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Enoch Seeman (Danzig circa 1694-1744 London) and Studio
Enoch Seeman (Danzig circa 1694-1744 London) and Studio

Portrait of Sir Isaac Newton, Kt. (1642-1727), three-quarter-length, in a white cravat and green cloak, seated at a table with a copy of The Principia and an astrological globe

Details
Enoch Seeman (Danzig circa 1694-1744 London) and Studio
Portrait of Sir Isaac Newton, Kt. (1642-1727), three-quarter-length, in a white cravat and green cloak, seated at a table with a copy of The Principia and an astrological globe
oil on canvas
49 7/8 x 52 in. (126.7 x 132.1 cm.)
Provenance
Robert More F.R.S. M.P. (1703-1780), and by descent at Linley Hall, Shropshire, to the present owner.
Literature
F. Leach (ed.), The Country Seats of Shropshire, Shrewsbury, 1891, p. 82, as by Sir Godfrey Kneller and hanging over the mantel-piece in the Drawing Room.
M. Keynes, The Iconography of Sir Isaac Newton to 1800, Cambridge, 2005, p. 33, no. XIV-2, illustrated on the cover.
J. Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery, Later Stuart Portraits, 1685-1714, London, 2009, p. 191, no. 558 a.
Exhibited
Lincoln, Lincolnshire's Great Exhibition, 27 June-27 September 2015.

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Katharine Cooke
Katharine Cooke

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Lot Essay

Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) remains a fundamentally important figure in the formation of modern science. His writings on mathematics and physics shaped the development of the disciplines, theorising the laws of motion, gravity and colour theory. His magnum opus, the Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, originally written in Latin and published in 1687, was released in two further editions in his life time, in 1713 and 1726 (it was only translated into English after Newton’s death in 1729) and remains a crucially important text in setting out and explaining his discoveries.

This portrait depicts Newton, at the end of his life, dressed in a dark blue banyan, with a loosely-tied stock round his neck. Seated in a high-backed chair at a table, the third edition of his Principia open at page 299, lies before him. An astrological globe, something in which Newton took great interest, stands on the table behind.

Milo Keynes, who dates the picture to 1726 (op. cit., p. 33), considers this to be the prime version of the portrait that exists in a number of versions, including those in the National Portrait Gallery, London, Trinity College, Cambridge, and Babson College, Massachusetts. John Ingamells (op. cit., p. 191), however, considers it likely that all were painted posthumously and derive from a bust-length portrait, dated 1726, by Seeman which is also preserved in the collection of Trinity College, Cambridge. Robert More, whilst not a direct contemporary of Newton, was also a fellow of the Royal Society (elected 1730) and a renowned bibliophile. More himself, whilst a young man, was also painted by Seeman and that portrait remains in the collection of the present vendor.


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