Robert Walker is largely remembered for his many undistinguished portraits of Oliver Cromwell and shameless borrowing of poses from Van Dyck.

His depiction of Evelyn, however, is one of the most remarkable of all seventeenth century philosophical portraits. It shows the 27 year-old virtuoso in melancholy attitude, en deshabille, swathed in black drapery and resting a hand on a skull. A column behind is inscribed in Greek with a dictum of Epictetus, 'Repentence is the beginning of the love of wisdom', while the paper which lies under the skull is inscribed with a quotation in Latin from the Stoic philosopher Seneca.


John Evelyn; by descent; Christie's, 1992.

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Exhibitions at National Portrait Gallery

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