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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 August 2006, 07:28 GMT 08:28 UK
Tate buys Richardson portrait
The painting had been kept in a private collection for many years

A portrait of the writer Samuel Richardson - considered one of the founding fathers of the modern novel - has been bought by Tate Britain.

The 1m painting was made by Francis Hayman just after the 1740 publication of Richardson's most famous work, his debut novel Pamela or Virtue Rewarded.

It shows the writer with a book in his hand accompanied by members of his second family.

The Tate was able to buy the painting with a grant from the Art Fund.

The painting - entitled Samuel Richardson, The Novelist (1689-1761), Seated Surrounded By His Second Family - is considered one of the most important "conversation piece" paintings, a type of informal portrait in which sitters would appear in domestic or private settings.

"This portrait captures a fascinating moment in the novelist's life just after he had become an overnight sensation," said David Barrie, director of the Art Fund, which gave a total of 150,000 towards the purchase of the picture.

"The portrait is undoubtedly one of Hayman's best, and after decades in a private collection The Art Fund is delighted that it can at last be appreciated by the public."

Richardson's novel Pamela or Virtue Rewarded tells the story of a young maid who refuses the advances of a richer householder until he agrees to marry her.

It was so loved by the mid-18th century middle-classes that it went through five print runs within a year of publication. It also influenced some of the biggest names in literature, such as Jane Austen and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

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