John Evelyn (1620-1706) by Grinling Gibbons

John Evelyn (1620-1706)

Grinling Gibbons

Fine art poster

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John Evelyn (1620-1706) by Grinling Gibbons zoom

John Evelyn (1620-1706)

Relief carving on oak panel depicting the head of the diarist John Evelyn (1620-1706), as a fairly young man with long hair, moustache and tufted lower lip, half-turned to viewer's right, with 'John Evelyn' incised in italic script below. Geoffrey Keynes includes this item as plate 2 in his 1937 biography of Evelyn and it is also reproduced in David Green's 1964 study of Gibbons (neither sighted for this note). While it is an unusual image of Evelyn, and one that has been both discussed and usefully exhibited at NMM and elsewhere since 1936, there is no objective evidence it is by Gibbons or, if not, who carved it, why and when. The attribution appears to involve at least a degree of wishful thinking: i.e. given that Evelyn reputedly first discovered Gibbons working in obscurity in Deptford, such a tribute might be expected. Evelyn's undoubted maritime importance relates primarily to his role in military and naval welfare. He was a Commissioner of the Sick and Hurt Board in the 1660s, one of the founders of Chelsea Hospital and - building on this- of Greenwich Hospital. Of the last, and when already 76, he took on the vital role of Treasurer from 1695 to 1703, as well as being a personal benefactor of the project to the tune of over Õú2000, and it is extremely unlikely the scheme would have survived its early difficulties without him. Evelyn's house in Deptford (Sayes Court) was let to John Benbow when the latter was commissioner of the Royal Dockyard there and also to Tsar Peter the Great when he came to study shipbuilding there, both in the 1690s. This item came into the Museum as part of the Gabb Collection of scientific instruments and related items, purchased by Sir James Caird in 1937.
Grinling Gibbons

  • Image reference: H4576

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