image boyle_rs9546
Image number: RS.9546
Credit: © The Royal Society

Portrait of Robert Boyle

Date

1689

Sitter

Robert Boyle (1627-1691, British), Natural philosopher

Creator

Johann Kerseboom (d.1708, German), Painter

Object type

Material

Dimensions

height (painting): 1258mm
width (painting): 1016mm

Subject

Description

Three quarter length portrait of Robert Boyle seated in a green patterned damask upholstered chair with gold tassels and turned wooden armrest. The sitter’s body faces towards the viewer’s right, but the head turned slightly to the left, eyes directed at the viewer. Boyle wears a long dark brown curled wig, with a dark green gown over a white shirt and neck-cloth, A red-brown coat and stockings is visible from the thigh. Boyle’s right hand loosely indicates a book on the table, which has matching cloth to his chair; the left hand turns the page. Behind, an architectural pillar and brown draped hanging.

Robert Boyle was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1660, he was a founder of the Society.

Object history

Presented by the executors of Robert Boyle, 1692.

Kerseboom’s portrait is one of several version of this image of Robert Boyle, deriving from a sitting made in 1689. The Royal Society’s is the most plausible candidate for an original. The dating is from a letter from Samuel Pepys to John Evelyn of 30 August 1689: “the most excellent Mr. Boyle...has newly been prevailed with by Dr. King, to have his head taken by one of much lesse Name than Mr. Kneller, and a stranger, one Causabon” [Kerseboom]. [The painting and its provenance is described in the article “The portraiture of the Honourable Robert Boyle” by R.E.W.Maddison, Annals of Science, 15 (1959), pp.141-214]. The reputational or legacy reasons behind the commissioning have been discussed by Michael Hunter [Boyle: between God and science, by Michael Hunter (Yale, 2009), pp.228-232].

The presentation is noted in the Society’s Journal Books:: “The President was desired to return the Society’s thanks to the Executors of Mr Boyle for their present of Mr Boyle’s Picture this day presented.“ [Royal Society Journal Book Original JBO/9 1690-1696, p.100, meeting of 16 November 1692].

Associated place

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