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Portrait, Mercator, by Garth Jones, Vintage Drawing, Early 20th Century

Alfred Garth Jones (1872-1955)
Portrait of Gerardus Mercator
London: c. 1st Quarter 20th C.
Crayon, watercolor and mixed media on paper
Signed lower right: Garth Jones/ Norfolk
21.75 x 16.25 inches, overall

Portrait by the British artist and illustrator Garth Jones of the great Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator (1512-1594). He is shown standing at a table in front of the ocean and a dramatic cloudy sky, pointing to a map, his other hand resting on a globe. Mercator is known for producing a corrected version of Ptolemy’s maps as an atlas, a term still used to indicated a collection of maps. He is also renowned for his world map of 1569 which presented the geography of the world in a more useful manner for sailors via what became known as the Mercator Projection. In brief, the Mercator Projection translates the spherical shape of the world to a flat surface through straight parallel lines rather than curved ones. The artist signed the work Garth Jones/Norfolk. He is known to have been working in 1925 as an illustrator for the Norfolk Studio, a major advertising agency in London, and therefore it can be assumed he made this drawing during that period.

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In this portrait, by placing Mercator outdoors with the ocean in the background and having his fingers spread to mimic a drawing compass, the artist clearly intends to symbolically convey the importance of his work to ocean navigation. Mercator’s facial features, long white beard and fur stole seem to be based by Jones in part on an earlier marble statue of Mercator in the Jardin du Petit Sablon, a park in Brussels, Belgium. Another source may have been an engraved portrait of Mercator by Frans Hogenberg made in 1574.  This portrait also bears a likeness to an 1886 drawing of Mercator (also without a hat) for Popular Science Monthly. (see References below).

Alfred Garth Jones was an English artist and illustrator known for his woodcuts, pen and ink drawings and watercolors. Born in Manchester, he began studying art in his teens and then moved to London where he continued his studies at Slade School of Fine Art and then in Paris at the Académie Julian. He started using Garth Jones as his professional name early in his career. He began publishing illustration in children’s books, adult periodicals and literary works by Arthur Conan Doyle, Alfred Lord Tennyson, H.G. Wells, and others. In the early 1900s he also received public art commissions including the designing of stained glass windows for Cardiff City Hall. In the U.S. his illustrations appeared in Scribner’s Magazine.

Condition: On “A.C.M. Water Colour Paper, Rough Surface,” now professionally removed from attached Winsor & Newton, Ltd. “Water Colour Sketching Board,” cleaned and deacidified, then rebacked on supporting archival paper. Overall very good condition with minor remaining toning, extremely faint discoloration patches, and wear.


“A sculpture of Gerard Mercator.” Wikipedia Commons. 28 April 2012.,_Brussels#/media/File:Bruxels_April_2012-3.jpg (2 November 2017).

“Alfred Garth Jones.” Wikipedia. 2 May 2017. (2 November 2017).

Bradshaw, Percy Venner. Art in Advertising: A Study of British and American Pictorial Publicity. United Kingdom: Press Art School, 1925. p. 186.

“Gerardus Mercator.” Wikipedia. (2 November 2017).

“Page: Popular Science Monthly Volume 29.” Wikimedia Commons. 2 July 2015. (27 November 2017).