Thomas Babington Macaulay, Baron Macaulay
- Extended Catalogue Entry
Thomas Babington Macaulay, Baron Macaulay
by Edward Matthew Ward
oil on canvas, 1853
25 in. x 30 in. (635 mm x 762 mm)
Sitterback to top
- Thomas Babington Macaulay, Baron Macaulay (1800-1859), Historian, poet and politician; MP for Calne, Leeds and Edinburgh. Sitter in 26 portraits.
Artistback to top
- Edward Matthew Ward (1816-1879), History painter. Artist associated with 10 portraits, Sitter in 16 portraits.
This portraitback to top
Macauley is best known for his History of England and the narrative poem 'Lays of Ancient Rome', but he had come to writing after an active political career during which he had served as Secretary for War. This portrait, which shows him at home in Albany, central London, surrounded by his books and papers, is an evocative scene of the life of a scholar in mid-Victorian England. Macauley however was dissatisfied with it, complaining not only that he had been poisoned by the smell of paint, but also that the resulting portrait was like a daguerreotype in its minuteness of detail. It is one of a series of at least seven paintings of writers in their studies, which included Thackeray and Dickens, executed by Ward in the 1850s.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Audio Guide
- Smartify image discovery app
- Victorian Portraits Resource Pack, p. 12
- Bayly, Christopher, The Raj: India and the British 1600-1947, 1990 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 19 October 1990 - 17 March 1991), p. 219
- Funnell, Peter, Victorian Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery Collection, 1996, p. 12
- Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery: An Illustrated Guide, 2000, p. 127
- Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery, 1997, p. 127 Read entry
The great historian Macaulay started writing his History of England after a long and active career as a politician. This portrait of him sitting polishing his spectacles in his study at the Albany in London was painted just before he became involved in the movement to establish the National Portrait Gallery. He hated the portrait and wrote in his journal that he was 'tired to death of these sittings'. When it was finished, he thought that Ward had 'made me uglier than a Daguerreotype'. But George Scharf, the Director of the Gallery, thought it was 'excellent' and that it showed 'The Room as I knew it'. Certainly Macaulay's study is depicted exactly as described by his biographer, 'comfortable, though not very brightly furnished. The ornaments were few but choice.'
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 397
- Simon, Jacob, The Art of the Picture Frame: Artists, Patrons and the Framing of Portraits in Britain, 1997 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 8 November 1996 - 9 February 1997), p. 171 Read entry
Gilt compo on pine, mitred, pinned and with corner blocks, the slip with matt water gilding, the inner fillet burnished on a black and red bole, the plain top edge moulding on a red bole, the frieze finely sanded but badly crazed, the leaves of the cushion on a milky ground with the intervening husks on a warm ground, 4 inches wide plus 1 3⁄ 8 inch slip. With the label of Agnew's, Manchester, Liverpool and London (there is no trace of a Criswick & Dolman label).
This portrait of the historian, Thomas Macaulay, in his study in the Albany, Piccadilly, is one of a series of portraits of writers in their studies painted by E. M. Ward in the 1850s. The frame appears to be slightly later than the picture for it is recorded as having had the label of Criswick & Dolman, a leading framing partnership which lasted from about 1862 to 1876.1 The frame perhaps was made for the 1868 National Portrait Exhibition at South Kensington. With its wide sight slip, sanded frieze and a main cushion ornamented with a classical leaf motif the frame appears to match the one shown in an old photograph of Ward's companion portrait of William Thackeray, painted in 1854, which has since been destroyed.
1 Richard Ormond, Early Victorian Portraits, 1973, p 68.
Subjects & Themesback to top
Events of 1853back to top
Current affairsBritain and America sign a treaty establishing an International Copyright agreement. Dickens, whose Bleak House is also published this year, was a particularly outspoken critic of these laws, as his works were freely published in America without any protection over copyright or royalties. He had lobbied the American Congress over the issue during his North American reading tour of 1842.
Art and scienceDavid Livingstone makes a six month journey from the Zambezi river to the west coast of Africa.
Harriet Martineau translates The Positive Philosophy of August Comte. A scientific approach to understanding the natural world and human and social relations, positivism has an important influence on the development of the social sciences.
Holman Hunt exhibits his The Light of the World
InternationalDiplomatic row over Napoleon's call to the Turkish empire to restore Roman Catholic rights in the Holy Land. Russia asserts her role of protecting the rights of all Christians in the Ottoman empire; French and British fleets are dispatched to the Dardanelles. The Turkish sultan, declaring that he will look after the rights of Christians, heightens tension, and the Crimean war begins with Turkey declaring war on Russia.
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