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.

Advanced Collection search

Joseph Grimaldi

Joseph Grimaldi, by John Cawse, 1807 -NPG 827 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Regency Portraits Catalogue

Joseph Grimaldi

by John Cawse
1807
29 1/2 in. x 24 1/2 in. (749 mm x 622 mm)
NPG 827

Inscriptionback to top

Transcription from the back of the original canvas to the lining canvas: Mr JOSEPH GRIMALDI/of the Theatre Royal Covent Garden/Painted by J. Cawse/Feby 1807 and on a piece of wood from the old stretcher and preserved in registered packet in NPG archive: MALDI of the Theatre Royal/Covent Garden.

This portraitback to top

The picture was among a group of portraits of actors left with Haines & Sons, the firm of picture restorers, in about 1850. The owner, called Nugent, was never heard of again and at the death of Haines senior in 1889 it was offered to the NPG together with portraits of Kean as 'Richard III', Miss Pope, Mrs Siddons by Harlow, and Mrs Robinson. Grimaldi was accepted, the remainder sent to auction by Mr Haines's executors (letters from F. H. Haines in NPG archive).
The portrait shows Joey at the age of 29 during the golden age of pantomime and shortly after the historic first season at Covent Garden of Mother Goose, Dibdin's harlequinade which had frequently been rejected before but has been performed almost continuously ever since. Mother Goose made Grimaldi's name as a clown, of which echoes can be traced in Cawse's rather sober portrait.
A coloured drawing by De Wilde in the Garrick Club (63B) was etched and published 14 February 1807 at about the same time as Cawse's oil. It became one of the most popular prints of the day and shows Grimaldi as Clown holding the noose and the letter, 'Sir, I’ll just trouble you with a line', a joke which delighted the then Lord Chancellor, Lord Eldon, who is said to have seen Grimaldi in Mother Goose eleven times.

Physical descriptionback to top

Head and shoulders facing.

Provenanceback to top

Nugent; Haines, inherited by his son F. H. Haines and sold by him to the NPG 1889; on loan to Sadlers Wells Theatre since 1971.

Reproductionsback to top

Small oval stipple of the head only, undated and unknown engraver.


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 Joseph Grimaldi

Get Creative

Develop your art skills

Discover our BP Next Generation short films made by artists. Follow step by step guides in drawing and painting techniques.

Improve your skills

Hold Still

Hold Still photography workshop

Reflect on your own experiences of lockdown through this easy-to-do from home, photographic exercise. 

Watch the video

Draw Like a Renaissance Master

Revisit The Encounter exhibition and learn about Renaissance and Baroque drawing methods and materials.

Improve your technique