The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

Thomas Babington Macaulay, Baron Macaulay

© National Portrait Gallery, London

1 Like voting
is closed

Thanks for Liking

Please Like other favourites!
If they inspire you please support our work.

Buy a print Make a donation Close
  • Buy a print
  • Use this image
  • ShareShare this

Thomas Babington Macaulay, Baron Macaulay

by Edward Matthew Ward
oil on canvas, 1853
25 in. x 30 in. (635 mm x 762 mm)
Purchased, 1972
Primary Collection
NPG 4882

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Edward Matthew Ward (1816-1879), History painter. Artist associated with 10 portraits, Sitter in 16 portraits.

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.

Placesback to top

Events of 1853back to top

Current affairs

Britain 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 science

David 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


Diplomatic 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.

Tell us more back to top

Can you tell us more about this portrait? Spotted an error, information that is missing (a sitter’s life dates, occupation or family relationships, or a date of portrait for example) or do you know anything that we don't know? If you have information to share please complete the form below.

If you require information from us, please use our Archive enquiry service. You can buy a print of most illustrated portraits. Select the portrait of interest to you, then look out for a Buy a Print button. Prices start at £6 for unframed prints, £25 for framed prints. If you wish to license this image, please use our Rights and Images service.

Please note that we cannot provide valuations.

We digitise over 8,000 portraits a year and we cannot guarantee being able to digitise images that are not already scheduled.

What can you tell us?close

There are occasions when we are unsure of the identity of a sitter or artist, their life dates, occupation or have not recorded their family relationships. Sometimes we have not recorded the date of a portrait. Do you have specialist knowledge or a particular interest about any aspect of the portrait or sitter or artist that you can share with us? We would welcome any information that adds to and enhances our information and understanding about a particular portrait, sitter or artist.


How do you know this? Please could you let us know your source of information.

* Permission to publish (Privacy information)
Privacy Informationclose

The National Portrait Gallery will NOT use your information to contact you or store for any other purpose than to investigate or display your contribution. By ticking permission to publish you are indicating your agreement for your contribution to be shown on this collection item page. Please note your email address will not be displayed on the page nor will it be used for any marketing material or promotion of any kind.

Please ensure your comments are relevant and appropriate. Your contributions must be polite and with no intention of causing trouble. All contributions are moderated.

Your Emailclose

Contributions are moderated. We'll need your email address so that we can follow up on the information provided and contact you to let you know when your contribution has been published.

Visit From Your Armchair

Self-portrait as My Father from the series Encounter  by Silvia Rosi © Silvia Rosi

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize

An online exhibition celebrating the very best in contemporary portrait photography.

Visit now

Hold Still

Hold Still

Explore our community photography project, which presents a personal record of the UK during lockdown.

Explore the exhibition

Margaret Thatcher by Spitting Images Productions Ltd painted plastic, 1985

Sculptures in 360°

See sculptures and fascinating objects from our Collection from all angles.

View the 360s

David Hockney: Drawing from Life

Watch highlights from our special exhibition, which had to close early in March 2020 due to lockdown.

See the video