Skip to main content

Original Portraits 1770-1820: 2314

Object information

Current Location: In storage


Original Portraits 1770-1820


Draughtsman: Downman, John




Red leather coverboards with gold tooling. Green end papers and boards. 61 sheets in total, including 26 protection papers of lightweight paper, bound in. Pages are gold edged. Contains 30 drawings, each laid onto the recto of a folio sheet. Ff.4-7 have clear adhesive tape repairs to lower edges.


History note: The artist; Mrs Isabella Chloe Benjamin, the artist's only daughter, sold, 1825; the executors of the late Sir E.F. Coates, Bart, Sale, Sotheby's, 15 February 1922; L.D. Cunliffe

Legal notes

Bequeathed 1937.

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bequeathed (1937-08) by Cunliffe, Leonard Daneham


1770 - 1820

School or Style


Components of the work

Sheet Size Height 361 mm Width 292 mm
Coverboard Size Height 380 mm Width 304 mm

Inscription or legends present

  • Location: Outside front cover
  • Method of creation: Embossed gold
  • Location: Front endpaper, verso, bottom left
  • Method of creation: Printed black ink
  • Text: THE / ORIGINAL PORTRAITS / OF / Distinguished Persons / Painted and Drawn in the last half Century / to 1820 by John Downman. / With Notes, Dates, Costume. Many highly finished / and correct Studies, others slight in first Sittings. / The first Series, making eight Volumes. Volume Ist with a / DEDICATION in VERSE / to / The Prinece Regent / including the ORIGIN / of the / ROYAL FAMILY of ENGLAND and a Preface
  • Location: F.2 recto
  • Method of creation: Black ink

