Sir John Chardin (1643-1713) traveller and merchant; envoy to Holland 1683

  • About the work
    Location
    Country: Netherlands
    City: The Hague
    Place: British Embassy

    A man in a long wig stares solemnly at the viewer. He is seated at a table, upon which is an inkstand, and he holds a letter. Beside him is a large globe.

    Although the identity of the sitter is uncertain, this portrait is thought to represent Sir John Chardin. Chardin was born in Paris in 1643. He became a wealthy jeweller and travelled as a jewel merchant through Turkey to Persia and India from 1664 to 1677. He published notes of his travels in 1671, 1686 and 1711. Chardin came to England as a Huguenot refugee in 1681 and was knighted the same year. He became a jeweller to the English court and a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1682. In 1684 he was sent to Holland as an envoy by Charles II and may have tried to recover the royal jewellery dispersed during the Civil War and the Commonwealth, much of which had found its way to the Amsterdam markets. Chardin was also styled an agent to the Dutch East India Company. On his return to England, he devoted most of his time to oriental studies, in particular the writing of his 'Notes upon passages of the Holy Scriptures, illustrated by Eastern Customs and Manners', published posthumously in 1776. Chardin died at Chiswick on Christmas Day, 1713.

  • About the artist
    John Michael Wright was the son of a London tailor. He was apprenticed to G. Jamesone in Edinburgh from the age of 19. From 1642, for some ten years, he lived in Rome and was a member of the Academy of St Luke. He also practised in France and ‘other parts’. After returning to England he became Picture Drawer to Charles II, producing royal portraits and designs for Charles’s bedchamber at Whitehall Palace. Reaction to the Popish Plot caused Wright to temporarily relocate to Dublin in 1678. James II’s accession in 1685 brought further royal commissions and Wright designed coaches, costumes and decorations for the procession accompanying an embassy to the Pope. Wright’s career declined during his later years and he died in relative poverty.
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  • Details
    Title
    Sir John Chardin (1643-1713) traveller and merchant; envoy to Holland 1683
    Date
    c.1690
    Medium
    Oil on canvas
    Dimensions
    height: 124.00 cm, width: 100.00 cm
    Acquisition
    Purchased from Sotheby's, 29 July 1953
    Provenance
    Sold through Sotheby's, London, on 29 July 1953 (Lot 67), as English School, 17th Century, ‘Portrait, said to be of Sir John Chardin’; from which sale purchased by Leggatt Bros. on behalf of the Ministry of Works
    GAC number
    2246