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John Francis Rigaud RA, Portrait of John Yenn, R.A.

Portrait of John Yenn, R.A., Before 1785

John Francis Rigaud RA (1742 - 1810)

RA Collection: Art

In this portrait of John Yenn RA (1750-1821), Rigaud identifies the sitter as an architect by depicting him with dividers in hand, seemingly just looking up from his work on an architectural plan. A reference is made to Yenn’s great mentor Sir William Chambers RA by the inclusion of Chambers’s Treatise on Civil Architecture (1759), a standard work shown conveniently to hand on the table beside him. Moreover, the large sculpture in the background is of giant acanthus leaves and a woven basket, a reference to Chambers's theory on the origins of architecture. Yenn was to succeed Chambers as Treasurer of the Academy in 1796 but failed to win over the influential Joseph Farington RA, who considered his ‘watery eye’ a sign of untrustworthiness.

Rigaud felt that his portraits were less important than his history painting. However this judgment tends to be reversed today, since he produced an impressive range of portraits, particularly of fellow artists. Perhaps he was right when he noted in his Memoirs that ‘I succeed better in those works I do for Artists, as I am without restraint’.

Object details

Portrait of John Yenn, R.A.
Before 1785
Object type
Oil on canvas

760 mm x 640 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Given by Augusta Thackeray 21 June 1865

Associated works of art

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