barber institute of fine arts
university of birmingham


A Portrait of a Young Man

Devonport, about 1746

Oil on canvas

34.3 x 24.1 cm


This portrait’s small scale has led to speculation about its function.

Reynolds began his career as a portraitist in Devonport and it has been suggested that the man is a naval officer who wanted to take an image of himself to sea.  The stone parapet at the front, unique in Reynolds’ work, is perhaps a sea wall.  But, equally, it may have been painted for the family of a young cadet about to undertake a hazardous voyage.  There is some evidence that the man was named John Herring.


Purchased 1970 (No.70.1)

‘Care, Taste and Judgement’: Reynolds’s Art Collection

Lunchtime Lecture

Learn more

Sir Joshua Reynolds: Artist and Collector

9 March - 6 May 2018

Learn more

What is British Art?

In-Gallery Conversation

Learn more

‘Copying the Masters’ opens at the Barber

How artists have always copied other artists is the focus of our latest display.

Learn more