Regency Portraits Catalogue

John Keats (1795-1821), Poet

The portraiture of Keats was treated cursorily by W. M. Rossetti in Life of John Keats, 1887 and more fully and with copious illustrations by Donald Parson in Portraits of Keats, 1954. Most subsequent biographers have used this work as a foundation without always agreeing in detail. I have been kindly helped in this entry by Mrs C. M. Gee of Keats House, Hampstead, and by Mr W. L. Jacob. The authentic portraits fall into the last 5 years of Keats's life.

B. R. Haydon: the life-mask, the ink profile for 'Christ's Entry into Jerusalem' and the profiles (one erased) in Haydon's Diary; Haydon drew a recollection of these profiles in a letter to Elizabeth Barrett Browning in 1843 (Donald Parson, Portraits of Keats, 1954, plate 10) (NPG 3251 and 686).

Joseph Severn: oval charcoal drawing in the V&A Museum; this was engraved by Henry Meyer for Leigh Hunt's Lord Byron and his Contemporaries, 1828 and Mary Cowden Clarke said that several copies were made by her family from Meyer's print (William Sharp, Life and Letters of Joseph Severn, 1892, p 259); a copy in grey and brown wash was given to the Scottish NPG (127) by J. R. Findlay in 1885; a sepia copy with a Leigh Hunt provenance is in the collection of Richard H. E. Russell; a pencil copy was brought to the NPG in 1943, pasted into a copy of the 1820 edition of Lamia, Isabella and other Poems, inscribed on the back in Cowden Clarke's handwriting: John Keats/from a sketch by/Severn/presented to his kind/friend Thos Pickering/by/Charles Cowden Clarke; another copy or variant was lent by Sir John Murray to the Romantic Movement Exhibition, Tate Gallery 1959 (857) inscribed on the back: Drawn in Rome by Severn and sent by Keats as a memento of their early friendship to Mrs Towers, daughter of Dr Clarke (at whose school in Enfield Keats had been a pupil).

Joseph Severn: miniature in Fitzwilliam Museum, exhibited RA 1819 and with oil copies in NPG, Keats-Shelley Memorial House, Rome, Keats House, Pierpont Morgan Library and elsewhere. Dilke quoted Severn's denial that he was responsible for more than the first two but says elsewhere that he had always believed there to be the original 'from life' and eight copies (Notes & Queries, 1895-6, cit. Donald Parson, Portraits of Keats, 1954, p 45).

Joseph Severn: a lost drawing on board the brig Maria Crowther (more of a suggestion than a portrait) is known from a copy from memory by Arthur Severn (reproduced in Caroline Spurgeon, Keats's Shakespeare, 1928, p viii and Donald Parson, Portraits of Keats, 1954, plate 31).

Joseph Severn: sepia wash drawing on his deathbed, Keats-Shelley Memorial House, Rome; a copy in Keats House is inscribed: 28 Jany 3 o'clock mng -Drawn to keep me awake - a deadly sweat was on him all this night; a copy is in the Pierpont Morgan Library and another by T. G. Weatherbee in Keats House (Donald Parson, Portraits of Keats, 1954, pp 55-6 and plates 32-5).

Joseph Severn: oil whole-length (NPG 58).

William Hilton chalk drawing done in the home or office of John Taylor, Keats's publisher, lost but known from Charles Wass's stipple engraving in Poems, 1841, frontispiece; later engravings followed. Hilton also painted a variation of Severn's miniature (NPG 194).

Charles Brown pencil drawing (NPG 1963); Brown although not usually recognised as a silhouettist is believed to have made the two India ink and cut-out silhouettes in Keats House.

Mrs Leigh Hunt silhouette of Keats reclining on two chairs and reading a newspaper (Donald Parson, Portraits of Keats, 1954, plate 68).

Death-mask (NPG 4031).

Giuseppe Girometti oval plaster medallion 45.0 x 33.5 cm in Keats House, made in Rome soon after Keats's death and used by Warrington Wood in 1875 for the memorial tablet in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome. The original is possibly a cameo 3 x 2 cm in Keats-Shelley Memorial House, Rome. A modern Wedgwood copy was issued as a limited edition in 1968 (examples in Keats House).

Patrick MacDowell plaster bust in Keats House, made under the supervision of Fanny Brawne and Fanny Keats.

Miers and Field silhouette set in a gold pocket case, believed to be of Keats (reproduced Sue McKechnie, British Silhouette Artists and their Work 1760-1860, 1978, plate 73).

For the multitude of posthumous and fanciful portraits, including Severn's famous oil painting 'Keats listening to the Nightingale on Hampstead Heath' now in Keats House and several doubtful and spurious portraits, see Donald Parson, Portraits of Keats, 1954, chapters 10-12 and frontispiece in colour (there attributed without evidence to Harlow).

The watercolour drawing called 'Keats on board the brig Maria Crowther', reproduced in Caroline Spurgeon, Keats's Shakespeare, 1928, frontispiece in colour, is actually of Garret Lansing drawn by Alexander Anderson, see B. J. Lossing, Memorial of Alexander Anderson MD … , 1872.

This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: Richard Walker, Regency Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, 1985, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.