The Portrait



The painting was completed in April 1841 and displayed at the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly for an entrance charge of one shilling. The exhibition was not a commercial success and critical reactions were mixed. Clarkson's niece declared it 'the most wonderful thing I ever saw', while delegate William Lucas dismissed it as a 'wagon-load of heads'. Haydon was disappointed. Having planned a grand history painting, he blamed the challenge of fitting so many portraits into a workable spatial composition.

The painting was displayed again at the next Anti-Slavery Convention in 1843 and was presented to the National Portrait Gallery by the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in 1880. As an impassioned reaction to a gathering which marked over fifty years of tireless work, the painting remains an important testament to a cause that loomed large in the Regency period.

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