Benjamin Robert Haydon

1 portrait

Benjamin Robert Haydon, by Unknown artist, circa 1820 - NPG 2802 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Benjamin Robert Haydon

by Unknown artist
plaster cast of life-mask, circa 1820
9 7/8 in. x 6 1/2 in. (251 mm x 165 mm)
Given by Maurice Buxton Forman, 1936
Primary Collection
NPG 2802

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  • Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786-1846), History painter and diarist. Sitter in 10 portraits, Artist associated with 34 portraits.

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The well-known practice of taking a mask, be it from life or death, enjoyed a revival in the early nineteenth century and found especial encouragement at the hands of the history painter, Benjamin Robert Haydon. He had life-masks of his friends Wordsworth and Keats made, apparently to help him with his great canvas, Christ's Entry into Jerusalem, and also had his own taken. His diary records the process of taking such a mask of the critic Francis Jeffrey on 5 May 1821: By this time Jeffrey's coat was off, his chin towelled, the plaister ready, his face greased, and the Ladies looking with a mixture of interest & quiz that was funny. Mrs Jeffrey began to look anxious, for casting a face has something the air of cutting off a man's head . . . The plaister was now ready, a spoonful taken up, Jeffrey ordered to keep his mouth shut & his nerve firm, & the Visitors to be quiet. Sidney [Smith] was dying with laughter, kept trying to make Jeffrey laugh, but it would not do . . . Unfortunately the moulder had nearly blocked up Jeffrey's nostrils and breathing became painful; his nerves gave way & the mould was obliged to be jirked off & broken. Despite their reputation as seemingly perfect images, life-masks are notoriously liable to distortion.

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