Portrait of John Gay by William Aikman, c. 1720


This atmospheric oil painting shows John Gay (1685‒1732), the dramatist and poet, wearing a soft velvet cap, dark jacket and white collar. The picture portrays the author around 1720, some time before he reached the height of his fame with The Beggar’s Opera (1728).

This is one of several portraits of Gay by the Scottish artist, William Aikman (1682‒1731). Close up, you can see the diagonal weave of the canvas across the face, shirt collar and hat.

Full title:
John Gay, 1685–1732. Poet and dramatist
c. 1720
Painting / Image
William Aikman [artist], Antonia Reeve [photographer]
Usage terms

National Galleries of Scotland

Held by
National Galleries of Scotland
PG 718

Related articles

An introduction to Evelina

Article by:
Chloe Wigston Smith
Rise of the novel, Politeness, sensibility and sentimentalism, Satire and humour, Gender and sexuality

Frances Burney’s Evelina unveils the dizzying and dangerous social whirl of Georgian London, where reputations and marriages are there to be made and broken. Dr Chloe Wigston Smith investigates Burney’s critique of fashion culture and the demands it places on women, in a novel that prizes feminine resilience.

An introduction to 18th-century British theatre

Article by:
Andrew Dickson
Theatre and entertainment

Andrew Dickson charts the growth of 18th-century theatre, looking at the new venues, stage technology, audiences, playwrights and great actors of the age.

Related collection items

Related people

Related works

The Beggar’s Opera

Created by: John Gay

The Beggar’s Opera (1728) overview John Gay’s The Beggar's Opera survives as the best-known example of a ...