image wren p0145
Image number: RS.9545
Credit: © The Royal Society

Portrait of Christopher Wren

Date

ca.1690

Sitter

Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723, British), Architect

Creator

John Closterman (1660-1711, German), Painter

Object type

Material

Dimensions

height (painting): 1433mm
width (painting): 1214mm

Subject

Content object

Description

This lively portrait shows Wren at three-quarter length, wigged, and dressed in a white shirt and lace cravat over which is a loose brown robe. He holds a partly rolled sheet of paper in his right hand and points with his left. A marble statue of a child, or putto, with acanthus leaves is by the paper. Behind, revealed by a curtain, is St. Paul’s Cathedral, London.

Christopher Wren was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1660, he served as its President from 1680 to 1682. Wren was a founder of the Society.

Object history

Presented by Stephen Wren, 1750 [?].

The Royal Society’s Journal Books contain the following note: “Christopher Wren, Dean of Windsor and his son Sir Christopher Wren formerly president of this Society donated by Stephen Wren Sir Chris Wren’s grandson “ [Royal Society Journal Book, Original (JBO/21), p.310, meeting of 26 April 1750]. However, a list of presents suggests a single work: “A portrait of the heads of Sir Christopher Wren and his father.” [Royal Society manuscript MS/419, Donations to the Library and Museum 1744-1779, Mr Robertson’s extracts from the Journals, 26 April 1750].

The painting is discussed briefly in J Douglas Stewart’s article on John Closterman in ODNB [J. Douglas Stewart, “Closterman, John (1660-1711)”, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, eds.H.G.C.Matthew and Brian Harrison (OUP, 2004-), vol.12, pp.193-198]. Closterman’s work has been conflated previously with that of his brother J.B. Closterman, hence former attributions of this painting. Other Royal Society portrait catalogues variously ascribed the work to Godfrey Kneller (1931) and Peter Lely (Weld, 1860).

Associated place

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