Omai Artist: Sir Joshua Reynolds (British, 1723–1792)

ca. 1774

European Art

Not on view

Oil on canvas


25 1/8 × 22 × 3/4 in. (63.8 × 55.9 × 1.9 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of the Associates in Fine Arts

Accession Number



18th century


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.



[Probably the painting sold at Reynold's posthumous studio sale as "First head of Omai"] Greenwood's sale, 14 April 1796, lot #51, bought by Clarke; John Steers Collection, by 1803; Steers Collection sale, Christie's, 3 June 1826, lot #45; G. J. Revely Collection, 1826-1873; G. J. Revely Collection sale, Christie's, 23 January 1873; Cox Collection; Mr. Randall Davies Collection, purchased at London auction, before WWII; P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., London; Purchased from Colnaghi in 1936.

Letter from P. & D. Colnaghi & Co. dated 9 October 1936: "We think the Reynolds sketch is in all probability identical with that mentioned in Graves & Cronin 'Reynolds' II, p. 708, as 'First Head of Omai' (sold April, 1976), the history of which is traced down to the year 1873, but we cannot definitely connect the pedigree of our picture (which we bought from the well-known English collector, Mr. Randall Davies) with this. Mr. Randall Davies tells us he bought it in a Sale in London before the War, where it was correctly described, but he has been quite unable to find the exact date and consequently we could not pursue our researches any further."
  • Martin Postle, Joshua Reynolds: The Creation of Celebrity (London: Tate Publishing, 2005), 216–217, fig. no. 66 (ca. 1775-1776)
  • Martin Postle, Joshua Reynolds e l'invenzione della celebrita (Ferrara: Ferrara Arte, 2005), 216–218, fig. no. 66, pl. 66
  • Harriet Guest, “Ornament and Use: Mai and Cook in London,” A New Imperial History: Culture, Identity, and Modernity in Britain and the Empire, 1660–1840, ed. Kathleen Wilson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 325, fig. 5
  • Kathleen Wilson, ed., A New Imperial History: Culture, Identity and Modernity in Britain and the Empire 1660-1840 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003),
  • David Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds: A Complete Catalogue of his Paintings, with subject paintings catalogued by Martin Postle, vol. 1 and 2 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000), no. vol. 1, cat. no. 1362, p. 357, vol. 2, fig. 1190
  • Kathryn Cave, Angus Macintyre, and Kenneth J. Garlick, Joseph Farington Diaries, vol. 6 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1978–1984), 2139, (the painting was seen in the collection of banker and collector John Steer by the artist, John Hoppner, who was "much captivated by the sketch… which He thought as fine as Titian")
  • E. H. McCormick, Omai: Pacific Envoy (Auckland and Oxford: Auckland University Press, 1977), 171, 173–174, fig. see also figs. 16, 29 and pl. 2
  • Katherine Neilson and Andrew Carnduff Ritchie, Selected Paintings and Sculpture from the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1972), no. 48, ill
  • Chauncey B. Tinker, Painter and Poet: Studies in the Literary Relations of English Painting (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1938), 56–58
  • William Vine Cronin and Algernon Graves, A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, vol. 2 and vol.3 (London: Henry Graves and Co., 1899–1901), 708 (as "Sketch of Reynolds's negro servant"), vol. 2
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

portraits, religious art

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