The son of a linen-draper, Pope was first noticed by Jacob Tonson who published his Pastorals in 1709. With The Rape of the Lock (1712), and his translations of Homer, Pope became the most formidable literary figure of his day, with a large circle of friends and enemies. Primarily a satirical poet and of unsurpassed metrical skill, he wrote 'what oft was thought, but ne'er so well expressed'. A friend of Swift and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and famous in the history of landscape gardening for the grounds of his villa at Twickenham, he was revered as one of the great personalities of the age.Charles Jervas's portrait, in which the poet strikes his favourite meditative pose, was painted just as Pope had begun his translation of Homer's Iliad. The unusual composition may refer to the conflict between fame, represented by the bust of Homer in the top-left corner, and private friendship, symbolised by the figure of the woman who may be a portrait of Pope's close friend Martha Blount.
Where to see this painting?
National Portrait Gallery, London
St Martin’s Place, London, Greater London, England, WC2H 0HE
If you are planning a visit to see this painting, check with the collection first. Paintings can be moved at short notice.