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James Smithson

James Smithson
Artist
James Roberts, 1753 - c. 1809
Sitter
James Smithson, c. 1765 - 1829
Date
1786
Type
Painting
Medium
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
Frame: 59.7 x 47 x 7.6cm (23 1/2 x 18 1/2 x 3")
Topic
Home Furnishings\Furniture\Seating\Chair
Printed Material\Book
Exterior\Landscape
Costume\Academic\Cap and gown
James Smithson: Male
James Smithson: Education and Scholarship\Founder
James Smithson: Science and Technology\Scientist\Chemist
Portrait
Place
United Kingdom\England
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Restrictions & Rights
CC0
Object number
NPG.96.28
Exhibition Label
Born Paris, France
British scientist James Smithson laid the groundwork for the largest museum and research complex in the world, the Smithsonian Institution. Although Smithson had no apparent connection to the United States, he bequeathed most of his fortune “to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase & diffusion of knowledge.”
During a career dedicated to the study of chemistry and mineralogy, Smithson published dozens of scientific papers. In 1787, he became the youngest person admitted to the Royal Society, Britain’s premier scientific academy. This portrait represents Smithson at the age of twenty-one, dressed in academic robes after receiving a master’s degree from Oxford University. It was once owned by his servant, John Fitall, who shares with the United States the distinction of being named in Smithson’s will. Smithson bequeathed him an annual sum of one hundred pounds “in consideration of his attachment & fidelity to me.”
Nacido en París, Francia
El científico británico James Smithson sentó las bases para el museo y complejo de investigación más grande del mundo, la Smithsonian Institution. Aunque sin vínculos aparentes con Estados Unidos, legó la mayor parte de su fortuna “para fundar en Washington, con el nombre de Smithsonian Institution, una entidad destinada al cultivo y la difusión del conocimiento”.
Durante una carrera dedicada al estudio de la química y la mineralogía, Smithson publicó docenas de artículos científicos. En 1787 pasó a ser la persona más joven admitida a la Royal Society, principal academia científica británica. Este retrato lo muestra a los 21 años con su toga académica, después de recibir un título de maestría de la Universidad de Oxford. La obra perteneció una vez al sirviente de Smithson, John Fitall, quien comparte con Estados Unidos la distinción de haber sido nombrado en su testamento. Smithson le legó una suma anual de 100 libras “en consideración de su apego y fidelidad hacia mí”.
Provenance
Mrs. Fitall, widow of Smithson’s servant John; sold through (H.P. Bohn) to Smithsonian,1849; accessioned by NPG 1996
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
Exhibition
2022 Rehang of Out of Many: Portraits from 1600 to 1900
On View
NPG, East Gallery 136