Benjamin Stillingfleet, ca. 1761-62
Oil on canvas
35 1/2 x 27 1/4 in. (90 x 69 cm)
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Benjamin Stillingfleet (1702-1771) came from a family of theologians and academics. His grandfather was bishop of Worcester, his father a physics professor. Benjamin studied at Cambridge University and excelled in classics and mathematics. He chose not to pursue a professional career, preferring instead the life of a private tutor (to a rich relation), which allowed him time to pursue his many interests and hobbies. Benjamin played the cello and wrote verse, plays, and literary criticism. But his great passion and achievements were in the field of botany. In 1759, a few years before this portrait was painted, Stillingfleet published his Miscellaneous Tracts relating to Natural History, in which he elaborated theories of plant classification first set forth by the great Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus. In the Berger portrait Stillingfleet holds in his left hand a copy of the elder botanist's treatise Linnaei Species Plantar[um] Tom I and in his right hand a magnifying glass.
By descent to the sitter's daughter, Elizabeth, wife of John Locker; by descent to the Rt. Hon. Godfrey Locker Lampson, MP; Christie's, London, December 14, 1928, lot 88; bought by Mr. Glen; Robinson & Fishers, London, March 26, 1936, lot 103; Christie's, London, January 27, 1950, lot 163; bought by Mr. Ettlinger; Sotheby's, London, April 9, 1997, lot 34
J. Blackwood, "Pioneer of English Fieldwork," Country Life, March 30, 1978
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