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Joseph Wright of Derby, 1734–1797, British, active in Italy (1773–75)

Portrait of a Man, Known as the "Indian Captain"

Former Title(s):

An Unknown Man (The Indian Captain)

ca. 1767
Oil on canvas
90 1/4 x 54 1/2 inches (229.2 x 138.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
boots | breeches | clouds | gilded | man | portrait | shawls | staff (walking stick) | stockings | turban
On view in the galleries
IIIF Manifest:

The identity of the sitter in this enigmatic portrait is unknown. Some think he is the “Indian Captain” that Joseph Wright of Derby exhibited in 1767, but the turban and costume are fanciful, not the uniform of an East Indian Company officer. Whoever he is, the background ships imply an imminent departure, and the lingering look over his shoulder suggests a reluctance to leave. These elements suggest that the portrait was commissioned to mark a significant moment in the sitter’s life.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016

William Bemrose, Wright of Derby, a Biographical Notice, Reliquary, vol. 4, April 1864, p. 180, By2 945 (LSF) Copy of article in file. Also available online in British Periodicals database. [ORBIS]

British Art at Yale, Apollo, v.105, no. 182, April 1977, pp. 246, 249, fig. 21, N5220 M552 A7 1977 OVERSIZE (YCBA) Published as April 1977 issue of Apollo; all of the articles may also be found in bound Apollo Volume [N1 A54 105:2 +] [YCBA]

Malcolm Cormack, A Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1985, pp. 260-261, N590.2 A83 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Judy Egerton, Joseph Wright of Derby: "Self Portrait in a Fur Cap", Museum Studies, vol. 18, no 2, 1992, pp. 120-1, N6767 A77 1992 (YCBA) Also available online through JStor. [YCBA]

Benedict Nicolson, Joseph Wright of Derby : Painter of Light, Paul Mellon Foundation for British Art, London, New York, 1968, pp.228,293 (v.1), no. 154, NJ18 W95 +N53 Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

Benedict Nicolson, Wright of Derby: Addenda and Corrigenda, Burlington Magazine, vol. 130, no.1027, October 1988, pp. 749-50, fig. 28, N1 B87 + (YCBA) Available online through JSTOR. [YCBA]

Paul Mellon's Legacy, a passion for British art. [large print labels] , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, v. 1, N5220 M552 +P381 2007, Mellon Shelf (YCBA) [YCBA]

Keith Roberts, Current and Forthcoming Exhibitions:, London , Burlington Magazine, vol. 113,no.817, April 1971, pp. 232-3, fig. 74, N1 B87 + OVERSIZE (YCBA) Also available online (JSTOR) [YCBA]

Society of Artists of Great Britain, A catalogue of the pictures, sculptures, designs in architecture, models, drawings, prints, etc. : exhibited at the great room in Spring Garden, Charing Cross, April the twenty-second, 1767 / by the Society of Artists of Great Britain incorporated by his, William Bunce, London, UK, 1767, p. 15, no. 188, N5055 S6 C3 (RARE BOOKS, YCBA) Also Available online (18th Century Collection Online - Gale) [ORBIS]

Society of Artists of Great Britain, Le pour et le contre, being a poetical display of the merit and demerit of the capital paintings, exhibited at Spring Gardens ... , London, 1767, p. 18, N5055.S6 C3 1760A (YCBA) Also available Online Online (18th Century Collections Online - Gale) [YCBA]

Sotheby's sale catalogue : Catalogue of Important Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Pictures : 17 June 1970, Sotheby's, Ann Arbor, London, June 17, 1970, p. 30, Lot 68, fig. 68, Film B12, Reel 155 [ORBIS]

McCormick J. Thomas, Joseph Wright of Derby, Painter of Light [Review], Art Bulletin, vol. 55, September 1973, p. 465, N11 C4 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Thos. Agnew and Sons Ltd., English life and landscape, an exhibition of English pictures, 1730-1870, 8th March-8th April 1971. , [London, 1971, Lot 9, fig. 9, ND1314.4 A35 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Ellis Waterhouse, An Impressive Panorama of British Portraiture, Apollo, v. 105, no. 182, April 1977, pp. 246, 249, fig. 21, N1 A54 + (YCBA) Another copy of this article may be found in a separately bound and catalogued copy of this issue located on the Mellon Shelf [call number : N5220 M552 A7 1977 + (YCBA)] [YCBA]

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