Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Anatomy and psychology in George Stubbs’ portrait of Joseph Banks

Stephen Martin
Aidan Jones
United Kingdom

Fig 1. Joseph Banks on his inheritance, by George Stubbs, 1764. Oil on canvas. Photo © author, useable without charge for non-commercial purposes. 

Medical investigation techniques applied to art history1 can help solve mysteries, as illustrated by a striking, late eighteenth-century portrait2 (Fig 1) recently acquired for an educational exhibition.3 Its history had been forgotten, but it was identified as an inheritance portrait by its dirty, dog-eared parchment property titles in legal pink ribbon.4 Such parchment was used to make important documents last. The work would not have depicted an indenture document because no apprentice would have been able to spend hundreds of pounds on a master portrait. On the other hand, by exclusion, judges at the time did wear long wigs, barristers wore robes, and magistrates’ portraits all had fresh court papers, if any.5 The sitter surprisingly resembled Joshua Reynolds’ portrait of Joseph Banks.6

Magnification revealed George Stubbs’ name7 on the deeds. It is clear, but disguised as document text in subtle sepia: GEO.-S-s is on the top edge. (Fig 2) There is also a hint of faint writing upside down on the bottom edge. Was Stubbs being modest? This was when painters often signed paintings, but it was before them using pseudonyms or avoiding signatures to evade Napoleonic War tax or income tax.

The unique, gently contrasting pink and creamy-pink duo-chrome facial style, with convincing yet subtle anatomical detail, resembles George Stubbs’ other full-size portraits and the style and color of people’s condensed miniature faces in his horse paintings.8 You cannot attribute this distinctive style to another portrait master.9 It is like a gentle, proto-impressionistic color distortion.10

Fig 2. GEO.-S-s located on top edge of title deeds. Photo © author, useable without charge for non-commercial purposes. 

The plain brown background resembles Stubbs’ early-career portrait of George Fothergill. Interestingly, Fothergill was related to two of Stubbs’ student associates in York Hospital,11 where Stubbs studied and taught anatomy for seven years.12 Fothergill differs in geriatric effects in facial skin and wig edge, but is again similar in the simple skin colors. The hand in Fothergill and the index picture are similar; simple, anatomically beautiful, and with convincing sensitivity. Stubbs labeled Fothergill’s own name probably according to the sitter’s wishes; Stubbs did not sign Fothergill, again in apparent modesty.

The picture is on an early stretcher, slightly trimmed13 and well-relined, probably in the Regency period. An old repair seems contemporaneous with relining on X-ray.14 Plaster damage to the frame’s top surface suggests a long period in storage, consistent with forgetting the sitter and artist.

Fig 3. Symbolic frame mouldings: bougainvillea sepal/leaves & eucalyptus spikes, circumferential marine anchor cable. Photo © author, useable without charge for non-commercial purposes. 

At first glance, the frame (Fig 3) has a common, classical anthemeon (honeysuckle) and palmette motif on the outside, but, on careful inspection, it is not. It has Bougainvillea leaf vein-pattern,15 in between thin lances like Eucalyptus leaves, both illustrated in Banks’ Florilegium.16 This unique effect seems bespoke-moulded in applied plaster units. These two unusual plants had their first full scientific study by Joseph Banks in Brazil (1768) and Australia (1770). Banks’ artist Sydney Parkinson described defying Cook’s orders not to collect in the jungle, cheekily sneaking off the ship in Rio at midnight.17 Eucalyptus symbolizes Banks’ contribution to Australia, advising the Government for twenty years. The inner motif is marine anchor cable all the way around, symbolising nautical circumnavigation. It has criss-cross reinforcement, unlike thinner, hawser-laid rope; a symbol too of durability. While Banks inherited his estates in Lincolnshire and Derbyshire in 1764,18 at age 21,19 three years after his father’s death, he only sailed with Cook later in 1768–1771, doing his exotic botanical research.20 That fits a new frame being made during restoration while Banks was still alive to influence the later frame design.21 These emblems represent the self-actualization psychology of a great scientist.22

