About this artwork

This is the first of two portraits by Ramsay of the historian and philosopher, David Hume. It was painted during Ramsay’s extended stay in Edinburgh in 1754, when, along with Adam Smith, Hume and Ramsay helped found the Select Society debating club. This year also saw the publication of Hume’s first volume of ‘The History of England’. Ramsay has faithfully recorded Hume’s physical appearance, which was described by a contemporary as: “broad and fat, his mouth wide, and without any other expression than that of imbecility…the corpulence of his whole person was far better fitted to communicate the idea of a turtle-eating alderman than of a refined philosopher.” Yet Ramsay displays his skill by succeeding in capturing the intelligence and humanity of his friend.

Updated before 2020

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  • artist:
    Allan RamsayScottish (1713 - 1784)
  • title:
    David Hume, 1711 - 1776. Historian and philosopher
  • date created:
    1754
  • materials:
    Oil on canvas
  • measurements:
    76.20 x 63.50 cm; Framed: 92.50 x 79.70 x 9.50 cm
  • object type:
  • credit line:
    Accepted by HM Government in lieu of Inheritance Tax, 2008
  • accession number:
    PG 3521
  • gallery:
  • depicted:
  • photographer:
    Antonia Reeve
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Allan Ramsay

Allan Ramsay