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Jonathan Richardson the Elder, 1667–1745, British

Sir. Hans Sloane

Additional Title(s):

Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753)

Graphite on vellum
Sheet: 5 15/16 × 4 5/16 inches (15.1 × 11 cm)

Inscribed in pen and brown ink, lower center: "Sir Hans Sloane"; in graphite, lower left: "10 Sep 1740"; lower right: "131"; on verso in pen and brown ink, upper right: "Sir Hans Sloane"; in graphite, lower right: "Sir Hans Sloane | 10 Sep 1740"

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
Associated People:
Sloane, Sir Hans, baronet (1660–1753), physician and collector
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Jonathan Richardson was a highly successful portrait painted, collector, and art theorist, whose pioneering writings were extremely influential throughout Europe, inspiring artists as diverse as Reynolds and Delacroix. Richardson was a keen if not obsessive draftsman, and having amassed a considerable fortune, he devoted much of the last fifteen years of his life to drawing portraits of his friends. Generally executed in graphite on vellum or blue paper, these finished drawings have a vivacity and sensitivity often lacking in Richardson's painted portraits. (Horace Walpole remarked, not without justification, that the artist "drew nothing well below the head and was void of imagination.") More than five hundred of these portrait drawings remained in the family's possession until the death of Richardson's eldest son, Jonathan, in 1771, and it seems likely that the artist made them exclusively for personal, commemorative purposes. In his Essay on the Theory of Painting (1715), Richardson argued that a "a Portrait is a sort of General History of the Life of the Person is represents, not only to Him who is acquainted with it, but to Many Others." The artist's creation of a private gallery of self-portraits (which depict Richardson at different stages in his life) and portraits of those close to him could be read as a process of constructing a personal history, or visual autobiography. [...] All the sitters Richardson drew had personal significance to him, including his friend Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753), the physician and natural historian whose extraordinary collection of books, manuscripts, prints, and coins, formed the basis of the British Museum.

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