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Sir Francis Leggatt Chantrey

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Sir Francis Leggatt Chantrey

by Sir Francis Leggatt Chantrey
pencil and grey wash, circa 1800
5 3/8 in. x 5 5/8 in. (136 mm x 143 mm)
Given by the Misses Frere, 1925
Primary Collection
NPG 2103a

Sitterback to top

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This portraitback to top

This informal drawing shows the sculptor, accompanied by his pets, suffering from mumps. Sent to friends, the Crampern family, in place of his customary visit, the letters on the bottles on the mantelpiece spell out the name of his doctor; Merryman. The drawing was made 'in his bachelor days', when Chantrey lived in relative poverty as he struggled for recognition. Chantrey married his cousin Mary Anne in 1809, and her dowry allowed him to set up independently as a sculptor.
On his death, Chantrey bequeathed his fortune to the Royal Academy of Art to buy British paintings and sculpture for the establishment of a 'public national collection of British fine art'. This collection became the foundation of the Tate Gallery.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Gibson, Robin, The Face in the Corner: Animal Portraits from the Collections of the National Portrait Gallery, 1998, p. 51
  • Rideal, Liz, Insights: Self-portraits, 2005, p. 80 Read entry

    Chantrey’s self-mocking drawing recalls that of Edward Lear, and is an apology note for his absence from a dinner date with friends due to mumps. According to a contemporary account, the labelled medicine bottles were intended to spell out the name of his doctor, Dr Merreman. The patient’s expression is not ‘merry’ and his retinue of pets are so concerned that they ignore the potential fun of visiting a mouse. Virtually self-taught and known for his ‘speaking likenesses’, Chantrey came from poverty in Sheffield to London, where he sculpted portrait busts, including commissions for statues of King George III (1811; Guildhall) and George IV (1829; Trafalgar Square).

  • Robin Gibson, Pets in Portraits, 2015, p. 81 Read entry

    Though destined to become of the most famous sculptors of his age, Chantrey was the son of a tenant farmer near Sheffield and had a modest reputation as a painter there before coming to London in 1802. He did not entirely abandon painting until 1808, at about the time he married his cousin from Yorkshire. This drawing was sent to some London friends soon after his arrival and, apart from being ironically inscribed in ink ‘Sketch from nature’, is also inscribed in pencil ‘(a bachelor)’. An accompanying note explains that the drawing was sent to say that he could not visit friends as usual since he was confined to his lodgings with mumps. Beneath the row of medicine bottles on the mantelpiece is the name of his doctor, Mr Merreyman.

    While the attendant dogs and mother cat and kitten obviously serve to add poignancy to Chantrey’s current predicament (and may of course have belonged to his landlady), Chantrey is known to have been very fond of animals. A pointer called Hector is recorded – though probably a later vintage than the small supplicant hound in the drawing - and immortalised in paint, the Dandie Dinmont terrier called Mustard that was given to Chantrey by Sir Walter Scott in 1825 in return for his bust of the famous novelist. Scott had of course more or less invented Dandie Dinmonts in his novel Guy Mannering; or The Astrologer (1815), and in 1836 Chantrey commissioned from his friend Sir Edwin Landseer a portrait of Mustard sitting by a copy of the bust in a corner of his studio and keeping one of the sculptor’s cats under the table at bay. Mustard had by then, alas, wrote Chantrey’s biographer George Jones, ‘increased his bulk, and he became a striking example of the effects of luxury and repletion, yet his obesity and indolence did not diminish his devotion to his master.’

  • Rogers, Malcolm, Master Drawings from the National Portrait Gallery, 1993 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 5 August to 23 October 1994), p. 85
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 114
  • Walker, Richard, Regency Portraits, 1985, p. 103

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1800back to top

Current affairs

Widespread food riots after poor harvests of 1798-9. Theorist, Thomas Malthus, controversially argues that poverty and food shortages are an inevitable consequence of population growth, challenging assumptions that populousness was a sign of national prosperity and power. His thesis contributed forcefully to the debate over the existing Poor Law.

Art and science

William Wordsworth publishes his Preface to the Lyrical Ballads; a retrospective explanation of his experimental poems written with Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It becomes one of the best-known manifestos of Romantic literature.

International

Lord Castlereagh, Chief Secretary for Ireland, is the main architect of the Act of Union under which Ireland is merged with Great Britain and the Irish parliament is abolished.
British troops support successful uprising by Maltese against the French.
Napoleon is victorious against Austrians at Marengo and reconquers Italy.

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