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Miniature portrait of an unknown man, believed to be John Milton

Anonymous, British school, attributed to Edmund Ashfield
(fl. 1673–1700)

17th century
Watercolor on vellum
Oval, 2 1/4 x 1 13/16 inches (57 x 45 mm)

Gift of J. P. Morgan, Jr.

Page description: 

This portrait of a middle-aged man, costumed in a black buttoned vest, black gown, square white collar tied with strings and having two tassels below, is believed to depict John Milton at forty-eight years of age. According to John Aubrey, an early biographer of Milton, the poet's long hair was "abroun" or "reddish," and his "complexion exceeding fayre." This miniature may have been given by Milton to his second wife, Katherine Woodcock, whom he married in November 1656. She gave birth to a daughter in October 1657, but both mother and child died the following year. Woodcock is commemorated in Sonnet 23 as "my late espousèd saint." The miniature was bequeathed to Woodcock's niece and was handed down in direct succession through the Woodcock family.

About this exhibition: 

To celebrate the four-hundredth anniversary of the birth of John Milton (1608–1674), The Morgan Library & Museum is pleased to present the only surviving manuscript of Paradise Lost, Book 1. This epic poem is considered Milton's greatest artistic achievement and one of the finest works of the human imagination. Acquired by Pierpont Morgan in 1904, it is the most important British literary manuscript in the collection. The 33-page manuscript has been temporarily disbound, providing an opportunity to see more of its pages than ever before. Also in this presentation are first editions of Paradise Lost printed in England and the United States during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and a rarely seen miniature portrait of the poet.


This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr.

Photography by Graham Haber.