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John Henderson as Hamlet

2 of 18 portraits of John Henderson

John Henderson as Hamlet, by Robert Dunkarton, 1776 -NPG 1919 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

John Henderson as Hamlet

by Robert Dunkarton
1776
17 3/4 in. x 16 1/4 in. (451 mm x 413 mm) oval
NPG 1919

Inscriptionback to top

Signed lower left: R Dunkarton/pinxt 1776.

This portraitback to top

Henderson is portrayed as Hamlet: ‘Look here, upon this picture, and on this, --/The counterfeit presentment of two brothers’ (Hamlet, III, IV). Henderson had played Hamlet in Bath since 1772 and Garrick saw him in the part there in April 1775, meanly describing his performance as ‘a mixture of Tragedy Comedy pastoral farce & nonsense’. [1] The drawing of his left arm is not above criticism.

Footnotesback to top

1) D. M. Little & G. Ashton, The Letters of David Garrick, III, p 1001 (no.903).

Physical descriptionback to top

Blue-grey eyes, fair flowing wig, wearing a black velvet suit with a white shirt; seated in a pink damask chair, holding oval miniatures in each hand (only the backs are shown).

Provenanceback to top

Glyn family (of Gaunt House, Dorset), sale Christie’s 17 March 1877, lot 4;1 John Heugh sale, Christie’s, 10 May 1878, lot 72, bought 9½ gn.;2 with Edmund Robert Wodehouse (d. 1914) in 1893;3 Ernest E. Leggatt, by whom presented 1919.

1 Sketched by Scharf in his copy of the sale cat.
2 Sir George Scharf's Trustees' Sketch Books, 38/7-8; an old label verso also identifies this sale and records the price fetched of 9½ gn.
3 Ibid.

Exhibitionsback to top

RA 1776 (91); I. Mackintosh & G. Ashton, The Georgian Playhouse, Actors, Artists, Audiences and Architecture 1730-1830, exhibition catalogue, Arts Council, 1975 (38).


This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, National Portrait Gallery, 2004, 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 John Henderson