Facial recognition

Features for morphological analysis have been listed by consensus.23 Those here with known incidence, common to two or more other Banks’ images by master artists, are: c. 10% of northern European Euro-Caucasians have chin dimples, 20% brown eyes, 3% sharp prominent filtrum, and 6% high-arched eyebrows. Multiplying them makes their chance of coincident appearance = 1/27,700. Then, there are considerably more of Banks’ recurrent features across multiple portraits, medals, cameos, and sculpture: distinct dark stubble line, bouffant hair and wavy hair, dark brown hair,24 small vertical left periorbital scar, prominent lip edges, absent transverse ear crus cartilage, deep upper eyelid recesses, marked serpentine pinna, tapered jaw, thin nose, and high-arched nostrils. In combination these are like fingerprint details. Faces are unique; the fingerprint rule of matching is eight to twelve features. We list sixteen facial features in common with more than one other masterpiece image, giving no reasonable doubt this is Banks. This is consistent with the other evidence of symbols specific to Banks and the rarity of a young inheritance portrait which fits his age of inheritance very well. In costume, the portrait’s simple tie, waistcoat and coat are a particularly good match for Flaxman’s 1775 Wedgwood cameo image of Banks, amongst others. While writing this, we are also impressed that Google Lens now recognises the portrait face as that of Banks.

The Glasgow Face Matching Test25 explores cognitive reliability. The background science helps, particularly highlighting bias. Mistaking two images of the same person due to different head angles does not apply to Banks, with consistency across many images. Banks’ maturational weight gain after Cook’s first voyage and his unquestionable change in eye color from light brown to blue across multiple master portraits as he grew older need considering; they do not alter the conclusions.26

X-ray findings

Fig. 4. X-ray of the face. Photo © author, useable without charge for non-commercial purposes. 

Medical X-rays of historic oil paintings sometimes show an artist’s underlying sketch in radio-opaque white lead. They indicate original composition, rather than copying when planning sketches are not necessary. They can reveal modelling or reworking. This X-ray (Fig 4) showed facial muscles, not a typical modelling sketch, but an anatomical study of a whole face. It depicts the levator labii superioris alaeque nasi27 bundles each side of the nose, attached to the orbicularis oris bundle around the mouth, as in Stubbs’ print of dissected face bundles.28 He highlighted Banks’ sharply prominent lip filtrum. There are annular fibres of the orbicularis oculi that close the eyelids, as Stubbs did in his drawing of horse facial muscle fibers published two years after Banks’ inheritance.29 An extensive literature review shows that this portrait’s facial muscle sketch is the only anatomically detailed eighteenth-century portrait X-ray we have found published. It is very detailed for a white-lead facial sketch from any period, and rare to be a complete face.30 This talented individuality fits Stubbs being self-taught.


With immense success and influence, Banks was President of the Royal Society for forty years, leading British science. He studied Greenland ice, marine biology, and plant pharmacology, while co-founding geological and Ordnance Survey mapping.31 Banks realised marsupials were more primitive than placental mammals. He was considerate. His Endeavour diaries are replete with wanting to cause no kind of harm.32 Banks became a Freemason before 1768,33 exposed to tolerance and symbolism; anonymity, crypticism and subtlety traits, like Stubbs, were with Banks at the end. He self-effacingly eschewed vanity and insisted on no memorial whatsoever, in contrast to earlier satire for dandy dress and self-confessed liaisons in Tahiti. This dual persona was like a real-life Mr. Darcy, exactly matching the “young man of large fortune from the north” with “large estates in Derbyshire” of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice of 1813. Jane’s niece, Fanny, owned the Banks family art collection, probably including this picture.34

Banks kept in contact with Stubbs in London. Stubbs painted The Kongouro from New Holland 35 and Portrait of a Large Dog (Dingo)36 for Banks and dedicated the 1791 Lincolnshire Ox print to him.37 While an adventurous teenager in Lincolnshire, Banks’ father had properties an easy ride from Horkstow, where Stubbs dissected his horses.38 Their early acquaintance was quite possible during Stubbs’ pioneering work in horse anatomy.