Inscription present: surrounded by rectangular box, corners scalloped

  • Location: F.2 recto, bottom centre
  • Method of creation: Black ink stamp
  • Text: To His Royal Highness / The Prince Regent / Great Prince, dear Object of the Nation, / Appreciate my Dedication. Patron of Art, in every way, / Receive the tributary Lay. / To that of Painting, born the Heir, / Which thy blest Sire, made his care. / What he began, you give a magic Grace, / And anxious, to the greatest Good give place. / This Art divine, by fancy led / That brings to life, the long lost dead, / Is destined high delight to bring, / To realize what Poets Sing. / And in a closer Vein to trace, / Thy Love! thy Friends ! endearing Face. / No fine Art did ever grace the Earth. / Since first the Maid of Corinth gave it birth.
  • Location: F.3 recto
  • Method of creation: Black ink
  • Text: Our Monarch founded in the Youth, / A school of Arts, to study Truth; / And you true Merit advocate, / In Genius of the highest rate: / By such examples droitly sought, / See excellence surpassing thought; / Alike in Arts, as Arms, and soaring high / To splendid Works of Immortality. / 'For Nations never were so great, / As where the Arts adorned the State; / And when Sublimity they claim, / All Ages will record their Name. / Here, they diffuse to Merchendise / The Taste that other Kingdoms prize; / Which makes our Traders rich in gold, / And Blessings o're the Land infold. / See Merchants noble in their Acts and Mind / With every Virtue to adorn, inclined. / Thus Arts and Science, Union blend, / And glory in the Prince their friend; / And Learning has your equal due, / 'Tis seen itself _ reflecting you. / So may accordance, coming from above, / Unite the Regent, and the Realm in Love.
  • Location: F.4 recto
  • Method of creation: Black ink
  • Text: Hail Regent! in more arduous form, / When first you did the Helm adorn; / That filial Worth, declared the deed, / Your Fathers steps to tread with speed: / For Heaven but prolongs the day, / To guide us in the better way. / So do the Wife, a grateful offering give, / That's blest them with another day to live. / All banish thought of youthful freak, / When you so just a Council keep: / So have our greatest Men and Kings / Surveyed all false Enchanters slings; / But reason brought them quick to light / To spurn the ill, and chase the right. / In precious Acts proclaimed of highest State / You made your joyful Subjects Hearts elate. / Around the World your Glory stands, / Enthroned by matchless Britons hands / Whose Home so dear they freely leave, / Their Countrys safety to achieve: / That Home! where Liberty, chief good, / For Right and Virtue understood; / For fallen Poverty, and Innocence as great, / As others in the most exalted state.
  • Location: F.5 recto
  • Method of creation: Black ink
  • Text: Our perfect Liberty is such / 'Tis truly for the Vile, too much; / And tho; a few with ireful hate, / Presume to stab the vital State / Our Constitutions envied Frame, / Brings all to Order _ right again / Ev'n Heavens self, was not secure from ill, And Devils dared to hold, a hellish will. / Digression here has taken place, / Pray pass it, as the Nations Face. / Resuming now to speak thy worth, / Progressive from thy blissful Birth. / By nature formed, to give delight, / And vanquish all within thy sight; / While sense, and graceful manners sit / Your Eloquence of polished Wit. / And distant Monarchs come to grace thy Realm, / To emulate the Prince, that guides the Helm.
  • Location: F.6 recto
  • Method of creation: Black ink
  • Text: 3
  • Location: F.7 recto, upper right
  • Method of creation: Black ink
  • Text: Now I invoke, my blithsome Muse to trace / And hail the Subject; thy immortal Race. / Come forth Renown _ with Light he quick descends / In bright gold clad, and graceful Form he bends. / HONI SOIT QUE MAL Y PENSE / The Origin of / The Royal Family of England / or the Guelphian Race. / 1. / I sing a Tale of ancient' date, / All Loyal is the Theme; / Of Brunswicks Race, I will relate, / Where Truth is like a Dream. / 2. / Fly Grecian - Sphinx, and Wolf of Rome, / And Englands Lion roar; / To hail transcendent Deeds to come, / In equal Realms to soar.
  • Location: F.7 recto
  • Method of creation: Black ink
  • Text: 4
  • Location: F.8 recto, upper right
  • Method of creation: Black ink
  • Text: 3. / They sprung from Ancestors, more far / Then Days of Charlemagne, / And Saxony, Bavaria / Then did them Sovereigns claim / 4. / From the rich Azo, and Berthold, / Wittikindus, Bruno, / Sigfrid, Ludoph, and Dietbold, Berewen, and Thimo. / 5. / From Cunegonda Princess fair, / And Fulk, and Hugo Strong, / And John the handsome, and his Heir, / William with Foot so long. / 6. Sophia praised, ah! dearest name, / Branching much nearer Home; / And brave Ernestus high in Fame / In splended Rank, they come. / 7. / A thousand Heroes, grace the page, / The boast of German Tribes: / And Females prized, adorn each age, / By their exalted sides.
