• Isaac Newton
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Isaac Newton

1st half of the 18th c.
Object type
68,3 x 55,3 cm
Acquisition date
The Palace on the Isle - Portrait Room, ground floor
Marks and inscriptions
red number 1833 of the Stanisław August collection, bottom right (repeated on bottom left)
Place of Origin
London (United Kingdom)
National Museum in Warsaw
Acquisition name
deposit; inv. no. M.Ob.2574
Museum number
Dep 938
More parametrów obiektu

The portrait of Isaac Newton (1642–1727), renowned English physicist, mathematician and astronomer, was a gift to Stanisław August from his brother, the Primate Michał Poniatowski. The portrait came from a collection of 21 paintings—the property of an anonymous English landowner—which Noël Desenfans offered to the Primate in a letter dated 23 March 1792. …

It is a reduced to bust-length version of the portrait by John Vanderbank, depicting the scholar at the age of 83, knee-length, seated in an armchair. Vanderbank made two copies of it, with the same dimensions (canvas, 127 x 101.6 cm); both are signed and dated 1725. One is the property of Trinity College, Cambridge, and the other belongs to the Royal Society in London … .

Vanderbank depicted the scholar in an informal pose, in simple garments devoid of any orders of office or ornament, without a wig or other accessories. In a letter to Michał Poniatowski dated 19 April 1792, Desenfans wrote about Newton’s likeness offered to the Primate, that it is ‘exceptionally well painted’ and deserves a place in the collection of a real connoisseur; although he did warn that it was not suitable for a ‘woman’s boudoir’, because the sitter was not in the least bit ‘attractive’, he was dressed simply and his grey hair was ‘ruffled like a peasant’s’. He also emphasized that the likeness was unique, because it was the only one for which Newton agreed to sit in person and was, therefore, particularly worthy to be part of Stanisław August’s collection. [D. Juszczak, H. Małachowicz, The Stanisław August Collection of Paintings at the Royal Łazienki. Catalogue, Royal Łazienki Museum, Warsaw 2016, no. 104, pp. 382–385.]

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