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Elizabeth Barrett Browning; Robert Browning

1 of 7 portraits of Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Elizabeth Barrett Browning; Robert Browning, by Harriet Goodhue Hosmer, 1853 -NPG 3165 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Early Victorian Portraits Catalogue

Elizabeth Barrett Browning; Robert Browning

by Harriet Goodhue Hosmer
8 1/4 in. (210 mm) long
NPG 3165

Inscriptionback to top

Inscribed on the base of Browning's hand: HANDS OF ROBERT/AND/Elizabeth Barrett Browning/cast By/Harriet Hosmer/Rome 1853 and on the base of Mrs Browning's hand: Copyright

This portraitback to top

Harriet Hosmer wrote about the hands (Carr, p 92):

'The history of the hands is very brief. In the winter of 1853, my second winter in Rome, I made the acquaintance of Mr and Mrs Browning. I then conceived the idea of casting their hands, and asked Mrs Browning if she would consent. "Yes", she said "provided you will cast them, but I will not sit for the formatore". Consequently I did the cast myself.'
Hawthorne's Marble Faun is concerned with American artists in Rome, and it is interesting that he should mention the cast of the hands. Discussing a marble hand by a 16th century sculptor, Miriam remarks: "As good as Harriet Hosmer's clasped hands of Browning and his wife, symbolizing the individuality and heroic union of two high, poetic lives!". It is not known how large an edition of casts Harriet Hosmer produced. Cornelia Carr claimed to own the original cast (reproduced Carr, p 92); others are at Baylor and in the collection of the Countess of Iddesleigh. Harriet Hosmer was a close friend of the Brownings, who frequently mention her unconventional behaviour and appearance in their letters of this period.

Referenceback to top

Carr (ed.) 1913
Harriet Hosmer: Letters and Memories, edited C. Carr (1913), p 92.

Hawthorne 1883
N. Hawthorne, The Marble Faun (Riverside Edition, Cambridge, USA, 1883), VI, 146.

McAleer (ed.) 1951
Dearest Isa: Robert Browning's Letters to Isa Blagden, edited E. C. McAleer (1951), p 40.

Provenanceback to top

W. M. Thackeray(?); Mrs Richard Fuller (his granddaughter), presented by her, 1953.

Exhibitionsback to top

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Centenary Exhibition, St Marylebone Central Public Library, London, 1961 (104).

This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: Richard Ormond, Early Victorian Portraits, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1973, 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.

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