Gallery

Gallery: 
Attributed to Jonathan Richardson , 1664 - 1745
Portrait of a Gentleman in an "Undress Cap", said to be Sir Francis Forbes, in an Ornamental Cartouche
Portrait of a Gentleman in an "Undress Cap"
oil on canvas
30 x 25 in. (76 x 64 cm.)

Notes

Sir Francis Forbes was governor of Christ's Hospital in 1727.

 

 

The Gentleman is wearing a simple velvet cap, composed of a single piece of cloth that fits over the head. This is practically identical with a modern shower cap, only made of velvet. This sort of headgear was a standard of the 18th Century worn within the house or in times of leisure. He is in informal dress. The oldest forms are the so-called nightcaps, and despite their name they were actually worn during daytime. Nightcaps performed two functions: they were fashionable indoor wear and they were effective against the cold. They started to appear in the early seventeenth century and were usually dome-shaped with a tightly fitting brim. Over the decades, the brim became larger and loose fitting. This type of cap is sometimes called a ‘negligé cap’ in North America.

By the late seventeenth century, more and more men started to wear ‘undress’ caps made of silk and velvet. They were often worn by bald (naturally or deliberately) men when they were not wearing the long wigs that were highly fashionable at that time. These caps were less formal than the earlier nightcaps and the brims could come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Like their predecessors, ‘undress caps’ were often decorated with silk or metal thread embroidery. The wearing of this type of cap continued into the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Artist biography

Richardson, Jonathan, the elder (1667–1745), portrait painter and writer, was born on 12 January 1667 in the parish of St Botolph without Bishopsgate, London, and baptized at St Botolph's on 17 January, the son of William Richardson (c.1620–1672), silk weaver and citizen of London, and his wife, MaryRichardson's mother remarried, and about 1681 his stepfather apprenticed him to a scrivener. After six unhappy years he was released from his apprenticeship and began training to be a painter, for which he had a 'strong inclination' (VertueNote books, 3.23). His chosen master was the English-born portrait painter John Riley, with whom he lived until Riley's death in 1691. In early 1693 (in Lincoln's Inn chapel) he married Elizabeth Bray (c.1671–1726), a close relation of Riley'sRichardson may have taken over Riley's house and studio in Lincoln's Inn Fields, for from at least as early as 1703 (the date of the earliest extant list of occupants) until 1724 he lived in Holborn Row, Lincoln's Inn Fields. Elizabeth Richardson bore eleven children between 1694 and 1711, most of whom seem to have survived infancy; she died in January 1726. The eldest son, Jonathan Richardson the younger (1694–1771), who was born on 14 February 1694 and baptized the same day at St Giles-in-the-Fields, London, shared many of his father's literary and artistic interests. Although Horace Walpole states that he 'painted a little', and the sale catalogue of his collection included a few of his own drawings, Richardson the younger was raised as a gentleman, not a professional artist, and none of his works are identifiable today. His education included the acquisition of foreign and classical languages and, unlike his father, he travelled abroad (to Holland, Flanders, France, and Italy in 1716 and 1720).

Richardson the elder quickly established himself as a leading portraitist, and by 1705 was commanding prices for his pictures that were comparable to those of Sir Godfrey Kneller, the most fashionable portrait painter in England at the time. George Vertueplaced Richardson, along with KnellerMichael Dahl, and Charles Jervas, in the élite group of portraitists who led the field 'in great business and esteem amongst people of Quality' (VertueNote books, 3.138). He painted a wide range of aristocratic and professional sitters, including members of noble English and Scottish families (such as those of the first earl of Rockingham, the second earl of Oxford, the second duke of Queensberry, the first duke of Montrose, and the first duke of Roxburghe), eminent writers (including Alexander PopeMatthew Prior, and Richard Steele), and prominent medical men such as Richard MeadWilliam Cheselden, and Sir Hans Sloane (whose full-length portrait by Richardson hangs in the examination schools, Oxford). Although he declined two invitations to be court painter, he executed a full-length portrait of Frederick, prince of Wales, in 1736 (now in Warwick Castle). In 1725 Richardson moved to Queen Square, Bloomsbury, where he lived for the rest of his life. After about 1730 his professional output of paintings decreased, and he gave up business entirely at the end of 1740. His students included Thomas Hudson (who married his daughter Mary), George Knapton, and the poet John Dyer.

