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In 1702, living in London and serving as Master of the Mint, Newton sat for Godfrey Kneller, the most famous and probably the most expensive portrait painter in London. For this portrait he wore a red banyan and a flowing wig. This is one of many engraved copies of that image.
The text at the bottom reads “Sr ISAAC NEWTON” and “G. Kneller pinxt” and “Wm. Sharp sculpt” and “G. Kearsley, No 46 Fleet Street.” Newton here looks to his left (rather than to his right as in the Kneller portrait). A laurel branch appears at one side and an oil lamp at the other. Below are figures of a globe, a large lens, a refracting telescope, books, papers, geometrical diagrams, and a woman who probably represents Urania, the muse of astronomy.
William Sharp (1749-1824) was an engraver in London. George Kearsley (fl. 1758-1791) was a publisher of books and prints. He was also responsible for The Copper Plate Magazine, “a monthly treasure for admirers of the imitative arts.” Our engraving appeared in the 1778 edition of that work.
Ref: Patricia Fara, Newton. The Making of Genius (New York, 2003).
Milo Keynes, ed., The Iconography of Sir Isaac Newton to 1800 (Woodbridge, 2005), p. 56.
Currently not on view
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Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Science & Mathematics
Prints from the Physical Sciences Collection
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place made
United Kingdom: England, London
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
overall: 8 1/4 in x 6 3/4 in; 20.955 cm x 17.145 cm
National Museum of American History
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