The Banks-Stubbs relationship39 over at least three decades, one could reasonably suggest, implies a strong bond. Losing his father in his teens and having a replacement figure in Stubbs makes sense. It would also explain Stubbs’ atypical signing. A signature was not necessary with strong object attachment. A more symbolic inscription, literally depicted on the very edge of Banks’ documented wealth, meant much more. Stubbs was never a full member of the Royal Academy due to Reynolds’ snobbery. He had a humble, artisan origin compared to Banks, the landed gentleman. Both were very gifted, high achievers, yet the portrait’s icons may be an attempt on Stubbs’ part to level a conflicting subconscious discomfort: cognitive dissonance of their backgrounds. Stubbs’ inkwell emblem levels matters, akin to: Banks will create with the pen, I create with the brush. Banks believed that every consideration a man made of the works of the Almighty increased a man’s admiration of his Creator.40 Any cognitive dissonance on Banks’ part must have been forced deep into his subconscious by wonder, intellectualism, and decency. He got on with his job.

Robert Weinberg described Stubbs as “the missing link between the Renaissance and Damien Hurst.”41 Accordingly, Stubbs’ finesse, taste, and brave originality are in this portrait. His strong individualism was highlighted by drawing bones from age eight.42 Stubbs had a streak of privately-avoidant behaviour; surprisingly few records survive. He grew up in the stinking brutality of his father’s tannery circle,43 when human anatomy spread terror and revulsion. Stubbs was secretive about his relationship with his common law wife. Both Banks’ and Stubbs’ minds probably contributed to the subtle, but deep iconography.44 The haunting shock in all of us seeing the X-ray for the first time may reflect a ghost battled by Stubbs. Besides originality, the X-ray revealed extraordinary anatomical knowledge, like an anatomy class for an intellectual sitter. These findings substantiate the work of George Stubbs in an original, rare early portrait, perhaps even teaching his naturalist friend Joseph Banks45 human facial anatomy, in a lesson hidden beneath paint for nearly three centuries.46

