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Jonathan Richardson the Elder, 1667–1745
ca. 1733
Materials & Techniques:
Black chalk, red chalk and white chalk on medium, slightly textured, blue laid paper
Sheet: 18 3/8 × 12 1/2 inches (46.7 × 31.8 cm)

Watermark: DP; collector’s mark: Jonathan Richardson Sr. (Lugt 2184); collector’s mark: Edward Peart (Lugt 892)

In the artist's hand in red chalk, lower right: "Quod adest componere"; in pen and brown ink, upper left: "E1740"; in an 18th century hand in pen and brown ink, on verso: "Jon. Richardson Jun | by himself"; in graphite, on verso: "116-/5"; with stamp of John Richardson, Sr., center right (Lugt 2184); with stamp of Edward Peart, bottom left (Lugt 891)

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:
Richardson, Jonathan, the elder (1667–1745), portrait painter and writer
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IIIF Manifest:

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. A drawing by Richardson of his beloved son Jonathan in the Center's collection shares the same provenance with cat. 2 back to the eighteenth century, and the two drawings may have been conceived as companion pieces commemorating the affectionate relationship between father and son. 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.

Gillian Forrester

Wilcox, Forrester, O'Neil, Sloan. The Line of Beauty: British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century. Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2001. pg. 16 cat. no. 1

Paul Mellon's Legacy : A Passion for British Art (Yale Center for British Art, 2007-04-18 - 2007-07-29) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

The Line of Beauty : British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century (Yale Center for British Art, 2001-05-19 - 2001-08-05) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

English Portrait Drawings & Miniatures (Yale Center for British Art, 1979-12-05 - 1980-02-17) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Christie's sale catalogue : Important English drawings and watercolours : 5 March 1974, Christie's, 1974, p. 30, lot 86, Auction Catalogues (YCBA)

Patrick Noon, English Portrait Drawings & Miniatures, Yale Center for British Art, 1979, p. 31, no. 31, NC772 N66+ (Wall Shelf) (YCBA) [YCBA]

Paul Mellon's Legacy : a passion for British art [large print labels], , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, v. 2, N5220 M552 P381 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Simon Schama, The face of Britain : a history of the nation through its portraits, Oxford University Press, New York, 2016, pp. 371-72, 375=, N7598 .S33 2016 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Vernon sales catalogue : A catalogue of drawings, prints, books of prints, and books, belonging to the late Daniel Daulby, Esq. : 12 August 1799, Vernon, Liverpool, 1799, p. 32, lot 116, Auction Catalogues (YCBA) Available Art Sales Catalogues Online (Lugt 5964)

Scott Wilcox, Line of beauty : British drawings and watercolors of the eighteenth century, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2001, p. 17, no. 2, NC228 W53 2001 (YCBA) [YCBA]

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