RALPH EARL (1751–1801)
Portrait of an Oxford Doctor of Divinity, 1784
Oil on canvas, 49 1/4 x 39 1/4 in.
Signed and dated (at lower left): Earl Pinxt 1784
RECORDED: Laurence B. Goodrich, Ralph Earl: Recorder for an Era (New York: The State University of New York, 1967), pp. 3435 fig. 12 illus., as “present whereabouts unknown”
EX COLL.: private collection, England, about 1920–2005
Earl painted this Portrait of an Oxford Doctor of Divinity, a work not previously recorded in Earl’s oeuvre, in 1784, while the artist was still living in London. Because so little is known of Earl’s career in England, there are few facts about this painting that have come to light. According to the Oxford University Archives, there were six men who had the degree of Doctor of Divinity conferred upon them in 1784. It is possible that this portrait represents one of these men, who may have decided to have their likeness taken upon receiving their degree. Seated in his library and bearing the academic robes of Oxford, this doctor faces the viewer confidently, holding a black tasseled cap, a symbol of his recent graduation, in his left hand. It is an understated but masterful portrait, painted in dark tones and enlivened by the rich red trim of the doctor’s robes.