In this seventeenth-century oil painting, a man sits wearing a dark gown with white collar and cuffs, a wreath of leaves in his hair. The sitter has traditionally been identified as Milton, best known for his epic poem in blank verse, Paradise Lost (1667). The Morgan owns the only surviving manuscript, a 33-page fair copy written by a professional scribe used to set the type for the first edition of the book. Also in the Morgan's collection are several illustrated manuscripts of Paradise Lost, including those by William Blake and Henry Fuseli. While at Gaynes Hall, the painting was attributed to William Dobson (1610-1646) or a seventeenth-century contemporary. As described in Miller 1976, the painting formerly bore an inscription with Milton's name in Latin script and his family's coat-of-arms, which included a spread eagle, symbol of the scrivener trade. Subsequently this over-painting was removed to reveal below a landscape, now visible in the right background.
Portrait of John Milton
England, 17th century
Oil on canvas.
30 1/4 x 25 1/4 inches (768 x 641 mm); frame dimensions: 37 1/4 x 32 1/8 in (946 x 32 1/8 mm)
Gift of Charles Ryskamp.
Gaynes Hall, near Huntingdon, England, 1960, from which acquired by Charles Ryskamp.