Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of John Evelyn FRS (1620-1706), 1648 

Robert Walker 

Portrait of John Evelyn FRS (1620-1706), 1648, Robert Walker
Oil on canvas
17th Century
34 1/2 x 25 1/4 in (87.6 x 64.1 cm)
John Evelyn (1620 - 1706) He is chiefly famous for the diary which he kept for the whole of his life ''from the Civil War to the reign of Queen Anne. As a young man he travelled extensively on the Continent. Towards the end of his tour he arrived in Paris, where he married the twelve-year-old daughter of Charles I's ambassador, Sir Richard Browne. Leaving his bride with her parents,—he returned- to England in 1647.

In July of the following year, when he was twenty-eight, Evelyn sat to Robert Walker for this portrait. For Walker, who was to become almost the official painter to Cromwell and the Parliamentarians, this was an unusual commission. With sensitive face and hands and en deshabille, Evelyn is represented in contemplative pose of a poet or philosopher. Recent x-ray photographs reveal that his left hand originally held a medallion or miniature, perhaps of his wife. This was replaced shortly afterwards by the skull, converting the portrait into a momento mori. The moralizing inscriptions in Greek and Latin were probably added at the same time. These changes were doubtless due to Evelyn''s contact in the early 1650s with Bishop Taylor, author of two influential tracts, Holy Living and Holy Dying.

Evelyn's marriage was a happy one. He took an active part in government, often being consulted by Carles II, and was highly regarded as an expert on both architecture and forestry. His writings also encompass the arts, politics, science and military affairs. The portrait remained in the possession of his descendants until 1992.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.