Early portrait of architect goes on show in London


The UK’s national Portrait Gallery has acquired the first known portrait of a British architect.

The painting of Ralph Simons, a mason-architect active in the late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth centuries, was discovered in an Italian auction and identified thanks to an inscription of the original frame of this work that identified the sitter.

The portrait went on display at the London gallery for the first time yesterday (Monday)..


Ralph Simons was responsible for the construction and redesign of a number of Cambridge University colleges.

His Second Court at St. John’s College still survives, along with his drawings relating to the commission.

The designer’s career spanned a crucial moment in the development of the architectural profession in Britain. The term “architect” first appeared in English in John Shute’s The First and Chief Groundes of Architecture, 1563, but was not widely known until the seventeenth century. The inscription on the original frame described Simons as “the most skilful architect of his time.

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