9 of 15 portraits of John Keats
- Extended catalogue entry
Regency Portraits Catalogue
by William Hilton, after Joseph Severn
based on a work of circa 1822
30 in. x 25 in. (762 mm x 635 mm)
This portraitback to top
Hilton's portrait appears to be a straightforward adaptation of Severn's miniature in the Fitzwilliam Museum (see NPG 1605) though John Taylor's partner, James Hessey, thought it was a mixture of Severn's miniature, Hilton's own chalk drawing taken from life and the death-mask (letter in NPG archive). A letter from Barry Cornwall to Woodhouse written in January 1823 says 'I have seen your Picture (Keats's Portrait) at Hilton's - it is capital.' This indicates that it was probably painted towards the end of 1822. Severn himself said it made Keats into 'a sneaking fellow' but of course Severn was prejudiced against Hilton who had been one of the culprits at the famous dinner party when Keats had defended Severn against a slanderous attack (William Sharp, Life and Letters of Joseph Severn, 1892, p 65).
Physical descriptionback to top
Half-length seated with MS notebook on red table-cloth, chin on left hand, looking upwards; grey coat, white shirt and broad white collar; fair wavy hair in long ringlets, large hazel eyes, fresh complexion; plain brown background lighter to right. Pentimenti above both shoulders indicate a slightly higher original outline.
Provenanceback to top
Uncertain but probably painted for Richard Woodhouse and bequeathed by him to John Taylor; Christie's (John Taylor sale) 17 March 1865 (2) bought NPG.
Exhibitionsback to top
On loan to Keats House since 1979.
Reproductionsback to top
Cut by 'S.W.' in Harper's Magazine, March 1870 and etching by S. H. W. Llewellyn in Poetical Works, ed. W. T. Arnold, 1888 frontispiece (Donald Parson, Portraits of Keats, 1954, plates 59-60).
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.