Mary Russell Mitford

Mary Russell Mitford, by John Lucas, 1852 -NPG 4045 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Early Victorian Portraits Catalogue

Mary Russell Mitford

by John Lucas
14 7/8 in. x 11 3/4 in. (378 mm x 298 mm)
NPG 4045

Inscriptionback to top

Inscribed by the artist in chalk (lower left): Drawn at Swallowfield/April 12th 1852/John Lucas and below in ink: To Mrs Acton Tindal, with Mr Lucas's respectful Compliments

This portraitback to top

This is a study for the oil painting by Lucas, which was given by the sitter to her American publisher, J. T. Fields (now in a private collection, USA). The oil was engraved by S. Freeman, published R. Bentley, 1852 (example in NPG); on the engraving it is stated that the picture was painted on 17 April 1852. It is apparently to this portrait that Miss Mitford referred in a letter said by Harness to date from the spring of 1853, but almost certainly written in the spring of 1852:

'Mr Lucas, an excellent painter of female portraits, and one of the most charming persons in the world, has had the infinite kindness to come down here and paint me. His picture is now in the engraver's hands. As a work of art it is absolutely marvellous - literal, as a likeness, in feature and complexion, but wonderful in the expression - so like, yet so idealized that I think it shows me as I never do look, but yet as, by some strange possibility I may have looked ... The present expression - his expression - is thoughtful, happy, tender - as if the mind were dwelling in a pleasant frame on some dear friend.' [1]
Miss Mitford wrote later to Mrs Acton-Tindal, to whom the NPG drawing is dedicated, on 2 October 1854:

‘"Atherton", admirably got up, is selling there [in the USA] by tens of thousands; and if you see John Lucas, I wish you would tell him, with my love, that the fine picture which I gave to Mr Fields has been engraved there - they tell me admirably - and prefixed to the work.' [2]

Footnotesback to top

1) [Rev W. Harness], The Life of Mary Russell Mitford, edited Rev A. G. L'Estrange (1870), III, 260-1. This letter could not refer to Lucas' copy after Haydon (NPG 404), about which Miss Mitford knew nothing. No other portraits of her by Lucas of this period are recorded.
2) Letters of Mary Russell Mitford, edited H. F. Chorley (second series, 1872), II, 78.

Referenceback to top

NPG Annual Report, 1957-8 (1959), p 6.

Physical descriptionback to top

Brownish eyes, greyish hair.

Provenanceback to top

Given by the artist to Mrs Acton Tindal; by descent to Clementina Tindal-Carill-Worsley; given by her to Francis Needham, and presented by him, 1963.

Exhibitionsback to top

SKM, 1868 (592).

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 Mary Russell Mitford