  • Location: F.8 recto
  • Method of creation: Black ink
  • Text: 5
  • Location: F.9 recto, upper right
  • Method of creation: Black ink
  • Text: 8. / Prince Altorf too, of House of Este, / Is of this Line so famed. / Now of his Wife, one of the best, / She Jermentrudis named. / 9. / She was a Princess styled the good, / All people gave her praise; / When a poor Wife, before her stood / Charged with adulterous ways. / 10. / This Wench produced twelve Babes to feed, / All at one Birth thy came! / She strict condemned the wicked deed, / And had her whipped for shame. / 11. / The cruel Pain the Woman bore, / To God _ she prayed for aid: / When lo! before three Months were o'er / The Princess was Bed-laid! / 12. / Oh! the sad Princess _ her surprise! / To bring to Birth twelve Boys! / All active, and with sparkling Eyes, / Like heaps of Precious Toys.
  • Location: F.9 recto
  • Method of creation: Black ink
  • Text: 6
  • Location: F.10 recto, upper right
  • Method of creation: Black ink
  • Text: 13. / Conscience, oh! Conscience struck her mind, / Her husbands Rage she feared; / That like Chastisement she might find, / Which she herself had reared. / 14. / Quite agonized with Fear and Grief, / And dreadful thought of Shame: / In nothing could she find relief, / 'Gainst Superstions flame. / 15. / It chanced her Prince, was not at Home / So secret charged the Nurse, / A Hag to find, with Heart of Stone, / And promised her a Purse. / 16. / Eleven take this Instant out - / Destroy them quick I say - / The Hag was instantly about, / To take them far away. / 17. / Who should she meet, in lonely Dell, / But the dread Prince in Chace: / What have you there? come Hag me tell - / How came you in this Place?
  • Location: F.10 recto
  • Method of creation: Black ink
  • Text: 7
  • Location: F.11 recto, upper right
  • Method of creation: Black ink
  • Text: 18. / Please you my Prince, I've Whelps to drown / In yonder distant Lake, / Whelps do you say - undo your Gown / Or I will make you quake. / 19. / Down on her Knees _ the Hag now cryed / And spread her Charge to view! / Astonishment the Prince! now eyed - / The beauteous Babes so new! / 20. / The Truth she told without disguise, / Enraptured high _ he stood! / Your Secret keep, it will be wise, / And turn your guilt to good. / 21. / Beside yon Hill a Cottage stands, / Blest with a House-wife dear: / Come, take the lovely Babes to hands / That shall them fondly rear. / 22. / Six Years now passed in courtly State, / When at a Banquet large, / All Family connections wait, / To hear the Princes charge.
  • Location: F.11 recto
  • Method of creation: Black ink
  • Text: 8
  • Location: F.12 recto, upper right
  • Method of creation: Black ink
  • Text: 23. / Celestial Rays, shone clear and bright / On an approaching Group - / Eleven Cherubs, came to sight! / With bended Knees they stoop. / 24. / So beautiful! all clad in White - / The Group - eleven came: / Such Silence too! at such a sight! For none proclaimed their name. / 25. / The Princess blushed _ Confusion there / Stalked, with amazing tread! / Instinct itself, entranced her stare, / She sunk _ quite like one dead. / 26. / The Prince observed her motion quick / And caught her in his Arms - / She much of Pain, and Joy was sick, / From these such strange alarms _ / 27. / Behold the Twelth! the Group so like! / With haste he darts to kiss - / True Mirrors of himself they strike! / Emblems of mutual Bliss!
  • Location: F.12 recto
  • Method of creation: Black ink
  • Text: 9
  • Location: F.13 recto, upper right
  • Method of creation: Black ink
  • Text: 28. / Such Bliss! the Prince, could not retain, / But told the Tale aloud! / And Jermentrudis, now past pain, / With contrite Joy, bowed. / 29. / Glad Tidings spread their beauteous Fame! / What Throngs - the Guelphs to see? / The Prince proclaimed their destined name, / The highest in Degree. / 30. / Great England now, this Race prolongs / In mighty Georges Name! / Arise ye Nine! in glorious Songs / To their immortal Fame. / And now aloft Sublime _ in Grandeurs blaze! / Behold our Guardian of remotest days - / Hail! azure eyed Britania_ hail! confest (?) / Supreme of Isles terrestrial_ great and blest: / And by her side, august in strength profound, / The british Lion _ firm to guard around. / May it please your Royal Highness / your Royal Highnesses / most dutiful Servant / and most faithful Subject Jon Downman
  • Location: F.13 recto
  • Method of creation: Black ink
  • Text: Jany. 17th 1820
  • Location: F.13 recto, lower left
  • Method of creation: Black ink
  • Type: Date
  • Text: 10
  • Location: F.14 recto, upper right
  • Method of creation: Black ink
