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Edwin Landseer

Edwin Landseer, by John Ballantyne, circa 1865 -NPG 835 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Early Victorian Portraits Catalogue

Edwin Landseer

by John Ballantyne
circa 1865
31 1/2 in. x 44 1/2 in. (800 mm x 1130 mm)
NPG 835

Inscriptionback to top

Signed (bottom right): John Ballantyne/RSA

This portraitback to top

Painted while Landseer was working in Baron Marochetti's studio on the clay models for his lions at the base of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square. According to Quayle, the portrait of Landseer himself was based on a photograph. The picture was one of a whole series of portraits of artists in their studios by Ballantyne; that of Holman-Hunt is also in the NPG (2555), and four more are in the Scottish NPG. Ballantyne exhibited them as a set in November 1865 under the auspices of H. Graves & Co, intending to have them engraved. As soon as the exhibition opened, Landseer wrote a rude note to Ballantyne demanding that his portrait be withdrawn, since it revealed his designs for the lions in an unfinished state, and he wanted no advance publicity before they were formally unveiled; this did not occur until 1867. Ballantyne replied by pointing out that he had discussed his exhibition with Landseer, who had made no objection at the time (the whole correspondence is quoted in full by Quayle). Ballantyne was forced to withdraw the portrait, which was the central attraction of his exhibition, and the show closed early. Several of the portraits were chromo-lithographed by V. Brooks; that of Landseer by Brooks was published 1867 (example in NPG), and reproduced as a woodcut ILN, LXIII (1873), 348. Not until Landseer's lions had been cast and put into position in Trafalgar Square was Ballantyne able to publicize his picture, which had remained in his studio; he apparently sold it direct to William Wells, one of Landseer's most important patrons. He subsequently altered the lions in the painting to conform with the finished casts in Trafalgar Square.

Referenceback to top

Art Journal (1864), p 122, and (1866), p 29.

Quayle 1967
E. Quayle, Ballantyne the Brave (1967), pp 205-12.

Physical descriptionback to top

Landseer is shown with grey hair, in a brown coat and grey trousers, sitting on a green stool, with a brown dog at his feet. The lions are white and grey in colour on brown wooden plinths. The floor is light brown and grey in colour. There is a lion's skin, and various tools bottom left. Brown basket, dividers and pail, green steps, and sketch of a lion in grisaille leaning against a brown wooden stand, bottom right. Green Curtain in the left background. Red wall right and centre, with an oil painting of a lion. Roof brown, skylights green.

Provenanceback to top

The artist; William Wells, his sale, Christie's, 10 May 1890 (lot 2); bought William Agnew and presented by him, 1890.

Exhibitionsback to top

Henry Graves, Pall Mall, 1865; Landseer Exhibition, RA, 1961 (92).


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.

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