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George Chinnery

2 of 2 portraits of George Chinnery

George Chinnery, by George Chinnery, circa 1840 -NPG 779 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Early Victorian Portraits Catalogue

George Chinnery

by George Chinnery
circa 1840
28 in. x 21 1/4 in. (711 mm x 540 mm)
NPG 779

This portraitback to top

The most famous of all Chinnery's self-portraits. He is shown in his studio in Macao, with a canvas representing an Indian mosque on the easel, and a picture of the Praya Grande, Macao, on the wall behind. A squared-off pen and ink study for the whole composition is in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, and related studies of the head are in the Victoria and Albert Museum (2), and the collection of J. Braga. The NPG portrait was the last painting which Chinnery sent to the RA, where one reviewer, reiterating a perennial criticism of his work, 'wished the extremities had not been so much neglected' (Art-Union, p 180). The portrait was consigned to London through the artist's friend, Lancelot Dent, a well-known merchant. Chinnery wrote to him in a letter of 29 August 1845 (NPG archives):

'I have the pleasure to put my own portrait in charge of Mr Duncan, who will kindly deliver it to you. I believe I mentioned to you my particular wish that it should not be engraved during my Life Time - but after my Death I can have no objection - I have put within the Case my written Directions as to its being varnished. I now send a Certificate wh. will save you some trouble I believe at the Custom House in London.'
It is not known whether Dent was given the portrait by Chinnery himself, or whether he bought it at the sale of Chinnery's effects in Macao after the latter's death in 1852. It has generally been presumed that this portrait was painted shortly before its first exhibition in 1846. A comparison with other self-portraits suggests that it may date from a few years earlier.

Referenceback to top

Art-Union (1846), p 180.

Berry-Hill and Berry-Hill 1963
H. and S. Berry-Hill, George Chinnery (1963), pp 37, 55.

Physical descriptionback to top

Florid complexion, blue eyes, grey hair. Dressed in a white shirt, white neck-tie, dark grey coat, white trousers, and black shoes. Red curtain at left. Pictures - pale blues, browns and greys. Rest of background and floor greenish-brown. Wooden chair and table with two oriental china tea-cups, a glass bottle, knife and plate. Folder bottom left with red ribbons.

Provenanceback to top

The artist; Lancelot Dent; by descent to his nephew, John Dent, and presented by him, on his uncle's behalf, 1888.

Exhibitionsback to top

RA 1846 (367); Chinnery Exhibition, Tate Gallery, 1932 (11); Chinnery Exhibition, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, and Arts Council, London, 1957 (54); British Self-Portraits, Arts Council, London, 1962 (65); George Chinnery, City Hall and Art Gallery, Hong Kong, 1965 (52).

Reproductionsback to top

H. and S. Berry-Hill, George Chinnery (1963), plate 2; R. L. Ormond, 'George Chinnery's Image of Himself, II', Connoisseur, CLXVII (1968), 160-4.


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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