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.

William Etty

William Etty, by David Octavius Hill; Robert Adamson, late 19th century, based on a work of 1844 -NPG 1368 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Early Victorian Portraits Catalogue

William Etty

after a photograph by David Octavius Hill, and Robert Adamson
late 19th century, based on a work of 1844
16 1/4 in. x 12 1/2 in. (413 mm x 318 mm)
NPG 1368

Inscriptionback to top

Inscribed on the back in ink in a 19th century hand: Portrait of W. Etty R.A
Also on the back of the portrait is a letter from the artist James Linton to Billington of 17 July 1890, stating that the picture is 'a portrait of "William Etty" by himself & a very beautiful example of his work'.

This portraitback to top

This painting is almost identical in size, composition and details, to one in the York Art Gallery, reproduced York Catalogue, plate 64, both previously described as self-portraits. They are, however, of poor quality, and their entire dependence on the Hill and Adamson calotype photograph (examples in NPG, British Museum, Scottish NPG and elsewhere) suggests the work of a copyist [1]; a variant photograph by Hill and Adamson, evidently done at the same sitting, shows Etty in a slightly different posture, and differs in several slight details. Both photographs are reproduced by Schwarz in the Art Quarterly, figures 2-3, who suggests that they were taken in October 1844. The head, from the photograph on which the NPG portrait is based, was etched in reverse by S. J. B. Haydon (example in NPG), and reproduced as a woodcut, also in reverse, Art Journal (1849), p 13.

Footnotesback to top

1) The differences between the paintings and the photograph are negligible, and can almost entirely be accounted for by the differences in technique. Although Farr includes both the paintings in his catalogue of Etty's work, he expresses doubt about their status. Either the NPG or York version may have been the painting in the William Cox sale, Robinson and Fisher, 14 March 1883 (lot 146); a slight sketch in Scharf's sale catalogue (NPG library) shows what appears to be the same composition. No details of size are, however, given in the catalogue.

Referenceback to top

Farr 1958
D. Farr, William Etty (1958), p 166.

Gernsheim 1951
H. Gernsheim, Masterpieces of Victorian Photography (1951), p 11.

Schwarz 1958
H. Schwarz, 'William Etty's "Self-Portrait" in the London National Portrait Gallery', Art Quarterly, XXI (Detroit, 1958), 391-6.

York Art Gallery Catalogue of Paintings, Volume II: English School 1500-1850 (1963), pp 35-6.

Physical descriptionback to top

Brown eyes and hair; dressed in a white collar, red stock(?), green neck-tie, dark coat; holding brown brushes and palette with splashes of white, red and blue paint; brown books to left; reddish curtain at left; rest of background brown.

Provenanceback to top

John Billington1; Sotheby's, 28 March 1903 (lot 305), bought E. Parsons; purchased from Leggatt Brothers, 1904.

1 There is a letter from Billington of 4 February 1903 offering the portrait to the NPG trustees (NPG archives); he states that he purchased it some twenty-five years earlier, but does not state from what source.


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.

View all known portraits for William Etty