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John Allen

John Allen, by Sir Edwin Landseer, 1836 -NPG 384 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Regency Portraits Catalogue

John Allen

by Sir Edwin Landseer
24 in. x 17 3/4 in. (610 mm x 451 mm)
NPG 384

This portraitback to top

The portrait was painted early in 1836 while Landseer was staying at Holland House for a fortnight, commissioned by Lord Holland as a birthday present for his wife. Lady Holland's sixty-fifth birthday was on 25 March 1836. 'The best little picture of dear old Mr Allen that could be done if they tried for a century' said Mrs Norton (cit. Ilchester, Chronicles of Holland House, p 164). Landseer painted it in Allen's Room (known by this name until Holland House was devastated by an oil bomb in the Second World War). A pen and ink drawing inscribed Holland House is at Baron's Court (Duke of Abercorn). His charge was modest and two years later Allen wrote to him on behalf of Lord Holland, 'My dear Landseer: considering the universally acknowledged excellence of the picture, the price you ask for it is too moderate and though the addition I hope you will permit me to make is small, it is the same I had originally destined for the purpose. Have the goodness therefore to accept the cheque for Fifty Pounds, and believe me, Yours truly John Allen' (MS letter dated Holland House 13 April 1838, V & A Museum, 86 RR). Landseer's reply is neither in the V & A Museum nor among the Holland House Papers in the British Library. Lady Holland died in 1845 bequeathing the portrait to her eldest (natural) son General C. R. Fox who had known Allen since he had joined the Holland House circle in 1802 - 'my kind old friend' he called him. General Fox died in 1873 bequeathing it together with three other portraits (his father Lord Holland, Sir Charles Hanbury Williams (see John Kerslake, National Portrait Gallery: Early Georgian Portraits, 1978, p 310) and Cardinal Fleury) to the NPG on conditions felt by the executors to be unacceptable. However his widow decided to present them to the Gallery unconditionally and, except for Fleury, they were accepted in November 1873.

Physical descriptionback to top

Three-quarter-length seated in a crimson leather armchair at a table with books and a bronze cast of Pierce's bust of Cromwell (later bequeathed by Lord Holland to Lord Dunfermline); sparse white hair, small oval spectacles fastened over back of head; dark blue tail-coat with brass buttons, white waistcoat with high collar, white stock, grey trousers.

Provenanceback to top

Holland House 1836; General C. R. Fox 1845 and given by his widow in 1873.

Exhibitionsback to top

'Modern Masters' Manchester 1857 (491); London International Exhibition 1862 (396); 'Old Masters' Burlington House 1874 (195).

Reproductionsback to top

A copy given by the Hon Mrs Drewitt in 1935 used to hang in Allen's Room in Holland House until the outbreak of the Second World War, then Rawlence & Squarey (Melbury sale) 20 July 1967 (18); another copy, presented by General C. R. Fox, hangs in the Board Room, Dulwich College, of which Allen was Warden 1811-20 and Master 1820-43.

This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: Richard Walker, Regency Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, 1985, 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.

View all known portraits for John Allen

View all known portraits for Sir Edwin Henry Landseer


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