Jean-Jacques Rousseau by Allan Ramsay

Contributed by National Galleries of Scotland

A Scottish portrait of the celebrated French-Swiss Enlightenment philosopher and writer © National Galleries of Scotland

This portrait was painted when Rousseau was in exile in London as a guest of the Scottish thinker David Hume.This sympathetic portrait of Rousseau in Armenian costume was painted by the highly talented Scottish artist Allan Ramsay. Rousseau's unusual clothing aroused great curiosity on his arrival in London and this picture gives a very good idea of the fascination it provoked. Ramsay planned the portrait as a gift to his close personal friend and fellow Scot, David Hume. Hume, who was himself an internationally eminent Enlightenment philosopher and historian, had facilitated Rousseau's escape from France to Britain in 1766. He also found him somewhere to stay and secured a pension for him from King George III. Ramsay painted a portrait of Hume as a companion to this picture, to hang in Hume's own home (also NGS [Scottish National Portrait Gallery]). Sadly, the friendship which helped to generate this sensitive portrait very quickly soured. Rousseau quarrelled publically with his Scottish host and this affected his view of this portrait.

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