Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gibson, Richard

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GIBSON, RICHARD (1615–1690), dwarf and miniature-painter, is stated to have been a native of Cumberland. He became page to a lady at Mortlake, who discovered his talent for drawing, and placed him under the instruction of Francis Clein [q. v.], the manager of the tapestry works there. Subsequently he became page to Charles I and Henrietta Maria. He obtained considerable success as an artist, especially as a miniature-painter. Evelyn, the diarist, extols his powers (Numismata, p. 268). He also copied the style and many of the pictures by Sir Peter Lely. Cromwell patronised him, and Gibson drew his portrait several times. Under Charles II he continued to be a favourite at court, and was appointed instructor in drawing and painting to the princesses Mary and Anne at Richmond Palace. When Mary was married to the Prince of Orange (4 Nov. 1677), he accompanied her to Holland, and remained in her suite for some time. Among his other patrons was Philip Herbert, earl of Pembroke, who showed him many favours. Gibson's miniatures are numerous; among them may be noted the large head of Henrietta Maria (painted on chicken-skin after Vandyck) at Windsor Castle. It was the loss of a miniature painting by Gibson representing ‘The Good Shepherd,’ and highly valued by Charles I, who owned it, which is said to have caused Abraham Van der Doort [q. v.], the keeper of the royal collections, to commit suicide. Gibson was three feet ten inches in height, and was fortunate enough to find a consort, Anne Shepherd, of the same height. The diminutive pair were married in the presence of Charles I and Henrietta Maria, and the king gave the bride away. Waller, the poet, wrote some verses to commemorate this curious event. They both lived to a great age, and left nine children, five of whom lived to maturity and attained the natural size. Gibson died on 23 July 1690 in his seventy-fifth year, and his wife in 1709, aged 89; they were buried at St. Paul's, Covent Garden. So remarkable a couple offered good subjects for the artist's pencil, and numerous portraits exist. Vertue says that Mr. Rose, the jeweller, Gibson's son-in-law, possessed pictures of Gibson and his master, Clein, in green costume as archers, together with Gibson's bow (archery being a sport of which he was very fond), a portrait of Gibson leaning on a bust, painted by Lely in 1658, a head of Gibson by Dobson, and one of Mrs. Gibson by Lely. Lely also painted a picture of the two dwarfs hand in hand, which was originally the property of the Earl of Pembroke, and subsequently that of Earl Poulett at Hinton St. George, Somersetshire. The figures were engraved by A. Walker for Walpole's ‘Anecdotes of Painting’ (4th ed.). A head of Gibson, drawn by himself, is in the print room at the British Museum. Mrs. Gibson is represented in the portrait of Mary Villiers, duchess of Richmond and Lenox (formerly Lady Herbert), at Wilton House, of which various replicas exist elsewhere. Susan Penelope Gibson (1652–1700), daughter of the above, painted some miniatures, a portrait of Bishop Burnet being best known. She married Rose, a jeweller, from whom Vertue obtained most of his information.

[Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting, ed. Dallaway and Wornum; Vertue's MSS., Brit. Mus. Addit. MSS. 23068, &c.; Davy's MSS., Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 19131; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; De Piles's Lives of British Artists; Pilkington's Dict. of Painters; Strickland's Lives of the Queens of England, vol. vii.]

L. C.