with fingers bent, his eyes almost closed; wearing loose robe with open collar; books on shelf behind; state with title and publication detail; after Reynolds (Mannings 1012).  1770  Mezzotint

Recto

Portrait seen half-length to right, head almost in profile, his hands towards his chest with fingers bent, his eyes almost closed; wearing loose robe with open collar; books on shelf behind; state with title and publication detail; after Reynolds (Mannings 1012). 1770 Mezzotint

Image description

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