- Extended catalogue entry
© National Portrait Gallery, London
by Sir William Fettes Douglas
Oil on panel, circa 1866
4 in. x 4 5/8 in. (102 mm x 117 mm)
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Inscriptionback to top
On reverse, printed label: Sir William Fettes Douglas PRSA / Head. - T. Faed RA.
Detached (and erroneous) label: Title: Portrait of [sic] Sir Wm Fettes Douglas 18221891 / President of the R.Scottish Academy / Process: oil sketch by [sic] Thomas Faed, R.A.
This portraitback to top
Sitter and artist were youthful companions in an Edinburgh sketching club called the Smashers Club, launched in 1848, which reconvened in London in the 1860s, when Douglas was an occasional visitor.  In the earlier period, Douglas exhibited a half-length portrait of Faed at the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA),  now in the National Galleries of Scotland collection (see All known portraits, By other artists, exh. 1851). As a very small oil sketch, NPG 4840 is quite different in manner. Comparison of the sitters beard and hairline indicate that it was painted between 1884, when the sitter retained a clean-shaven chin amidst bushy whiskers, and 1887, when he had a full, greying beard, as shown in John Petties two portraits, the second depicting Faed in a similar profile view (see All known portraits, By other artists, 1884 and 1887).
William Fettes Douglas, chiefly known for meticulously researched and carefully finished historical subjects, was based in Scotland throughout his career, becoming president of the RSA in 1882.
Despite the wording on one old label, the sitter is not Douglas, so it is presumed that the labeller reversed the identities.
Dr Jan Marsh
Footnotesback to top
1) McKerrow 1982, pp.1516, which quotes minutes for the meeting on 21 Dec. 1866 attended by Douglas during a visit to London, where the Smashers were also known as the Auld Lang Syne Sketching Club; see also All known portraits, By other artists, c.18489 for a sketch of Faed and Douglas with John Ballantyne.
2) RSA 1851 (5).
3) NPG RP 4840; the work has no provenance before 1970, but the now-detached label is from an earlier date.
Physical descriptionback to top
Head, profile to left, healthy complexion, dark brown hair and full beard, against grey background.
Provenanceback to top
Dowells, Edinburgh (auctioneers) 1970; Coulter Galleries York, by whom consigned to Christies, 5 Mar. 1971 (24); whence purchased.
Exhibitionsback to top
The old printed label on the reverse, apparently cut from a catalogue, indicates exhibition at an as yet unidentified date and location.
View all known portraits for Thomas Faed