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Portrait of Thomas Hobbes

Portrait of Thomas Hobbes

c. 1660

Samuel Cooper

(British, 1608/09–1672)

Watercolor on vellum in a gilt metal frame

Framed: 7.3 x 6.3 cm (2 7/8 x 2 1/2 in.); Sight: 6.7 x 5.8 cm (2 5/8 x 2 5/16 in.)

The Edward B. Greene Collection 1949.548


Did you know?

A replica of Cleveland’s miniature was painted by Lady Margaret Bingham, Countess of Lucan.


In his seventies when the portrait was painted, Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) is turned slightly to his left, his eyes directed at the spectator. He has thin gray hair extending to his collar and a gray mustache and goatee. Only his head is finished; a thin gray wash loosely describes a plain, flat collar. Hobbes was born in Malmesbury, Wiltshire. In spite of humble parentage, he rose to prominence as a brilliant linguist and author of the 1651 book Leviathan, a seminal work of social contract theory that advocated for government led by a strong sovereign. As a royalist he was forced to flee England when the civil war broke out in 1642, and he resided in France until the war’s end in 1651. He was a friend of Cooper, who painted his miniature on at least two occasions.

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