Sir William Herschel, 1738-1822

A half-length portrait of William Herschel to left in a russet coat with a fur collar and either a grey wig or powdered hair. He is holding a paper bearing the words, 'The Georgian Planet With its Satellites', together with a drawing of a planet and its satellites. This probably refers to Herschel's discovery of Uranus in 1781, which he initially wanted to call 'Georgium Sidus' after his new patron, George III. It was eventually named Uranus after the mythological god of the skies.

John Russell was a bookseller and printseller as well as an artist. He was apprenticed to Francis Cotes and set up his own practice in 1767. In 1770 he entered the Royal Academy Schools, London, winning the silver medal for figure drawing, and was elected RA in 1788, when he became Crayon Painter to King George III and to George, Prince of Wales. He painted some rather wooden portraits in oil but most of his portraiture was done using pastel. He had a large and fashionable clientele. Significantly for this portrait, Russell was also a keen amateur astronomer, who produced oil and watercolour studies of the Moon and built the first scientific lunar globe, an extraordinarily sophisticated instrument which he called the 'Selenographia'. It is possible that this is either the portrait exhibited in the 1795 Royal Academy exhibition, or a later copy.

Object Details

ID: BHC2764
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Russell, John
Date made: circa 1795
People: Herschel, William
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Fund
Measurements: Painting: 255 x 220 mm; Frame: 363 mm x 310 mm x 80 mm

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