End notes

  1. Martin, Stephen. Was the VOC Funding Mozart? The Diaries of Wilhelm Buschman on Kharg Island. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 33, no. 2 (2023): 489–511. Cambridge University Press. Illustrates a fresh approach with forensic techniques and medicolegal structuring in historic arts research.
  2. Because of his keen expression, the portrait illustrated the article: Stephen Martin. Modern Neuroscience and the ideas of the Enlightenment. Hektoen International Journal, Spring 2020.
  3. The painting was acquired from the dealer Surrey Fine Arts for the Baan Dong Bang Museum project. Described as a portrait of an anonymous sitter by an anonymous artist, the dealer bought it at auction consigned by a private owner wishing to remain anonymous. Anonymity of the artist and sitter, and the poor condition of the frame, were probable factors in it earlier leaving the collection of the Banks family descendants. It had repeatedly failed to sell on eBay. At present, the painting is in the United Kingdom, but not on display.
  4. The average inheritance at the time was about the cost of a master portrait, so the sitter was, as a rare occurrence, very wealthy and very young. From the available 1739-1741 Probate Records for the English Northern Midlands counties, there were about 70 inventorized probates per county per year. This portrait style must be a bit later, but there is no reason for a great difference. Most inheritances went to middle-aged individuals. (WD Rubinstein. New Men of Wealth and the Purchase of Land in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Past & Present, No. 92, OUP, Aug 1981, pp. 125-147) Even in the second half of the eighteenth century, most aged 21 lived to be 65. (Lancaster H O. Expectations of life – A study in the demography, history, and history of world mortality. Springer Verlag, NY, 1990.) It is therefore important that rich inheritance, in your twenties, was rare. Banks certainly fitted that, as his father died age 42, when Banks was eighteen. Records survive in the Banks Papers showing Banks’ mother’s potential wealth for portraits, from spending heavily decorating the house at Revesby. See: Lincoln Record Society. Ed. Hill JWF. Vol 45, 1948–1949. The money came from lead mines in Overton, Derbyshire, (Stuart Band. Overton, Ashover and Sir Joseph banks. Derbyshire miscellany: The local history bulletin of the Derbyshire archaeological society. Vol 14 part 5, spring 1997, pp 140-146) and also funded Banks’ scientific work, encouraged by his mother: O’Brian, op. cit.
  5. Based on extensive searches of eighteenth-century portraits of different types of lawyers, and of legal documents with pink ribbon in paintings. Banks also became a Lincolnshire magistrate on his inheritance, but for the given reasons this does not emblematize his magistracy. https://www.archives.gov/preservation/formats/paper-vellum.html reviews parchment.
  6. The resemblance struck while writing a lecture about Stubbs, Reynolds, and Romney, with Reynolds’ portrait of Banks (done in 1771, NPG 5868) on the laptop screen and the then unbeknown real Stubbs hanging on the dining room wall behind the computer. We are not using Banks’ knighthood title, as that postdated the portrait. From 1764, he ran his estates and his own first house in London, but from that time he kept few letters and records: Patrick O’Brian. Joseph Banks. A life. Collins Harvill, London, 1987. This article took three years to research, not just this eureka moment.
  7. George Dunea. George Stubbs—“Horse painter” and anatomist. Hektoen International Journal, Winter 2018. A sound overview of Stubbs’ artistic-medical life.
  8. The smaller facial images in Stubbs’ horse pictures have the same striking, pink-cream, uniquely understated style. These are reviewed in: Judy Egerton. Stubbs. Portraits in Detail. The Tate Gallery, London, 1984. Another good miniature parallel example is “Labourers” of the 1760s discussed in: Stubbs in the 1760s. Agnew & sons, British Red Cross Society, London, 1970. There are many similarities in simple cloth, gentle button effects, face, eyes, and background to: Stubbs’ 1755 portrait of James Stanley (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool WAG8294); Thomas Smith the Banksman, ex Wentworth Woodhouse, c. 1760, sold Christies 1998; his 1780 Richard Wedgwood (V&A Wedgwood Collection, oil on wood, ex Vaughan Williams); and probable portrait of John Wasteal, stables manager to the Duke of Grafton (sale illustration Duggleby Stephenson, York, lot 352, 11.12.20). They have characteristic sharp nasal shadowing in common with the subtle pink shades. Stubbs may have done all the clothing, face, and background in each of these pictures, while in his Stanley and two very early Nelthorpe portraits of Sir John and of his parents (both priv. coll, Scawby), elaborate clothing appears to have been done by other artists. See: Anthony Mould, lecture 17 Jan, 2020, George Stubbs and portraiture, the “lacuna” years from c.1744 to c.1758. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=viNLVygKTHU. Accessed 30 June, 2023. The style fits Stubbs’ work, even in different media, like his images of himself and of Josiah Wedgwood on ceramic and his self-portrait on copper of 1759. These do lose some dimensionality, though.
