This line engraving depicts the head and shoulders of Robert Boyle (1627-1691), a wealthy and accomplished English natural philosopher. Facing three-quarters to his right and enclosed in an oval frame, Boyle wears a banyan, white cravat, and curly wig. Light coming through clouds at top left shines on Boyle’s face. The plinth below the portrait holds mineral specimens, a pair of dividers, and several books. The Boyle family coat of arms appears on the side of the plinth. Below the plinth are such other symbols of Boyle’s science as an air pump, a flask, a bottle, two crucible tongs, a crumpled paper and some flowers. The signatures at bottom read “Geo. Vertue del. & Sculpt 1739” and I Kersseboom pinxt” and “Impensis I. & P. Knapton Londini 1740” and “In the Collection of Dr. Mead.”
This image is based on the full-length portrait of Boyle that Johann Kersseboom (d. 1708) painted in the late 1680s, and that shows Boyle sitting at a table, facing to his right, pointing to a book, and wearing a banyan, white cravat, and curly wig. Several versions of that painting are known. This engraving, done by George Vertue (1683-1756), is based on the version that belonged to Richard Mead, an English physician who collected paintings, books and other rare objects. John and Paul Knapton, the publisher of the print, were in business in London from 1735 to 1789.
This engraving was included in Thomas Birch, ed., Heads of Illustrious Persons of Great Britain (London, 1743-1751).
Ref: R. E. W. Maddison, “The Portraiture of the Honourable Robert Boyle, F. R. S.,” Annals of Science 15 (1959): 141-214.
Currently not on view
date made
place made
United Kingdom: England, London
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
overall: 16 3/4 in x 10 in; 42.545 cm x 25.4 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Science & Mathematics
Prints from the Physical Sciences Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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