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Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759), Composer

Composer; studied at Halle, composer to the Hamburg Opera, 1704, visited Italy, 1707-09; 'Kapellmeister' in Hanover; his opera Rinaldo produced at the Queen's Theatre, Haymarket, 1711; settled in London from 1712; early works include the Water Music, the Chandos anthems, his first oratorio Esther, 1720 and a series of operas produced at the Royal Academy of Music (of which he was director, 1720-28), and at Covent Garden; appointed court composer and naturalised, 1727; after Alexander's Feast, 1736, he turned more and more towards oratorio; Messiah was first heard in Dublin, 1742, the Dettingen 'Te Deum' composed, 1743, Music for the Fireworks, 1748, Jepthath, 1752; partially paralysed c.1735-37 and blind c.1753.
In a rare contemporary description, Lady Shaftesbury, writing in March 1745, [1] found him 'dejected, wan, and dark, sitting by, not playing on the harpsichord ...'. Reminiscences are more plentiful and include Hawkins, 1776: ‘He was in his person a large made and very portly man. His gait, which was ever sauntering, was rather ungraceful, as it had in it somewhat of that rocking motion, which distinguishes those whose legs are bowed. His features were finely marked, and the general cast of his countenance placid, bespeaking dignity attempered with benevolence', [2] and C. Burney, some 26 years after his death: ‘his general look was somewhat heavy and sour; but when he did smile, it was his sire the sun, bursting out of a black cloud. There was a sudden flash of intelligence, wit, and good humour, beaming in his countenance, which I hardly ever saw in any other'. [3] To this, the Anecdotes of George Frederick Handel and John Christopher Smith add little save Quin's uncharitable ‘his hands were feet, and his fingers toes'. [4]

Footnotesback to top

1) Malmesbury, Letters, I, p 2; C. F. Bell in his annotated copy of the Letters, NPG library, confirming O. E. Deutsch, Handel: a documentary biography, 1955, p 703, suggests 1751, not 1745.
2) Sir John Hawkins, A General History ... of Music, 1776, V, pp 412-13.
3) C. Burney, An Account of the ... Commemoration of Handel, 1785, p 36; J. Nichols, Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century ..., 1812-15, III, p 345.
4) Anecdotes of George Frederick Handel and John Christopher Smith, 1799, attributed to W. Coxe, p 26.

Referencesback to top

Bridgman 1817
J. Bridgman, An Historical ... Sketch of Knole, 1817.

Burney 1785
C. Burney, An Account of the ... Commemoration of Handel, 1785.

Chrysander 1858-67
F. Chrysander, G. F. Handel, 1858-67.

Coopersmith 1932
J. C. Coopersmith, 'A list of Portraits, Sculptures etc. of G.F. Handel', Music and Letters, XIII, 1932.

Coxe 1799
Anecdotes of George Frederick Handel and John Christopher Smith, 1799, attributed to W. Coxe. [1]

Davies 1938
E. M. Davies (Mrs A. H. King), The Life and Work of Thomas Hudson, 1938 (unpublished MA thesis, University of London).

Deutsch 1955
O. E. Deutsch, Handel: a documentary biography, 1955.

Flower 1959
Newman Flower, George Frideric Handel ..., revised edition, 1959.

Hawkins 1776
Sir John Hawkins, A General History ... of Music, 1776.

Hodgkinson 1965
T. W. I. Hodgkinson, 'Handel at Vauxhall', Victoria and Albert Museum Bulletin, I, 1965.

Kerslake 1966
J. F. Kerslake, 'Roubiliac's "Handel" a terra-cotta restored', Burlington Magazine, CVIII, 1966.

King 1964
A. H. King, Some British Collectors of Music ..., 1964.

Letters of the First Earl of Malmesbury, 1870.

Mallet 1962
J. V. G. Mallet, 'Some portrait medallions by Roubiliac', Burlington Magazine, CIV, 1962.

Malmesbury 1902
Lord Malmesbury, 'Some Anecdotes of the Harris Family', The Ancestor, I, 1902.

Milnes 1829
[K. Milnes], Memoir relating to the Portrait of Handel by Francis Kyte, 1829.

Musical Times, December 1893 (Handel Number).

Nichols 1812-15
J. Nichols, Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century ..., 1812-15.

Phillips n.d.
C. J. Phillips, History of the Sackville Family, n.d..

Schoelcher 1857
V. Schoelcher, Life of Handel, 1857.

Scholes 1948
P. A. Scholes, The Great Dr. Burney, 1948.

Smith 1948
W. C. Smith, Concerning Handel, 1948.

Smith 1965
W. C. Smith, A Handelian's Notebook, 1965.

Vogel 1896
E. Vogel, 'Händel portraits', Jahrbuch der Musikbibliothek Peters für 1896.

1) Coxe's authorship doubted by British Museum Music Room.


This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Kerslake, Early Georgian Portraits, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1977, 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.