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John Bell. Oil painting.

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Credit: John Bell. Oil painting. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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About this work


The sitter has been identified with the Edinburgh surgeon and travel writer John Bell (1763-1820), author of Principles of surgery (1801-1806): see Garrison, loc. cit. However, the identity has not been confirmed. A painting believed to show the Edinburgh surgeon is in the National Portrait Gallery, London, but on its purchase in 1923 the Gallery was "unable to substantiate its authenticity" (Walker, loc. cit.), and the website of the Gallery currently (13 October 2004) identifies the sitter instead with a London mesmerist of the same name. The possibility that the present painting may show John Bell (1774-1849), pharmacist and founder of John Bell & Croyden, or another of the many people called John Bell, has not been investigated

Physical description

1 painting : oil on canvas ; canvas 92 x 67.8 cm

Publications note

Fielding H. Garrison, An introduction to the history of medicine, 4th ed., Philadelphia 1929, p. 478 (reproduced)
Richard Walker, Regency portraits [in the National Portrait Gallery], London 1985, vol. 1, p. 39 (NPG painting)
Christopher Wright et al., British and Irish paintings in public collections, New Haven and London: Yale University Press for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2006, p. 201


Wellcome Library no. 45558i

Creator/production credits

Attributed on old catalogue card to "Bossall", presumably meaning William Boxall (1800-1879), though he would have been born too late to portray John Bell (1763-1820) at the age at which he appears in the present painting


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