Newton by Kneller

Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bart. Portrait of Sir Isaac Newton, 1689; oil on canvas.

Kneller painted two full-scale oils of Isaac Newton. His 1702 portrait hangs in the National Portrait Gallery but this earlier work, owned by the Earl of Portsmouth is, of some fifty known examples, arguably the finest portrait of our pre-eminent natural philosopher. The likeness, taken only two years after the publication of the Principia mathematica shows us Newton in his forties and reflects his early maturity. The informal style, freedom from any fashionable wig and open, if stern, expression speaks to us of the depth of Newton’s understanding and contrasts strongly with the later Kneller and, for instance, the Charles Jervas 1717 presidential portrait at the Royal Society with its several accoutrements.

Lent by the Earl of Portsmouth and reproduced by kind permission.

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