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Michael Faraday

Michael Faraday, by Thomas Phillips, 1841-1842 -NPG 269 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Early Victorian Portraits Catalogue

Michael Faraday

by Thomas Phillips
35 3/4 in. x 28 in. (908 mm x 711 mm)
NPG 269

Inscriptionback to top

Signed and dated on the front of the trough (bottom left): TP [in monogram] 1842

This portraitback to top

In a letter of 27 March 1841 from Brighton (NPG archives), Faraday wrote to Phillips:

'My dear Sir
I think myself bound to let you know that I shall return to town on Wednesday night & can be with you any time afterwards. I shall be at the Royal Institution on Tuesday for an hour & if I found a message from you saying when you next require me it would enable me to arrange other matters.
Ever Dear Sir,
Your faithful
M. Faraday.'

On 24 June 1841, Faraday wrote again (letter in NPG archives): 'I have just received the portrait & note & am very much obliged to you for both of them.' Phillips presumably worked on the portrait subsequently, hence the inscribed date. In a third letter of 21 or 27 January 18 (noted by G. Scharf, NPG archives), Faraday wrote to Phillips to say that 'a sharp attack of lumbago, my first, confines me to my room excuse me'. If this refers to sittings for another portrait, there is no further record of it.
The trough, brass tube and furnace flames, in the bottom right-hand corner of the NPG picture, presumably relate to Faraday's metallurgical experiments. There is a photogravure reproduction of the portrait, published Photographische Gesellschaft Berlin (example in British Museum).

Referenceback to top

T. Phillips 'Sitters Book' (copy of original MS, NPG archives), under 1842.

G. Scharf, Sir George Scharf's Trustees' Sketch Books (NPG archives), XIII, 76.

Physical descriptionback to top

Healthy complexion, light grey eyes, brown hair with grey streaks. Dressed in a black stock, white shirt and black coat. Light grey-green trough with wood support and brass tube. Bottom right-hand corner orange and red. Rest of background dark greenish-grey.

Provenanceback to top

John Scott Russell1, purchased from him through the artist's son, Henry Phillips, 1868.2
1 A distinguished inventor and engineer, see Dictionary of National Biography.
2 Five letters from Phillips to Scharf concerning the portrait and its purchase (NPG archives); according to Phillips, who remembered Faraday sitting for it, this portrait was not commissioned, but was given by the artist to Russell, a mutual friend of his and Faraday.

Exhibitionsback to top

RA, 1842 (170).

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 Michael Faraday

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