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The late Derek Howse, formerly Head of Astronomy at the National Maritime Museum and biographer of Nevil Maskelyne, the fifth Astronomer Royal, firmly believed that this portrait is misidentified on the basis of its great dissimilarity to Louis van der Puyl's undoubted Maskelyne portrait of 1785 owned by the Royal Society. Van der Puyl shows him in clerical dress (black with bands) appropriate to his formal status as a clerk in Holy Orders, rather than in the civil attire here, and against the background of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. This otherwise fine portrait against a classical column is therefore probably another astronomer, so far unidentified. He does have a resemblance to George Parker (1697–1764), 2nd Earl of Macclesfield who was an eminent amateur astronomer and President of the Royal Society from 1752 to his death, and was also painted by Hogarth.
Formerly Called 'Nevil Maskelyne (1732–1811), Astronomer Royal'
oil on canvas
H 91.5 x W 71 cm
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