  • Text: Preface / In these Volumes are a great part of my pleasant Employment / of many Years; and in this assemblage of Portraits, you will / see how much different Fashions change the appearance of / Persons - almost as much as putting a Judges [sic] Wig on an Infant; / or indeed the change that Dress gives the human Form; which / we see on Persons from distant Nations: and yet I perfectly / accord with Mr Horace Walpole that Costume in Portraits / should always be preserved, for Truth and obvious reasons. / It must be for the same reason that he enjoyed more / Pleasure in looking at Portraits than Historical Pictures - / because one was the real Representation of Persons and the / other only Ideal. In this view Nature truly drawn is / beyond Imagination: what is before you must be better / represented than if absent. But in Opposition to this, Nature, / by great Study, Knowledge and Genius, may be transcended, / by collecting beautiful parts from a many, to form one. / This has been exemplified in some justly celebrated and / exquisite Greek Statues now existing. This has made it / conjectured that they were equally great in all departments / of Art: but I do think the Greeks were not so great in Painting / as Sculpture, nor do any of their remains shew any thing / to prove it, for the Prints FROM them, are better than the / Originals: nor even do any ancient Descriptions give us the / Idea of a fine Historical Picture. The cause of their superiority / in Marble may be this - Only conceive how the Sculptor
  • Location: F. 14 recto
  • Method of creation: Black ink
  • Text: must be exalted - knowing that he was forming a God! to be / worshipped by his Country! and by too, the Woman of his Heart! / He must indeed by fired by the highest Enthusiasm human / Nature could possibly feel. The enamoured Pygmalion in / such an Age might be almost excused. let therefore the / Moderns have preeminance in Painting, and for the / same reason the Ancients have in Sculpture - for / have not Modern Pictures been worshipped? / It is a combination of those excellencies that constitute / a perfect Historical Picture - for it requires equal power / to represent either Angel or Devil, Splendour or Poverty, / and every assemblage of Objects either in Light of Shade; / that we must equally enrapture the Limners [sic] Imagination. / We do not say such does not exist, but that it may: and / tho' Painting is a visible fiction, yet its perfections / depends [sic] on its resemblance to reality. Study to transcend, / not to vilify nature. / This is equally applicable to Portraits, that shew / the best moments - such Portraits diffuse Friendship / and renew Affection, even after Death: for what is represented / faithfully, not only delights, but is ever a soothing / memoir, that revives the dearest Feelings. / In this Country the Fluctuation of Fashions is greater / than in any other, and therefore is as often monstrous / as graceful: and our Characteristic is whimsically
  • Location: F.14 verso
  • Method of creation: Black ink
  • Text: 11
  • Location: F.15 recto, upper right
  • Method of creation: Black ink
  • Text: well expressed by a naked man with a vast variety of / Dresses placed all around him, and by speaking these words, / "I am an Englishman, and naked stand I here / Musing in my Mind, what Raiment shall I wear." / I have divided my number of Portraits into different / Series. The first Series contains Heads all on the same / scale, in so many Volumes; the next Series Heads on a / larger scale, and so of others: which avoids the Awkwardness / of seeing together the Head of a small Person, larger than / that of a large Person, and the reverse. I regret that / some of these Portraits were not more finished at the / time, but I had no Idea of a Collection 'till I found / insensibly the Accumulation. / The Author
  • Location: F.15 recto
  • Method of creation: Black ink

References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: 2314
Primary reference Number: 32997
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Thursday 11 November 2021 Last processed: Thursday 11 November 2021

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Paintings, Drawings and Prints

Citation for print

This record can be cited in the Harvard Bibliographic style using the text below:

The Fitzwilliam Museum (2023) "Original Portraits 1770-1820" Web page available at: Accessed: 2023-01-31 18:01:12

Citation for Wikipedia

To cite this record on Wikipedia you can use this code snippet:

{{cite web|url= |title=Original Portraits 1770-1820 |author=The Fitzwilliam Museum|accessdate=2023-01-31 18:01:12|publisher=The University of Cambridge}}

API call for this record

To call these data via our API (remember this needs to be authenticated) you can use this code snippet:

Please enter your name as you would like to be addressed
Please enter your email address
The object accession number - this is prefilled
Please enter your query with as much detail as possible

More objects and works of art you might like

Suggested products from Curating Cambridge

You might be interested in this...

Sign up for updates

Updates about future exhibitions and displays, family activities, virtual events & news. You'll be the first to know...