  9. We compared all accessible comparators from each of Thomas Gainsborough, Joshua Reynolds, Lemuel Francis Abbott, Ozias Humphry, Philippe Mercier, Johann Zoffany, John Opie, Mason Chamberlain, Arthur Devis, George Romney, William Beechey, John Hoppner, Joseph Wright, Benjamin West, and Thomas Phillips, besides lesser painters: all were firmly excluded. Nobody else painted people, or horses, like Stubbs, who was a strong individualist. Reynolds’ self-portrait when young of the 1750’s, Tate N00889, has a face like this subtle, simplified color palette, but, along with the clothing, it is painted looser and romanticized. Stubbs nailed the anatomy through subtlety, both in people and horses. Despite differences in clothing, Stubbs’ portraits are “entirely consistent”: Judy Egerton. Stubbs, George. In Turner J S, Chief Ed. The Dictionary of Art. Grove Dictionaries, NY, NY, 1996.
  10. Martin S. Proto-impressionism and the forgotten lives of Regency women. Foundation, X, 1, 2018, pp. 179-209. ISSN 1752-0398.
  11. Robin Blake. George Stubbs and the Wide Creation. Animals, people and places in the life of George Stubbs. Chatto and Windus, London, 2016. Chap 12, ii. Fothergill’s portrait (1746) is in Ferens Gallery, Hull Museum Collections, labeled, but not signed.
  12. Fothergill was a draper in Micklegate, York. The younger Fothergills both became doctors. Stubbs painted Fothergill’s hand like Banks, with simple but utterly convincing joints and tendons reflecting his horse paintings. Stubbs may have deliberately saved work and enhanced overall composition in both, by showing only one hand. Fothergill also has similar restricted iconography, here of past achievement and mortality, with his nice gold watch ticking away. In contrast, some artists depict rich iconography that evades attention, from blending in so well stylistically, that it long goes unnoticed. See: Stephen Martin. The painting of The Good Samaritan in Bracciano Castle. Hektoen International Journal, Summer 2022. Also: Stephen Martin. Ophthalmology in Regency era China: a portrait of Thomas Richardson Colledge by George Chinnery. Hektoen International Journal, Spring 2020.
  13. Perhaps by about 1-2 mm in the facing canvas, from standard half portrait size, judging by proportions and standard sizing.
  14. It is 5 cm, vertical, lower right quadrant, brown background area, opposite first space between the uppermost buttons. It is subtly visible on the canvas, but clear on X-ray. Historic adhesives are radio-opaque due to calcium from bone glue, not all of which was taken out in extraction processes. Our paint sample site for pending spectroscopy and scanning electron microscopy lies behind the frame rebate, top left. Both sides of our 1mm wide paint sample show Stubbs’ characteristic brown ground and surface monochrome brown background visible to the naked eye. The painting’s general condition is good with craquelure but no loose paint or loss, having some slight dirt under the restoration layer of varnish and strong canvas.
  15. Dicotyledonous leaf veins stem in pairs at repeated intervals from a central stalk, characteristic of plants with two cotyledon cases per seed. Honeysuckle (= anthemeon or ianthe) springs from a single central point. Banks would not have got the botany wrong. His supervision of plant leaf-form classification influenced many botanists from the work of Kew and Chelsea gardens. It is a very high quality, heavy frame. All such good frame makers at the time would have had quality detailed moulds of the popular anthemeon and palmette to apply in plaster onto wood. This pattern is a one-off quality. It may also symbolize relative personal meaning that the botanical features are outside and larger than the circumferential anchor cable.
  16. This handsome work was painted from Sydney Parkinson’s botanical drawings and engraved on copper plate in Banks’ lifetime, but only published in 1900 in part, then completed recently by The British Museum, 1990. A selection is in: David Mabberley, Mel Gooding, Joe Studholme. Joseph Banks’ Florilegium: Botanical Treasures from Cook’s First Voyage. Thames and Hudson, London, 2017.
  17. All discussed in: Lack HW. “The discovery, naming and classification of Bougainvillea spectabilis (Nyctaginaceae).” Willdenowia. June 2012, 42 (1), 117-126. accessed 25 June, 2023. It was Etonian single-mindedness on Banks’ part.
  18. Stubbs seldom dated his pictures in the 1760s. See: Basil Taylor. Stubbs. Phaidon Press Ltd, London, 1971. 1764 was also a particularly adventurous year for Stubbs, with a new studio at Somerset Street (now under Selfridges) and painting his second, high-art Fall of Phaeton. Discussed in: Martin Postle. “.. all done from Nature.” George Stubbs. Paul Holberton Publishing, London, 2019. Stubbs also brilliantly pioneered mares and foals in the 1760’s. See: Constance-Anne Parker. George Stubbs. Art, animals and anatomy. JA Allen and Co Ltd, London, 1984.
  19. This is not an image of Banks in grief, aged 18. Importantly, and very rarely, it fits his coming of age at 21, when he inherited. The quill pen and ink well, as in his Reynolds portrait, symbolises intent to impart knowledge; expectation of future achievement, contrasting with Fothergill. The sitter’s age and exact iconography group of this portrait are unique. Stubbs was in London from 1758-9, where this was probably painted and likely stayed, without the cost and risk of distant transport back to Lincolnshire. See: Ozias Humphry, Joseph Mayer. Intro. Anthony Mould. A memoir of George Stubbs. Pallas Athenae, London, 2005.
  20. Madagascar is prominent on the globe in his portrait by Reynolds. Banks said it was his favourite collecting location, an example of his emblematic considerations in art. Portrait Ref: National Portrait Gallery (NPG) 5868 https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw07074/Sir-Joseph-Banks-Bt Accessed 29 June, 2023.
