Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Jonathan Swift DD (1667 - 1745) 1730s

Francis Bindon 

Portrait of Jonathan Swift DD (1667 - 1745), Francis Bindon
Oil on canvas
18th Century
10 1/4 x 8 inches 26 x 20.3 cm
Perhaps The Deanery of St Patrick''s Cathedral Dublin; Perhaps sold 1874 to Thomas Bateman of Moor Park, Farnham Surrey; Consigned to Christie''s 1948 by Mr Radford, Fareham Hampshire but not entered for sale.
Perhaps Walter George Strickland A Dictionary of Irish Artists Dublin 1913 Vol. lp.66
Where Swift had sat in England in 1710 and 1718 to Charles Jervas, in Ireland he chose Francis Bindon to produce a series of portraits produced from sittings in 1735. Jervas and Bindon had in common that they were the only native Irish artists to have studied at Kneller's Academy, though it is most likely that Swift was their only mutual client of note.

This vigorous and uncompromising image may well derive more directly from the 1735 life sittings than the hyperbolic full-length of that year (Howth Castle), in which the painter employs a cast of allegorical figures to commemorate Swift's victory over the potentially ruinous introduction of Wood's copper coinage. This event places the Bindon portraits at a significant moment in Swift's career. The dispute over the coinage allied Swift for the first time with incipient separatism in Ireland, against the Government in England and against his former assertion that he was in every way an Englishman ''though he happened to be dropped'' in Ireland.

Swift himself responded to the exercise characteristically, writing in June 1735: ''I have been fool enough to sit for my portrait at full-length by Mr Bindon.''1 Whatever reservations he may have had, however, regarding the rhetorical excesses of the full-length portrait, it is undeniable that this present portrait, showing the sitter in undress and in his own hair, offers a compelling and moving image of the great satirist facing a disillusioned old age.
The other known examples of this composition by Bindon are painted on the scale of life on a canvas of c.30 by 25 inches. Strickland (op. cit.) refers to a smaller portrait of Swift by Bindon, which remained in the Deanery of St Patrick's Cathedral Dublin until it was sold by the then Dean in 1874. It was bought by Thomas Bateman and hung at his house Moor Park in Surrey, which had in the 1690s been the house of Sir William Temple who gave Swift his first position. This small canvas may have been, Strickland suggests, a model from which Bindon worked on the great Deanery full-length portrait on those occasions when the ailing Swift was unable to give sittings. The subsequent ownership or history of this canvas is not known, raising the tantalising possibility that this present example is that artist's model. Certainly it is the only portrait of Swift by Bindon currently known on this smaller scale. Appropriately the execution of this portrait is of a noticeably higher quality that the other head-and-shoulders examples painted on the scale of life.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.