Charles Jervas

Charles Jervas (also Jarvis and Jervis; c. 1675 – 2 November 1739) was an Irish portrait painter, translator, and art collector of the early 18th century.[1]

Charles Jervas
Bornc. 1675
Died2 November 1739
London, England
Known forPortrait painting
SpousePenelope Hume
Patron(s)George I, George II
Self-portrait of Jervas

Early lifeEdit

Born in Shinrone, County Offaly,[2] Ireland around 1675, the son of John Jervas and Elizabeth, daughter of Captain John Baldwin of Shinrone Castle & Corolanty, High Sheriff of County Offaly. Jervas studied in London, England as an assistant under Sir Godfrey Kneller between 1694 and 1695.

After selling a series of small copies of the Raphael Cartoons circa 1698 to Dr. George Clarke of All Souls College, Oxford, the following year he travelled to Paris and Rome (while financially supported by Clarke and others) remaining there for most of the decade before returning to London in 1709 where he found success as a portrait painter.


Painting portraits of the city's intellectuals, among them such personal friends as Jonathan Swift and the poet Alexander Pope (both now in the National Portrait Gallery, London), Charles Jervas became a popular artist often referred to in the works of literary figures of the period.

Jervas gave painting lessons to Pope at his house in Cleveland Court, St James's, which Pope mentions in his poem, To Belinda on the Rape of the Lock, written 1713, published 1717 in 'Poems on Several Occasions'.

Pope's verse Epistle to Mr Jervas, written circa 1715, was published in the 1716 edition of John Dryden's 1695 translation of Fresnoy's Art of Painting (Charles Alphonse Du Fresnoy's De arte graphica, 1668). In it, Pope refers to Jervas's skill as an artist:

O, lasting as those colours may they shine,

Free as they stroke, yet faultless as thy line;

New graces yearly like thy works display,

Soft without weakness, without glaring gay![3]

With his growing reputation, Jervas succeeded Kneller as Principal Painter in Ordinary to King George I in 1723, and subsequently King George II. In 1727 he married Penelope Hume, a wealthy widow with a supposed fortune of £20,000, and moved to Hampton, London.[4] He continued to live in London until his death in 1739.[5][6]

His translation of Cervantes' novel Don Quixote, published posthumously in 1742 as being made by Charles "Jarvis" – because of a printer's error – has since come to be known as "the Jarvis translation". Jervas was first to provide an introduction to the novel including a critical analysis of previous translations of Don Quixote. It has been highly praised as the most accurate translation of the novel up to that time, but also strongly criticised for being stiff and humourless, although it went through many printings during the 19th century.


As principal portraitist to the King of England, Jervas was known for his vanity and luck, as mentioned in the Imperial Biographical Dictionary, "He married a widow with $20,000; and his natural self-conceit was greatly encouraged by his intimate friend [Alexander] Pope, who has written an epistle full of silly flattery."

According to one account, after comparing a painting he had copied from Titian, he was said to have stated "Poor little Tit, how he would starve !".

Upon being told that Jervas had set up a carriage with four horses, Kneller replied: "Ach, mein Gott, if his horses do not draw better than he does, he will never get to his journey's end."


  1. ^ Denys Sutton, Aspects of Irish Art. National Gallery of Ireland. Cahill & Co., 1974. p. 109. Retrieved 18 March 2008.
  2. ^ Pope, Alexander. "Complete Poetical Works: Poems: 1708–12: Epistle to Mr. Jervas". Retrieved 28 August 2022.
  3. ^ "Charles Jervas". The Twickenham Museum. Retrieved 22 August 2022.
  4. ^ Moore, A.W.; Crawley, C.; Norwich Castle Museum (1992). Family & friends: a regional survey of British portraiture. HMSO. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-11-701506-7. Retrieved 1 May 2019. The archives at Raynham contain an account for work carried out by Charles Jervas, reputedly Sir Robert Walpole's favourite painter and Principal Painter to the King since 1723.
  5. ^ Rogers, D.B.P.L.A.P.; Rogers, P.; Rosenberg, M. (2004). The Symbolic Design of Windsor-Forest: Iconography, Pageant, and Prophecy in Pope's Early Work. G – Reference, Information and Interdisciplinary Subjects Series. University of Delaware Press. p. 78. ISBN 978-0-87413-837-5. Retrieved 1 May 2019.


  • Webb, Alfred. A Compendium of Irish Biography: Comprising Sketches of Distinguished Irishmen and of Eminent Persons Connected with Ireland by Office or by Their Writings, New York: Lemma Publishing Corporation, 1970.

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