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Portrait, Historical, European, Socrates, London, c. 1782


Angelica Kauffman (1741-1807) (after)
F. Bartolozzi (1727-1815) (engraver)
The celebrated Moral Philosopher Socrates while under sentence of Death at Athens, composing an Hymn to Apollo
from Millars New Complete & Universal System of Geography
Alexander Hogg, 16 Paternoster Row, London: c. 1782
Uncolored engraving
14.25 x 9 inches, overall
10 x 8 inches, plate mark

Portrait of Socrates, the great philosopher of ancient Greece, seated upon a step, composing a hymn while awaiting his death, after Angelica Kauffmann, a prominent 18th-century history and genre painter. The oval portrait is set in an engraved neoclassical frame surmounted by ribbon-tied flowers.

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Socrates was a philosopher and teacher in Athens, considered by some to be the founder of the Western tradition of critical thinking as well as the Socratic Method, a way of tackling complex ideas by asking a series of questions. He was a principled man who risked taking stands unpopular with the people in power. In 399, at about age 70, amidst the turbulent political climate of Athens he was indicted for “denying the gods” and “corrupting the young.” He was convicted by a vote of judges and further angered his accusers by showing indifference to the results, and the exasperated judges sentenced him to death. During the waiting period of 30 days before the sentence was carried out, by all accounts he accepted his fate calmly and refused offers from friends to help him escape.

Angelica Kauffman was a child prodigy who was trained by her father, also a painter. From the age of 16 she traveled through Austria and Italy, assisting him with religious commissions as well as painting portrait commissions of her own. After arriving in London in 1766, she became known for her historical paintings, the most prestigious type of painting during the 18th Century. This engraving is among her historical subjects, which were taken from ancient as well as modern history. Kauffman achieved extraordinary recognition for a female artist of her day, and was one of only two female founding members of the British Royal Academy. She spent the latter part of her life in Italy.

Francesco Bartolozzi was an engraver, etcher and painter born in Florence, Italy. He was trained in the Florentine Academy and apprenticed to a Venetian engraver. In 1764, King George III’s librarian brought him to England, where he was appointed Engraver to the King and later held the title of Royal Academician. A prolific engraver, he developed a stipple method invented in France, and his work was admired for its subtle modulations of light and shade and his sensitive and graceful portrayal of the human form. Engravings were the means of creating reproductions of fine art in the pre-photographic age, and Bartolozzi was considered one of the best. Prominent artists such as Sir Joshua Reynolds praised his work and his pupils nicknamed him “the god of drawing.” He spent the last 13 years of his life working and teaching in Lisbon, where he was knighted.

Alexander Hogg was a bookseller in London, from c. 1778-1824. He was prominent as a publisher of magazines and widely advertised works known as “Paternoster Row numbers” –Paternoster Row being the address of his shop. These were standard works such as family bibles, the life of Christ, histories of England and so forth issued inexpensively in weekly parts.

Condition: Generally very good with the usual light overall toning, and minor wear.


“Book Production and Distribution 1625-1800: Bell’s Poets, Johnson’s Poets; Paternoster Row Numbers.” The Cambridge History of English and American Literature (1907-21). Vol. XI. (4 August 2003).

Heller, Nancy G. “Women Artists, An Illustrated History,” Abbeville Press: New York, 1987, pp. 52-58.

Hunt, Leigh. “Francesco Bartolozzi.” The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume II. Robert Appleton Company: 1907. Online Edition Kevin Knight: 1999. (27 August 2002).

Maxted, Ian. “The London book trades 1775-1800: a preliminary checklist of members.” Exeter Working Papers in British Book Trade History. 20 June 2001. (4 August 2003).

Additional information


18th Century