Richardson was a productive and skilled draughtsman, especially during the last fifteen years of his life, when he executed numerous portrait drawings in two media: small lead-on-vellum studies, mainly of friends and family members; and larger chalk drawings (often on blue paper) which included many self-portraits and portraits of his eldest son. Very few of his drawings were preparatory sketches for paintings; they were finished works (sometimes derived from paintings or pencil sketches) produced for his own retention. After being preserved by his son, they were sold with Richardson the younger's drawing collection on 5 February 1772. Numerous examples survive in the British Museum and elsewhere.

Richardson also collected drawings by earlier masters and by the time of his death had amassed one of the largest and finest collections in Britain, containing nearly 5000 examples which were carefully mounted, annotated, and methodically arranged. It contained works from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries, by Flemish, Dutch, British, and, above all, Italian artists. His collection was sold in 1747, and dispersed among numerous other collectors, including Thomas Hudson, the duke of Devonshire, and General John Guise. Drawings from Richardson's collection are identifiable by his distinctive collector's marks; some (including numerous examples at Christ Church, Oxford, from the Guise collection) still retain his mounts, on which he recorded attributions, shelf-marks, and observations about the drawings' provenance or significance.

Richardson was the most important and prolific English writer on art of the first half of the eighteenth century, publishing An Essay on the Theory of Painting (1715), Two discourses: I. An essay on the whole art of criticism as it relates to painting, and II. An argument in behalf of the science of a connoisseur (1719), and (with his son Jonathan the youngerAn account of some of the statues, bas-reliefs, drawings and pictures in Italy, &c. with remarks (1722). Second editions of the first two books appeared in 1725, and a two-volume French translation of all three, with revisions and additions, was published in Amsterdam in 1728, entitled: Traité de la peinture et de la sculpture. In 1754 a second edition of An account was issued, followed by edited versions of The Works of Jonathan Richardson in 1778 and 1792. Richardson's books were widely read, and the influence of many of their central ideas can be traced in Sir Joshua Reynolds's Discourses.

Richardson wrote for a wide readership, at a time when middle-class as well as aristocratic English men and women were purchasing unprecedented numbers of pictures. While never belittling painting's decorative appeal and the requirement of skilled craftsmanship, he sought to educate English artists and consumers about the intellectual and instructional potential of painting. In many of its basic principles his art theory resembles that formulated in seventeenth-century academic French and Italian contexts, but Richardson used language and examples (notably Raphael'stapestry cartoons, displayed at Hampton Court) which were familiar to English readers. He also argued that portrait painting, the dominant genre practised by English artists, deserved higher esteem than its traditional placement below history painting. Richardson defended his countrymen's abilities as artists and connoisseurs against the established authority of continental taste. In doing so, he drew heavily upon the empirical philosophy of John Locke. For instance, in the first of his Two discourses he argued that anyone who could make methodical observations, compare ideas, and think rationally could learn to distinguish the quality, authorship, and originality of paintings. These principles were exemplified by An account, wherein Richardson, using notes taken by Jonathan the younger on a trip to France and Italy in 1720, disagreed with many accepted evaluations of ancient and modern artworks. Most contentiously, he pronounced Raphael's frescoes in the Vatican to be inferior to the cartoons at Hampton Court.

Throughout his life Richardson and his son Jonathan had literary interests and aspirations, which were encouraged by their friends Alexander Pope and Matthew Prior. He was particularly devoted to John Milton's Paradise Lost and, partly in response to Richard Bentley's edition of the text in 1732, published Explanatory Notes and Remarks on Milton's Paradise Lost in 1734, written with Richardson the younger. The intimacy and harmony with which the Richardsons lived and collaborated was frequently commented upon by contemporaries, including Pope, who called them 'two such lovers of one another, and two such lovers of the fine arts' (The Correspondence of Alexander Pope, ed. G. Sherburn, 5 vols., 1956, vol. 2, pp. 140–41). The elder Richardson also wrote a copious body of poetry, selections from which were prepared for the press by Jonathan the younger and published posthumously as Morning Thoughts in 1776. Other poems, such as his lengthy 'Hymn to God', which he dedicated to his children in 1712, survive in manuscript.

Richardson died suddenly but peacefully in London (upon sitting down in his chair after his customary walk in St James's Park) at his home in Queen Square, Bloomsbury, on 28 May 1745. His friend Thomas Birch preached the funeral sermon, and Richardson was buried in the chancel of the church of St Michael, Wood Street, on 1 June 1745. In 1776 his son's Richardsoniana, or, Occasional Reflections on the Moral Nature of Man, was posthumously published, a volume incorporating observations from ancient and modern authors, and anecdotes about his father and other contemporaries. Richardson the younger died in London in June 1771 and was buried on 15 June in the church of St George the Martyr, London. He was unmarried.