  21. The picture is not in the catalogue of effects sold when Banks’ main Lincolnshire home, Revesby near Horncastle, was auctioned in 1843, from his distant cousin James Bank Stanhope (see acknowledgements). The interior pictures of Banks’ London house at Soho Square, held by the Natural History Museum, show no such portrait. This suggests it went to Banks’ mother Sarah’s house at Chelsea, three miles from Stubbs’ London studio, and thence to Banks’ Spring Grove when she died in 1804. Spring Grove has no internal images. Banks family portraits clearly passed to Jane Austen’s niece and eventually the Mountbatten family by marriage, but not the source of this painting in recent decades.
  22. Stephen Martin, Aidan Jones. Applause, honors and mortification: Admiral Pellew’s psychology of achievement in combatting slavery. Hektoen International Journal, Spring 2021. Discusses the normality and similar compatibility of modesty and self-actualization in Georgian high achievers.
  23. Facial Identification Scientific Working Group (FISWG). Guidelines for Facial Comparison Methods. 2012, and Facial Identification Scientific Working Group. Facial Image Comparison Feature List for Morphological Analysis. 2013. Though photographically based, the features and concepts are most helpful for art. The calculation here is 10% of 20% of 3% of 6% = 0.1 x 0.2 x 0.03 x 0.06 = 1/27,700, to 3 sig. fig. Even if some features associate (see ref 21), driving overestimation of rarity, this must remain extremely rare for a tiny, if not unique, potential sample size having this portrait done. Eclectic techniques are still advisable in analysis: “True, artistic liberties, characteristic of portraits created by painters, will never allow us to use universal technology for all works.” Lecture, 2022, Prof. Conrad Rudolf, UCR.
  24. The hair is characteristic for Banks; wavy, dark brown in the eyebrows where less powdered; buffed on top from his curls and ponytail. It is powdered here for the artist and not a wig. Note Fothergill’s clear wig line in contrast, not to be confused with different artistic style. Banks’ natural dark eyebrows here are not powdered. Banks was strongly individualistic and never wore wigs. Dark brown hair occurs in 37%, UK, but is omitted from this calculation as it associates with brown eye color. See: Morgan et al. “UK Biobank.” Nature Communications, Dec 2018. The origin of Banks’ eye scar is not documented, but not surprising, given his adventurousness and rough time at Eton: Charles Lyte. Sir Joseph Banks. 18th Century Explorer, Botanist and Entrepreneur. David and Charles Ltd, Newton Abbott, 1980.
  25. Burton AM, White D, McNeill A. “The Glasgow Face Matching Test.” Behaviour Research Methods. 2010. 42, 1. 286-291. I am extremely grateful to the medical and scientific members of Dunelm Rotarians for their supportive agreement on the face and x-ray findings, presented at: Windows on the Enlightenment. The Honest Lawyer, Croxdale, 3 March, 2022.
  26. Banks had definite brown eyes in his early portraits by John Opie (priv. coll., attrib. and post-hoc showing Banks as a youth and Newfoundland before he went there), by Benjamin West (Usher Gallery, Lincoln) and this, afterwards lighter eyes in the works of Parry (NPG), Reynolds (NPG) and Phillips (Royal Society), then bright blue in the last by Phillips (NPG) and Lawrence (British Museum). They became more and more blue into his old age, perhaps due to tropical sun exposure and then arthritis, just possibly Behçet’s uveitis. In old age Banks was said to have such bad “gout” he needed to be carried. It is hard to be diagnostically conclusive, but the change in eye color is inescapable, especially with West’s and Lawrence’s typical accuracy; they were both Presidents of the Royal Academy, unlikely to get it wrong. Studio light levels must also have influenced color. Notably, Banks used many of the best artists. The similarity of the index portrait to others of Banks is impressive—it looks more like the best comparators than others in the list. Despite a lot of effort, we were unable to trace the ex-Parham House painting of Banks as a boy, never published in color, though with black eyes: Margaret Stones. “The Parham House Portrait of the Young Joseph Banks.” Archives of Natural History, 1994, 21 (3), 271-274. We found it left Parham when sold. (Illustrated in O’Brian, op. cit.)
  27. Beloved of medical students as the longest name of a muscle. Note we are discussing sketches, not underlying completed works painted over, which often show whole faces.
  28. Stubbs’ drawing of the muscle bundles of Laughter was engraved by his son and dedicated to the Prince of Wales in 1800. John Singleton Copley had a strong interest in anatomy underlying portraits, but he was no Stubbs in effortlessly combining the two. Stubbs’ written knowledge of anatomy was astoundingly professorial, even by modern standards.
  29. George Stubbs. The Anatomy of the horse: including a particular description of the bones, cartilages, muscles, fascias, ligaments, nerves, arteries, veins and glands. J Purser for the author, London, 1766. 13th anatomical table. There are eighteen tables (plates) in total. The wonderful drawing of muscle fibers is in the Royal Academy of Arts, London. The fibres are only clear in Banks’ eyes on X-ray, so they are not general brushwork style in the sketch, seemingly making a point. Frontalis muscle is also a block. Anthony Mould, lecture 17 Jan 2020 op. cit., described the late 1750’s to 1760 as Stubbs real development. The University of Khon Kaen has established from our paint sample that lipid findings in the paint substrate predate Stubbs’1767 technique, which is an excellent match for the 1764 inheritance. This and electron microscopy will be published separately.
