Portrait of Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), Satirist

Charles Jervas, 'Jonathan Swift (1676-1745)', 1709/16. NGI.177.

Studio of Charles Jervas (1675-1739)
Portrait of Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), Satirist

Oil on canvas, 76.3 x 63.5 cm
Purchased, 1875

Dean Jonathan Swift was born in Dublin. After an undistinguished career at Trinity College he was employed as secretary to the English politician Sir William Temple in Surrey. To further his career Swift took Holy Orders but spent little time in Ireland, preferring to spend time in London, where he wrote brilliant and acerbic political pamphlets and anti-Whig lampoons for his Tory friends. Gulliver’s Travels, however, Swift’s most famous satire on society, was written while he was Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. This portrait of Swift was painted by the Irish artist Charles Jervas, who studied in Italy and was a pupil of Godfrey Kneller, the leading portrait painter of his generation in England. Though Kneller’s style and treatment of the figure was hugely influential on artists, British and Irish, for almost a century, Jervas proved an innovative portraitist in his own right.

View a selection of paintings from the National Portrait Collection