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

Sir Richard Owen

Sir Richard Owen, by Henry William Pickersgill, circa 1845 -NPG 938 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Early Victorian Portraits Catalogue

Sir Richard Owen

by Henry William Pickersgill
circa 1845
56 1/4 in. x 44 in. (1429 mm x 1118 mm)
NPG 938

This portraitback to top

This portrait was first offered to the NPG in 1889, but only entered the collection on the death of the sitter. At the time it was first offered, Davies Sherborn wrote (letter of 5 November 1889, NPG archives): 'the portrait represents the Professor speaking upon the "Pearly Nautilus" - one of his most famous works & one he published about 1832.' He is wearing the robes of a professor. A photogravure of this picture was published Photographische Gesellschaft, Berlin (example in NPG). Another version, almost identical in pose and features, but showing Owen holding a large bone, was in the collection of G. F. Boston, 1948; it came from the collection of Sir Robert Peel, and was in the sale of Peel heirlooms, Robinson, Fisher and Harding, 6-7 December 1917 (lot 59). There are two further half-length paintings by Pickersgill, one in St Bartholomew's Hospital, engraved by W. Walker, 1852 (example in NPG), and the other, showing him in academic robes, reproduced Rev R. Owen, The Life of Richard Owen (1895), I, frontispiece; a water-colour, apparently based on this portrait, and attributed to W. Etty, is in the Royal College of Surgeons. The St Bartholomew's Hospital portrait may have been that exhibited RA, 1856 (93).

Referenceback to top

L. G. Holland, 'Sketchbooks' (NPG archives), III, 21.

Physical descriptionback to top

Healthy complexion, brown eyes and hair. Dressed in a dark stock and neck-tie, white shirt, black waistcoat, black coat and trousers, and black and scarlet academic robes. Holding a white nautilus shell with brown markings. On the left is a table with a green cloth, and in a glass jar what appear to be the innards of the shell. Background colour greenish-brown.

Provenanceback to top

The sitter, presented by his daughter-in-law, Mrs Emily Owen, in accordance with his wishes, 1893.

Exhibitionsback to top

Possibly RA, 1845 (206); Royal Jubilee Exhibition, Manchester, 1887 (489).

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 Sir Richard Owen

View all known portraits for Henry William Pickersgill


Tudor and Elizabethan matching pairs

Test your memory by playing our matching pairs game. Three levels of difficulty make it fun for the whole family.

Test your skill

Regency familiar faces

Rearrange tiles to uncover sitters from the Gallery's Collection by playing our puzzle game.

Play today

Who do you think you were?

Answer a few lifestyle questions about the Elizabethan period and discover your inner Elizabethan!

Start now