Sir Humphry Davy

WLMD ID: aeqf

The British chemist, Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829) was apprenticed to a surgeon, but a chance acquaintance led him to a life of research.  At the age of 19, he was appointed superintendent of the laboratory at Bristol’s Pneumatic Institution.  There he studied nitrous oxide, which he nicknamed “laughing gas” and was the first to propose its use to allay the pain of surgery. He isolated seven chemical elements (sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, strontium, barium, and boron) and named another three (aluminum, chlorine, and iodine). In 1802 Davy created the first incandescent light. For his invention of a safety lamp to prevent explosions in mines, he was knighted as a Baronet. Davy was associated with two of the leading scientific bodies in the world, the Royal Institution, and the Royal Society. In 1869, the Royal Society established the Davy Medal "for an outstandingly important discovery in any branch of chemistry." This painting is a one-quarter life-size version of the portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), which now hangs in London’s National Portrait Gallery. The original was painted in 1821, when Davy was at the peak of his meteoric career.

Catalog Record: Sir Humphry Davy

Access Key: aeqf

Title: Sir Humphry Davy, Bart.

Author Lawrence, Thomas, Sir, 1769-1830.

Publisher [ca. 1821].

Physical Descri: 1 oil painting on canvas : color ; visible image size 49.5 x 39 cm, in frame size: 70.5 x 59.5 cm.

Subject: Davy, Humphry, Sir, 1778-1829.

Form/Genre: Portraits.
Form/Genre: Oil paintings.

Note type: Action
Notes: The painting was cleaned and restored with reinforced backing by Barry
Baumann at the Chicago Conservation Center in 2006.
Note type: General
Notes: Accession number 1991-11-14-1 A.

Note type: Additonal form
Notes: Three-quarter size version at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Note type: General
Notes: Dispalyed in the WLM gallery 1999-Oct. 2010. Displayed in the new WLM
gallery May 2011 — .

Note type: General
Notes: Selected for the WLM website, 2010.

Note type: Action
Notes: The painting was placed in a crate on 9/30/2010 by Dr. George Bause and Bill
Lyle, and then placed in the Adriani room on 10/1/2010. Hung in the new
gallery May 17, 2011.

Note type: Source of acquisition

Notes: Donated to the WLM by Dr. George S. Bause and Mrs. Ramona A. Bause,
11/14/1991, on behalf of their sons, Colin Davy and Evan Blake Bause. (Bause,

Note type: Publications about
Notes: Featured in the U-Tube video “Painting of Sir. Humphry Davy”, produced by
Mike Edens, August, 2011.

Note type: Provenance
Notes: Dr. George S. Bause, WLM Honorary Curator, is the great-great-great-great
nephew of Sir Humphry Davy, and purchased the painting at the estate sale of
an extended family member.

Note type: General
Notes: Wood and plaster painted frame. Painting in fine condition. Frame with
moderate amount of cracking, dents, and chips.

Note type: General
Notes: Title constructed by cataloger based on correspondence between the WLM and
Dr. Bause, WLM records, and Dr. Bause’s 1992 article in the ASA Newsletter.

Note type: Citation
Notes: WLM records. Bause, George S. (1992, September). A portrait of history. ASA
Newsletter, 56(9), 10-11, and Bause, George S. (1989). A nitrous anaesthetic
declined: Sir Humphry Davy, PRS, (1778-1829) portrayed by Sir Thomas
Lawrence, PRA (1769-1830). From, Atkinson, Richard S. & Boulton, Thomas B.
(Eds.). The History of Anesthesia, p. 488-494. London: Royal Society of
Medicine Services.

Note type: Abstract
Notes: A one-quarter-size portrait of Sir Humphry Davy. Davy stands, front facing,
left hand on hip, right hand resting on a table next to him. On the table
sits Davy’s invention, the miner’s safety lamp. Behind Davy is a wall mural
of swirling clouds above an expanse of “earthly elements.” (Bause, 1992).
This portrait was commissioned by Humphry Davy’s wife, Lady Davy, to
commemorate Sir Humphry Davy’s new position as President of the Royal
Society. Lady Davy gave the painting to Sir Humphry Davy’s brother, John.
Lady Davy had previously commissioned, and donated to the Royal Society, a
three-quarter size version of the portrait to commemorate Davy’s baronetcy
(Bause, 1989). Engraved in the base of the frame is, “Sir Humphry Davy, Bart.
, from Lady Davy.”

Note type: Reproduction
Notes: Photographed by Mr. William Lyle, 7/13/2010.

Note type: Publications about
Notes: This painting was featured in an Anesthesiology Reflection, in the journal
Anesthesiology, by George Bause, MD (citation: Bause G. Sir Humphry Davy,
Bart., from Lady Davy. Anesthesiology. 2011;114(6):1344.).