Black John of Tetcott

Image credit: Royal Institution of Cornwall

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Black John was a dwarf and hunchback under four foot in height whose many party tricks in his role as jester included swallowing and retrieving strings of live mice and mumbling sparrows - removing their feathers with his teeth while the sparrow was in his mouth. James Northcote was born in Plymouth, the son of a watchmaker and optician. He was apprenticed to his father's trade but showed a talent for art. He moved to London in 1771, entering the Royal Academy Schools and from 1771 to 1775/1776 was the pupil and assistant of Reynolds. He practised portraiture in Plymouth until 1777 when he had sufficient money to visit Italy. He settled in London in 1781.

Royal Cornwall Museum



Black John of Tetcott


oil on canvas


H 107 x W 67 cm

Accession number

TRURI : 1946.95

Acquisition method

gift, 1946

Work type


Royal Cornwall Museum

River Street, Truro, Cornwall TR1 2SJ England

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