Logo: Silhouette of William Hunter

Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery William Hunter Collections:
GLAHA 43452

This information is © The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow 2018

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GLAHM 43452: 'Dr William Harvey (1578-1657)' - click to view larger image

"Dr William Harvey (1578-1657)"

oil painting

ATTR BEMMEL, William van; (Dutch; 1630-1708) CRE UNKNOWN; (English; 17th century)

oil on canvas
113.0 x 94.0
140.0 x 121.0
"AET 80" on parapet
This portrait of Dr Harvey, the physician who discovered the circulation of the blood, was in the collection of the Hunterian Museum's founder and was regarded as one of the most important in Dr Hunter's Museum. Harvey's head, taken from this painting, was engraved by Houbraken in 1739 for Birch's Heads of Illustrious Persons, when the painting was in the possession of the Royal Physician Dr Mead. Houbraken attributed the painting (mistakenly, it would seem) to the landscape painter Bemmel. The book held by Dr Harvey has been identified by Mr Keynes as Adrianus Spigelius, Opera quae extant omnia ..., Amsterdam, 1645, tabula III, lib. II. Harvey's expensive, formal velvet gown was bequeathed to his colleague Sir Charles Scarburgh (1615-1694), of whom the Royal College of Physicians owns a portrait very similar in execution to this one. The portraits are close in size and appear to form a pair of pendants by one artist, each with a view of Rome in the background and with each physician gesturing towards an anatomical book on a table. In a letter dated 21/10/1991, Geoffrey Davenport, Librarian in the Royal College of Physicians, suggests that book in Harvey's hands is the anatomy book of Juan Valverde de Hamusco, his Vivae imagines partium corporis humani aereis formis expressae, Antwerp, 1566, plate 2, book 2. Hunter praised Harvey's discovery of the circulation of the blood as one of the greatest advances in science, and he did research into his life, borrowing papers from Harvey's family, including his will. Hunter's manuscript notes are in Special Collections (MS H 51). They incorporate a list of portraits, in oil and engraved, including Hunter's own picture. Hunter's papers record that Nicholas Claude le Cat, chief surgeon at l'Hotel Dieu, had a copy of this portrait made by Catherine Read, its present location unknown.

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For more information please contact Malcolm.Chapman@glasgow.ac.uk