  30. Stubbs the anatomy master can be contrasted with Zurbaran who was a master of anatomical depiction and symbolism a century before, but not an anatomist. See: Stephen Martin. Anatomy and pathology in Zurbaran’s Jewish and Christian figures. Hektoen International Journal, Summer 2018.
  31. http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/banks_joseph_5E.html Passim. Accessed 7 July, 2023.
  32. http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks05/0501141h.html passim. Acc. 7 July, 2023. Cook and Banks’ had Admiralty orders to: “exercise the utmost patience and forbearance with respect to the natives,” and “endeavour by every fair means to cultivate a friendship with the Natives and to treat them with all imaginable humanity.”
  33. Nigel Wade. https://www.thesquaremagazine.com/mag/article/202203sir-joseph-banks-the-botanical-freemason/
  34. Banks (1743–1820) outlived Jane Austen (1775–1817), having achieved great fame in her youth. Fanny (1793–1882) married Edward Knatchbull the year Banks died and they inherited Banks family art and jewels in 1828, when Banks’ wife Dorothea died. Having no children, Dorothea bequeathed to her nephew, Knatchbull. Banks’ intellectual sister, also called Sarah, a year younger than him, never married and died in 1818. The frame suffered wear from obvious poor storage after Regency restoration, but must have hung with pride for a long time judging by a maid’s dusting erosion of the gilding. That fits the early family remembering it was Banks and keeping him pride of place.
  35. ZBA 5754 National Maritime Museum Greenwich, London, first exhibited 1773.
  36. ZBA 5755 National Maritime Museum Greenwich, London, first exhibited 1773.
  37. BMus: 1914, 0520.497. Painted by Stubbs 1790 and engraved 1791 by Stubbs’ son George Townley Stubbs. It was published that Sir Joseph Banks “possesses a few” of Stubbs’ paintings: The Sporting Magazine, Nov 1809. This also describes an oil painting of Banks’ dog Carlo (now lost, hidden, or forgotten), sold from Stubbs’ estate, at Somerset Street, on 27 May, 1807. Many of Stubbs’ works were exhibited in his lifetime, but not conventional studio portraits of people. He clearly wanted to project his equestrian work for business reasons later on, in a saturated London portrait market: Gilbey W. Life of George Stubbs RA. Vinton & Co, London 1898.
  38. This was for eighteen months, around 1756, when Stubbs was age 32 and Banks age 13-14. Again, Banks’ school, Eton, encouraged independence and adventure.
  39. Explored, along with relationship to the Hunters, in symposium: Exotic Anatomies: Stubbs, Banks, and the Cultures of Natural History. Royal Museums Greenwich, London, 9 March 2015.
  40. Discussed in: Rogers Kotlowski E. https://www.chr.org.au/index.php Banks’ mother was devoutly religious and a member of the Moravian Church, a Hanoverian influence, which believed that the Holy Scriptures are the only rule of faith and practice.
  41. Daily Telegraph, 9 October 2019. Contrast Stubbs’ intellectual beauty and Hirst’s visual intellectualism.
  42. Humphry, op. cit. Stubbs’ portrait by Humphry picked a deadly-serious, scholarly gaze, straining out of the corner of his eye, doubtless chosen on both their parts. Stubbs’ enamel on ceramic self-portrait is genial (NPG 4575). He may have persisted with these materials for durability—so was geniality Stubbs’ desired lasting image?
  43. Stubbs senior was a currier—a leather finisher. His associated tannery must have influenced George Stubbs’ interest in anatomy. Anthony Mould also reviewed Stubbs’ psychology of the potential of portraiture: Lecture 17 Jan 2020, op. cit. Either Stubbs or his pigment supplier heated and crushed ivory to make black pigment mixed into his brown backgrounds; there was even real anatomy within Stubbs’ paint.
  44. The provenance of Banks artefacts associated with the Mountbatten family was published by Sotheby’s, 24 March, 2021, when Banks’ family art was sold, following the death of the 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma. This included the glorious, Bougainvillea-like Banks diamond pendant brooch, as well as three portraits of Banks’ mother, wife and sister by John Russell RA and a print of Reynold’s portrait of Banks. These three paintings were photo-catalogued in the Brabourne Collection, Courthauld Institute, (since reorganized), remaining in family ownership, published in O’Brian, op. cit., but not this portrait of Banks himself, implying it was gone and forgotten before the 1980’s. That is consistent with the information kindly given to us by the descendants for the purpose of this article.
  45. Stubbs gravitated to other leading polymaths. He started working with Josiah Wedgwood on Queensware pottery print designs in 1777, crafting jasperware horse moulds later: Tattersall B. Stubbs and Wedgwood. Unique alliance between artist and potter. The Tate Gallery, London, 1974.
  46. It also contrasts with sitters who wanted to summarise philosophy and events allegorically, like a time-capsule puzzle, in the case of Dr Ferdinand Dejean. See: Stephen Martin. The symbolic portrait of Mozart’s medical patron, Dr Ferdinand Dejean. Hektoen International Journal, Spring 2018.


