About this artwork

Rousseau (1712-1778) the famous French-Swiss social philosopher and moralist wears the fur hat and fur trimmed jacket of his favourite Armenian costume. This attire had aroused the curiosity of London society following Rousseau's arrival in Britain in 1766. Ramsay chose a dark background which emphasises the fall of light on Rousseau's head and neck as he turns towards the artist and viewer. Rousseau's revolutionary views on society, education and religion had caused him to flee from persecution by the Swiss and French authorities. Ramsay painted this portrait as a gift for his close friend David Hume, Rousseau's host in London.

see media
  • title: Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 - 1778)
  • accession number: NG 820
  • artist: Allan RamsayScottish (1713 - 1784)
  • depicted: Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Painting
  • medium: Oil on canvas
  • date created: 1766
  • measurements: 74.90 x 64.80 cm (framed: 95.00 x 82.50 x 9.00 cm)
  • credit line: Purchased 1890
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve

Allan Ramsay

Allan Ramsay

Ramsay, named after his father who was a poet, was internationally renowned for his outstanding portraits. He attended the new Academy of St Luke in Edinburgh and then continued his artistic education in Italy. He visited Rome, studying at the French Academy and Naples. British residents commissioned many portraits from him and as soon as he returned to London he established a successful studio. He also returned to Edinburgh regularly. King George III appointed him King's painter. As a gifted conversationalist and writer of essays, Ramsay pursued his scholarly interests when injury to his right arm in 1773 cut short his painting career.