Nevil Maskelyne, fifth Astronomer Royal (1732-1811)

This pastel drawing is one of a pair with that of the sitter's wife, Sophia (ZBA5101), both as received in 2012 in their apparently original gilt frames measuring 30 x 24 inches. This one has a received date of 1804 but the image itself bears no such inscription. The date may therefore derive from the fact that it was engraved in oval in 1804 and published in the 'European Magazine', the sitter's hand and book at lower right being omitted and the print specifically dated 1 March 1804. Though the title line of the book's spine label is illegible it is clearly marked 'VOL III', so is probably the third volume of the Maskelyne's 'Astronomical Observations made at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich', which were published in 1799. While it is therefore possible that the portrait and its pair were done as late as 1803, they are more likely to be a little earlier - either soon after that volume came out or perhaps to mark Maskelyne's 70th birthday in 1802, the year in which his wife was coincidentally 50. (It was still his last substantial book at the time, volume IV - the last he supervised - only appearing in 1811, the year of his death.) The Observatory, which was his home and workplace from 1765 on as fifth Astronomer Royal, is shown in the background beyond the conventional framing studio features of a red drape and classical column base resting on a stone sill (not the loggia of the Queen's House, Greenwich, although coincidentally suggesting that in terms of viewpoint). The picture's received title, presumably from earlier record (TBC) was 'Rev. Nevil Maskelyne DD (1732-1811)'. [PvdM 6/14]

Object Details

ID: ZBA5100
Type: Drawing
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Russell, John
Places: London
Date made: circa 1800-02; circa 1800 1804
People: Maskelyne, Nevil
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Maritime Museum, 2012
Measurements: Frame: 760 mm x 610 mm x 73 mm

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