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'Voltaire' (François-Marie Arouet) (1694–1778)

Photo credit: The Trustees of the British Museum

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This portrait of the great Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher, was described when acquired by the Museum as ‘Voltaire drawn by Mr Gardel, a young painter of Geneva’. The donor was a member of staff, Matthew Maty, of Huguenot origins, who was appointed in 1756. How Maty obtained it is not known but the artist Theodore Gardelle, described in the ‘Oxford Dictionary of National Biography’ as ‘murderer and painter’, worked in Geneva, Brussels and France before coming to London in 1759.

British Museum



oil on canvas


H 81.8 x W 64.3 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

gift from Dr Matthew Maty, 1760

Work type



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British Museum

Great Russell Street, London, Greater London WC1B 3DG England

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