Portrait of Jonathan Swift c. 1718


This portrait of Jonathan Swift, Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin and author of Gulliver’s Travels, was painted by Charles Jervas in around 1718 when Swift was about 41 years old.

Swift is shown seated at his writing table, wearing his clerical robes and collar. He holds a leaf of paper and a quill in his hands. Although Swift’s clothing signifies his religious calling, the writing materials and books behind him – works by Aesop, Horace and Lucian – emphasise his other vocation as a man of letters, and provide literary precedence for his works of didactic social and political satire.

Full title:
Jonathan Swift by Charles Jervas oil on canvas, circa 1718
c. 1718
Painting / Image
Charles Jervas
© National Portrait Gallery
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© National Portrait Gallery, London

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National Portrait Gallery
NPG 278

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An introduction to Gulliver’s Travels

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Rise of the novel, Politics and religion, Satire and humour, Travel, colonialism and slavery

Jonathan Swift initially did his best to conceal the fact that he was the author of Gulliver's Travels. John Mullan explores how Swift constructed the work to operate as an elaborate game, parodying travel literature, pretending to be an autobiography and containing obviously false facts presented by a deeply unreliable narrator.

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