Sir James Stirling – 1800 John Kay Etching


The artist who produced this engraving was JOHN KAY (1742 – 1830), a notable Scottish miniature-painter and caricaturist. Although he spent the first 20 years of his adult life as a barber, he was encouraged by customers and friends in his talent for sketching and drawing, particularly by a certain customer, who helped to finance his transition from barber to full-time artist.



Kay began publishing his caricatures at age 42, but his etched portraits were much more than mere caricatures of his subjects. They were highly detailed and accurate, though somewhat stylized, depictions of his subjects. His etchings of prominent citizens of Scotland and England numbered nearly 900 plates, as he worked from his print shop in Parliament Square in Edinburgh for nearly a half century.

This portrait of Sir James Stirling is a very rare steel engraving from a 1838 book, “A SERIES OF ORIGINAL PORTRAITS AND CARICATURE ETCHINGS BY THE LATE JOHN KAY”. The image area is 4-3/4″ x 7-3/4″ on 8″ x 10-3/4″ paper with a blank reverse side.