Unknown artist, Britain

Self-Portrait of an Unknown Artist at the Age of Twenty-two


Not on display
Unknown artist, Britain
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 769 x 639 mm
frame: 910 x 771 x 85 mm
Purchased 1879

Display caption

The identity of the man in this painting is unknown. An inscription says that it is a self-portrait, created when the artist was twenty-two years old. Its style suggests that it was painted around 1740.
The artist is shown in sober clothing. He wears a type of cap often worn by artists in their studios. It also associates this painter with Rembrandt, who famously painted himself in such working clothes. Rembrandt was an important role-model for artists in eighteenth-century Britain, admired for his technical brilliance and profundity.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

N01076 Self-Portrait of an Unknown Artist at the Age of Twenty-two ? c. 1740

Oil on canvas 749×619 (29 1/2×24 3/8), relined on canvas 769×639 (30 1/16×25 1/8), subject within feigned oval

Inscribed ‘Se ipse Pinxit. Aetat. 22’ b.l.

Purchased by the National Gallery 1879; transferred to the Tate Gallery 1919

PROVENANCE ...; Samuel Boddington; Lady Webster, by whose executors sold Christic's 9 June 1866 (302 as ‘Hogarth. Portrait of a gentleman, in a black dress and cap’) bt James Hughes Anderdon, by whose executors sold Christie's 30 May 1879 (87 as ‘Aikman. Portrait of a boy’) bt Barton for the National Gallery, and catalogued there as ‘Hamlet Winstanley. Portrait of the Artist (?)’
EXHIBITED Summer Exhibition of Paintings and Art, Longford Hall Art Gallery and Museum 1934 (61)
LITERATURE Catalogue of the British and Foreign Pictures, National Gallery, 1912, p.765, no.1076; Geoffrey Grigson, ‘George Stubbs, 1724–1806’, The Harp of Aeolus, 1947, p.14 n. 1

The inscription ‘Se ipse Pinxit. Aetat. 22’ lower left was revealed during restoration in 1981. One might reasonably have expected that the artist would have added a signature or at least a date, perhaps lower right, but there is no other inscription.

The portrait has been variously attributed in the past to Hogarth, Aikman (this attribution, as a portrait of Gay, is inscribed in pencil on the back of the relined canvas, presumably by J.H. Anderdon) and Winstanley. The National Gallery's attribution to Winstanley was presumably based on a fancied resemblance to Winstanley's self-portrait at an easel, engraved by John Faber Jnr in 1731; but no.6 does not seem to be painted in Winstanley's style, has no very close resemblance to Winstanley's features in Faber's engraving and does not include the two moles on the sitter's face which are a prominent feature of the ivory portrait bust of Winstanley signed ‘GVDR’ and dated 1740 (in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, repr. Burlington Magazine, CXXIII, 1981, frontispiece and fig.103, noted on p.63)

It has also been noticed that no.6 bears some likeness in pose and features to the self-portrait (at an older age) by Arthur Pond, etching and drypoint, dated 1739 (repr. Louise Lippincott, Selling Art in Georgian London: The Rise of Arthur Pond, 1983, frontispiece); but no.6 is a work of considerable quality and Miss Lippincott considers (in correspondence and on visits to the Tate Gallery) that it is ‘much too good a painting to have been executed by Arthur Pond while in his twenties’. Possibly the unknown artist knew of Pond's self-portrait and modelled his own pose on it; he may also have been influenced by portraits and self-portraits by Jonathan Richardson Snr and Jnr.

Published in:
Elizabeth Einberg and Judy Egerton, The Age of Hogarth: British Painters Born 1675-1709, Tate Gallery Collections, II, London 1988

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