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    Portrait of Abraham Hill

    Date
    1650s
    Sitter
    Abraham Hill (1630 - 1732, British) , Merchant
    Creator
    Attributed to John Hayls (1595 - 1679, British) , Painter
    Object type
    Archive reference number
    Material
    Dimensions
    height (painting): 758mm
    width (painting): 637mm
    height (frame): 850mm
    width (frame): 720mm
    Subject
    Description
    Head and shoulders portrait of Abraham Hill regarding the viewer over his right shoulder. Hill’s dress is simple, a dark robe with a white square collar visible at the neck. His hair is natural, shoulder-length and shorter at the top, a style popular in the 1650s.

    In a pine frame with metred joints, and foliage and bead-shot design.

    Abraham Hill (1635-1722), British merchant, book and coin collector, was a founding Fellow of the Royal Society, elected in 1660. His administrative abilities led him to the heart of the Society, where he served as a member of Council (1663-66, 1672-1721), Secretary (1677-99, 1673-75) and Treasurer (1663-66) on several occasions and sat on various committees [full list in R E W Maddison’s ‘Abraham Hill F.R.S. (1635-1722), Notes & Records, vol. 15, 1960, p.174.].

    Hill also served as Assistant (1683-85) and Deputy Governor (1688-90) to the Royal African Company, RAC, a Crown-approved British trading company. The RAC was heavily involved in the transatlantic slave trade, and by the time of Hill’s involvement with it is estimated to have been trading 5,000 enslaved people per year. Hill appears to have been central in securing the Society’s purchase of RAC stock in 1682, overseeing its initial investment of £750 [CMO/2].

    In 1697 Hill was appointed a Commissioner of Trade and Plantations on William and Mary’s newly assembled Board of Trade. He was one of eight salaried Commissioners whose role was to promote trade and inspect and improve the plantations of the British colonies, which he did via the nomination of and close contact with colonial governors on their administrative affairs and goods production [Sloane MS 2909, British Library].
    Transcription
    Verso: Allen’s Depositories, Ltd. Bournemouth West. [in ink] Mrs Hill
    The...[property of] Mrs Ursula Hill Norfolk Lodge Canford Cliffs Bournemouth
    Abraham Hill
    Plaque: ABRAHAM HILL, F.R.S. (1635-1721) Treasurer 1663-65 and 1679-1700. Secretary 1673-75. by JOHN HALES (on permanent loan from Colonel C.R.Hill).
    Object history
    On permanent loan from Mrs Ursula Hill, 1949/50. Following an offer from Ursula Hill, the painting was formally accepted into the Society’s collection on 9 February 1950 and reported to Council on 2 March 1950 [MDA/G/3/2].

    Accessioned with a John Hayls attribution. Evidence in support of this is suggestive only, derived from the fact that Abraham’s brother’s likeness is a known Hayls portrait [Portrait of Thomas Hill by John Hayls, 1666, Magdelene College, Cambridge], and assuming a familial relationship with this painter. There are some similarities in the handling of Abraham’s portrait, Thomas’s portrait, and other known Hayls’ – small, red mouths, rounded and protuberant eyes, for example – but there are also clear differences. Hayls’ style did develop significantly over his career, leaning more into the Baroque as the 1660s progressed, and it is possible that this portrait is an earlier example from Hayls’ oeuvre.

    Despite the simplified dress, the fine details present, namely the hair style and the plain linen collar, seem to date this portrait to the 1650s. Hair styles became longer and fuller towards 1660 and beyond, while collars become more decorative [A visual history of costume: The 17th century, Valerie Cumming (London, 1984)].
    Associated place
    <The World>
       > Europe
          > United Kingdom
    Credit
    ©The Royal Society
    Image number
    RS.9738
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