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Margaret Oliphant Wilson Oliphant

1 of 3 portraits of Margaret Oliphant Wilson Oliphant

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Margaret Oliphant Wilson Oliphant

by Frederick Sandys
chalk, 1881
27 1/4 in. x 22 3/8 in. (692 mm x 568 mm)
Purchased, 1981
Primary Collection
NPG 5391

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This portraitback to top

Frederick Sandys's style was influenced by Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti and this is exemplified here in the detail of the dress and the calligraphic inscription. The ribbons, folds and tulips of the brocaded dress are carefully drawn and any affectation is offset by her plain lace cap.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 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. 133
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 467
  • 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. 175 Read entry

    Gilt oak, the reeded oak top edge, with circles cut in and squares applied, and the oak veneer on the back edge planted on a lap-jointed pine carcass, the inner flat oak-veneered with a bevelled gilt sight edge. 1 5⁄ 8 inches wide, plus inner flat 4 inches wide. With the label: FOORD & DICKINSON,/Carvers & Gilders./129, 90 Wardour Street, W./DRAWINGS MOUNTED./PICTURES CLEANED AND RESTORED.

    Frederick Sandys is best known for his highly finished portrait drawings. He studied under George Richmond and Samuel Laurence (see NPG 4900, NPG 1680) but it was the work of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (see NPG 990) which most influenced his style. This portrait of the prolific Scottish-born writer, Margaret Oliphant, has a standard Sandys frame which very closely follows the style pioneered by Rossetti in the 1860s but with the substitution of a plain oak flat for the gilt oak which Rossetti preferred.

    Sandys's usual framemaker from about 1868 was Foord & Dickinson, also used by Rossetti. Some of Sandys's early Norwich pictures were framed by Boswell of Norwich from 1858 to 1870. After 1900 Sandys went to Foord's successor in business, George Minns & Co.1 In 1903, the year before his death, he wrote to Ernest Brown of the Leicester Galleries about the framing of a portrait of Brown's daughter, Helen: 'I think the frame you name the Rossetti would be the best for the drawing - in oak - such as I generally use - with some of the mouldings gilded. I sometimes have the frame made without the circles and pateras. I am not sure it is not better and it is cheaper ... Minns 65 Berwick Street is the best man …’. 2

    1 I am most grateful to Betty Elzea for information on Sandys's framemakers, which she has compiled in preparation for her catalogue raisonné.

    2 Betty Elzea drew my attention to this letter, which is in the collection of Professor Toshiyuki Takamiya.

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Events of 1881back to top

Current affairs

Benjamin Disraeli dies of bronchitis. He refuses a state funeral and is buried next to his wife, Mary Ann Viscountess Beaconsfield.
Gladstone's Irish Land Act is passed in a bid to stop violence carried out by the republican Land League, conducted in protest at the 1870 Land Act.
Henry Mayers Hyndman forms the Marxist Democratic Federation.

Art and science

The Natural History Museum is opened on Exhibition Road, South Kensington. The museum, a landmark gothic design by the architect Alfred Waterhouse, was built to house specimens from the natural sciences, previously in the British Museum's collection. Today, the museum comprises of over 70 million items, and is a world-renowned research centre.


Alexander II is assassinated in a bomb attack by members of a left-wing revolutionary movement. He was succeeded by his son, Tsar Alexander III.
US President James Garfield is shot by Charles Guiteau.
The first Anglo-Boer war ends. The war is started by a Boer uprising, as the British had annexed the Transvaal in 1877. Following Britain's defeat at the Battle of Majuba Hill, a truce is signed giving the Boers self-government and later independence.

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