This site is dedicated to Joshua Kirby (1716–1774), his life, times, friends, and anything else I find interesting about mid-18th century England.

Kirby was from Suffolk, an artist and author, writing on perspective in art. He was the author of Brook Taylor’s Method of Perspective Made Easy, which ran through three editions, and the lavishly produced Perspective of Architecture. He was tutor in perspective to the Prince of Wales (the future George III), and Clerk of Works at Kew and Richmond.

He was a friend of Thomas Gainsborough and William Hogarth.  Gainsborough painted a portrait of Kirby and his wife in the late 1740′s.

Gainsborough's portrait  of the Kirbys

18 thoughts on “About

  1. Stephen Govier.

    Hi, apart from the 12 prints of Suffolk and the 12 on the Kirby Ryland 1766 map of Suffolk, Kirby also produced two drawings of the Scole Inn, Norfolk and its sign and a view of Hengrave Hall, Suffolk, does anyone know of any other engravings attributed to Kirby of Suffolk and Norfolk, thanks, Stephen Govier of Hoxne.

      1. dmelville2012 Post author

        Interesting. Felicity Owen has a footnote in her Gainsborough’s House Review article on Kirby mentioning “Dr. Blatchly has identified an original drawing of “St. James, Dunwich” (private collection, Ipswich). Other views are the “West View of Walton Priory”, “Old Heveningham Hall” (1754) and “Henham Hall”.

  2. gina

    Joshua Kirby , I purchased a beautiful Wood make -up compact with a hand painted drawing of Kirby and his wife done by Kirby, & signed … It’s a gorgeous piece of his art work in Victorian era (1700c) I’m told … Kirby is leaning againest a water fountain I have seen in other prints, his wife leaning on him holding a flower basket ? Does anyone know if this water fountain is on one of his properties in Suffolk County ? I can post pictures on request …. I am selling this piece, but I’m having a hard time putting a price on a heirloom I’m told was made from Kirby to his wife ? Can anyone supply information, or lead me in the right direction ? It is starting to look like a Museum might be the best way to go ?

    1. dmelville2012 Post author

      Thank you for your note. I have not heard of such a piece. It sounds very interesting and I would be interested in seeing a picture. It sounds like you should have it professionally evaluated.

    2. gregpfinch

      Hi, I realise this over a year later now, but do you by any chance have an image of the work you could let me see – and the basis for your information identifying it as being of Kirby and his wife. I might be able to help.

      1. Stephen Govier

        Hi, the armorial for Kirby is Argent [White or Silver] two bars Gules [Red] on a canton of the second a cross moline Or [Gold]. This comes from the Kirby family of Kirby of Lancashire. Joshua Kirby’s wife Sarah Bull the daughter of Abraham Bull of Framlingham, Suffolk family arms are Argent [White or Silver] a chevron Gules [Red] between three bulls head couped Sable [Black]. The Bull arms are corrupted from Bullen of Brabant, Belguim. Any chance of a better image of the Kirby grave at St Anne’s Kew.

  3. brianlynch731

    Kirby had a connection with the Italian artist and architect Vincenzo Valdrè (1740-1814), also known as Vincent Waldré, who did a great deal of work on Stowe House in Buckinghamshire (see online the recent World Monument Fund restorations of the Marble Saloon and the Music Room there). The English architect Richard Norris (1750-1792) went to Rome in late 1770 with a letter of introduction from Kirby, but how they had come to each other is unknown, and it’s surprising too since Kirby, as far as I know, was never in Italy, and Valdrè did not come to England until 1774. For a book I am writing on VV, I would be glad to hear from anyone with information on the connection. Brian Lynch (brianlyn@eircom.net).

      1. brianlynch731

        Thanks for this. Valdrè was in Rome in 1767-68, a student at the French Academy. I wonder was William an artist.

      2. dmelville2012 Post author

        Yes, he was. Mostly architectural drawings and views, I think. The King paid for his trip, and a collection of his drawings of ancient buildings in Rome is at Windsor (I haven’t seen them). Unfortunately, he died not long after his return to England.
        One reference for his time in Rome is: Stainton, L. (1983). Hayward’s List: British Visitors to Rome 1753–1775, The Volume of the Walpole Society 49, 3–36.
        Note that Stainton does not have the correct Norris, so it would be good if you could point that out.

        I would be interested to hear anything more you might find out about his time in Italy and connections with Valdrè. Good luck with the book! Let us know when it comes out.

      3. brianlynch731

        A 2016 update, slightly edited, from the biography of Valdrè which is now being written:

        François Jacquier (1711-1788), the French Franciscan who had been appointed tutor in mathematics to Ferdinando, the future Duke of Parma, in 1763 was a major figure in mathematics: he and Thomas Le Seur (1703-1770), professor of mathematics at La Sapienza University collaborated on ‘Parere… sopra i danni che si sono trovati nella cupola di S. Pietro sul fine dell’ anon 1742′, a book about cracks in the dome of St Peter’s. Jacquier and Le Seur had produced an annotated edition of Newton’s Principia Mathematica and, with the help of Ferdinando’s tutor Auguste Keralio, they published a three volume ‘Elemens du Calcul Integral’ in Parma, dedicated to the Duke, in 1768.
        Jacquier and Le Seur’s study of the laws of perspective, ‘Elementi di perspettiva secondo li principii di Brook Taylor, con varie aggiunte spettanti all’ottica e alla geometria’, was published in Rome in 1755. The book was a response to ‘Dr. Brook Taylor’s Method of Perspective Made Easy’ by John Joshua Kirby published in Ipswich and London in 1754, with a famous frontispiece by William Hogarth. Kirby, through his son, was Valdrè’s first definite link to England.

      4. dmelville2012 Post author

        Thanks for the update. I didn’t know about the book by Jaquier and Le Seur. It seems to be mostly a translation of the second edition of Brook Taylor’s work, with the addition of some extra appendices.

  4. Erik Von Norden

    I very much enjoyed your blog, Kirby and His World. I am working on a history book-blog of my own, which can be seen at [one word] theoryofirony.com, then clicking on either the “sample chapter” or “blog” buttons at the top. My Rube Goldberg brain asks with an odd, well-caffeinated kind of logic: Why is there an inverse proportion between the size of the print and the importance of the message? Art. Literature. Science. Military. Religion. I call this eccentric thinking the Theory of Irony and if your busy schedule permits, give a read, leave a comment or create a link. In any event, best of luck with your own endeavors.

    P.S. It concerns Classical, Medieval and Modern eras.

    1. Stephen Govier

      Any idea of Joshua Kirby’s residence in Ipswich, was it attached to his house and coach painting business taken over by Andrew Baldry.


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