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(Myles) Birket Foster

1 of 15 portraits of (Myles) Birket Foster

(Myles) Birket Foster, by David Wilkie Wynfield, circa 1863-4 -NPG P99 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue

(Myles) Birket Foster

by David Wilkie Wynfield
Albumen print, circa 1863-4
8 3/8 in. x 6 3/8 in. (213 mm x 162 mm)
NPG P99


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Inscriptionback to top

On mount below print, photographic facsimile of sitter’s autograph.

This portraitback to top

This image was created during the 1860s for the series of artists portrayed in historical and contemporary costume by David Wilkie Wynfield, many of which were released for sale from March 1864 under the title The Studio: A Collection of Photographic Portraits of Living Artists, taken in the style of the Old Masters, by an Amateur.

The portrait appeared in Part 5, ‘After the Flemish Schools’, listed as ‘Birkat Foster’ [sic], together with Wynfield’s images of William Gale, Charles Keene and Thomas Oldham Barlow. Ten of Wynfield’s portraits were registered in December 1863, but Foster’s was not among them; this suggests it may have been created early in 1864.

The sitter is wearing what appears to be a velvet cap with feather,[1] a doublet with horizontal piping and a fur-trimmed jerkin or cape. What may be a gold-thread knot on a ribbon round his neck resembles the Garter emblem, and the whole suggests a deliberate reference to Tudor portraiture in general and Henry VIII in particular.[2]

Whilst Wynfield generally selected the costume worn by his sitters, in this case, Foster owned and chose the garments that he wore. Although the deliberate soft-focus of the image means its details are blurred, the same outfit – without fur – can be identified in a photograph from an album in a private collection (see ‘All known portraits, Photographs, c.1864–6’) where Foster, his family and another of Wynfield’s subjects John Dawson Watson pose together in the garden of his Surrey home, all in ‘Tudorbethan’ costume. Family history recounts that fancy dress parties were often held here and that sometimes Foster and his family and friends would live in costume for a short period. Amateur theatricals (with backdrops designed by himself) were also a part of these artistic gatherings.

Foster lived at Marsden Villa, 45 Clifton Road, St John’s Wood from 1850, shortly after his marriage to Anne Spence (1825–1859), until 1860 when he moved to Tighbourne Cottage, Witley, Surrey. Though Foster was not a member of the St John’s Wood Clique it is likely that he made acquaintance with Wynfield as part of the flourishing artistic community living in the area. He was also a close friend to several of Wynfield’s other sitters, especially Keene and Frederick Walker.

Other prints are in the Royal Academy of Arts, London (03/4548); Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (1978P427); and the Royal Photographic Society, Bath (1980p).

See NPG collections P70–P100

Magdalene Keaney

Footnotesback to top

1) Similar to those worn by H. Stacy Marks and J.E. Hodgson in other portraits from Wynfield’s series.
2) Henry VIII was often portrayed in a plumed hat and fur-trimmed gilet, while the Earl of Pembroke wears a similar doublet in a portrait after Hans Eworth now at Wilton House.

Physical descriptionback to top

Half-length to front in historical costume.

Conservationback to top

Conserved, 1978; 2009.

Provenanceback to top

Gift of Henry Saxe Wyndham, 1937.

Exhibitionsback to top

Victorian Worthies, Alexander Gallery, London, 1976 (11).

Reproductionsback to top

Hacking 2000, pl.19.

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