Although no source has been identified, this is surely a copy of a portrait of the famous physician Sir Theodore Turquet de Mayerne (1573-1655). Although Mayerne's distinctive features are best known from his portrait by Rubens when aged about sixty there were other sources that are nearer to Geekie's pastel, for a late seventeenth-century engraving by William Elder shows de Mayerne somewhat less puffy and more upright, as does a painting attributed to Paul van Somer that was perhaps part of a library set (National Portrait Gallery).
Having been raised in Geneva and Heidelberg, Turquet de Mayerne worked for the French court until he moved to England as chief physician to James I. In London he became increasingly interested in the science of art and between 1620 and 1646 he filled a notebook with information from painters about their technical practices and paint recipes, including from Rubens, Van Dyck, Samuel Cooper and John Hoskins. De Mayerne also encouraged Edward Norgate to record his knowledge of limning, in his treatise Miniatura, or, Art of Limning.
Neil Jeffares was the first to identify this pastel as the work of Alexander Geekie, a London-based Scottish physician and amateur artist, who assembled a collection of portraits of philosophers and scientists.
- Rubens's sketch is British Museum, museum no.1860,0616.36; the oil painting is at North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh.
- London, British Library, Sloane MS 2052.
- Several variant copies of Norgate's treatise are known. Edward Norgate, eds. Jeffrey M Muller and Jim Murrell, Miniatura or the Art of Limning, London, 1997.