Portrait of John Joseph Merlin by Thomas Gainsborough

Portrait of John Joseph Merlin (1735-1803) who came to London from Flanders in 1760 in the suite of the Spanish Ambassador and remained to become the manager of Cox's museum of mechanical curiosities.


Oil on canvas
76 x 65 cm
Art Fund grant:
£10,000 ( Total: £44,800; Tax remission)
Acquired in:
Princess Hohenlohe-Langenburg

Opening his own, similar museum, known as 'Merlin's Cave' in 1773, he was renowned for his innovative musical instruments and for the ingenuity of his numerous inventions. The Earl of Mansfield purchased one of these inventions, a 'Balance Sanctorius' or set of miniature scales for the music room at Kenwood and it is interesting that Merlin holds a similar instrument in his left hand in this portrait. Gainsborough has painted Merlin as a living presence, alert and mobile and presented as if about to engage in conversation.

Venue details

Kenwood Hampstead Lane, LONDON London NW3 7JR 020 8348 1286 www.english-heritage.org.uk/kenwood

Entry details

Free to all

Daily, 10am – 5pm