The Royal College of Physicians holds an important collection of portraits of eminent physicians spanning 500 years of medical history. The collection of over 200 includes works by Cornelius Johnson, Peter Lely, Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Lawrence and Elizabeth Frink. In 1596 the College announced that any member or ‘noble person’ could display his portrait or coat of arms on payment of £10. Almost all the early portraits were lost in 1666 when the College was destroyed in the Great Fire of London. Since then the collections have grown and from the 1940s a portrait of every out-going president is commissioned after their term of office. The portraits tend to be formal, some reflect the sitter’s medical background or personal interests. Johann Zoffany’s 1772 portrait of William Hunter (1718–1783) is the most famous painting in the collection. Surgeon and ‘man-midwife’ Hunter is depicted in his role as the first anatomy professor of the new Royal Academy of Arts, lecturing before an audience including academy president Sir Joshua Reynolds.
11 St Andrew's Place, Regent's Park, London, Greater London NW1 4LE England
0203 075 1649
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