Many thanks to: In the Sir Joseph Banks Society, Sir David Attenborough, for encouragement, expertise on Joseph Banks, and view on the portrait evidence as “an excellent case for Banks by Stubbs”; Paul Scott, Stuart Crooks and Trevor Olsson of the Society for opinions on the portrait, archive access, advice on comparative portraits and notice to the Society on the potential discovery; Penelope Knatchbull 3rd Countess Mountbatten of Burma, Lady Amanda Knatchbull, and Michael-John Knatchbull Esq for provenance research assistance, including Banks family works from the Mountbatten collection.

Gallagher and Turner of Newcastle upon Tyne for preliminary sample removal work and symbolic Georgian picture frame advice; Annabelle Remnant for inspection of the picture, opining on condition, and on cleaning and lipids in Stubbs’ paint; Robert Bell of Robert Bell and Co Estate Agents and Auctioneers, Horncastle, for generously sharing his ancestor’s antique sale catalogue of Revesby; and Ferens Gallery, Hull, for kindly allowing close access to Stubbs’ portrait of George Fothergill. I. Gray, then of BMI group, led the radiography. Clare Griffel LTCL, ret’d professor of statistics, Oxford, advised on probability.

Falk Steins MA, historian, editor, Wiesbaden; Dr Sanjay Patel, Durham; Anthony Mould, Art historian, London; Surgeon Lt Commander RN (ret’d) Duncan Veasey MRCPsych, Nova Scotia; and Mr Graham Kyle, MB ChB, FRCOphth, LL M, all gave indispensable help.

STEPHEN MARTIN is an honorary professor of psychiatry and former police surgeon who voluntarily runs a historic art education project in underprivileged rural Thailand. He was sabbatical Professor in the Faculty of Arts, Mahasarakham, researching late long eighteenth-century portraits, including new discoveries by Lawrence, and Romney, besides studying Dutch Republic portraits in the senior common room of St Chad’s College, Durham.

AIDAN JONES BSc, MSt, PhD, DClinPsych, CPsychol, Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, is a consultant clinical neuropsychologist who now most often works as an Expert Witness to the British Courts on cases involving brain injury, psychological trauma, and mental capacity. He previously led the NHS neuropsychology rehabilitation service in Oxford and has broader academic interest and qualifications in mental health epidemiology and social anthropology.

By coincidence, Captain Cook was Stephen’s 6x great uncle. Stephen’s grandmother lived in the Cook-Fleck family home in Redcar, Yorkshire into the twentieth century, where Banks, Cook, and Omai had visited. Banks kindly helped the late Captain’s destitute relatives.

Fall 2023



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