Carlo Pellegrini

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Carlo Pellegrini

attributed to Carlo Pellegrini
Oil and possibly gouache on paper (stuck down on mount), 1877
23 1/4 in. x 17 3/8 in. (592 mm x 440 mm)
NPG 2933

Inscriptionback to top

Signed, dated and inscr. in brown paint lower left-hand corner: ‘to Hogarth Club C. Pellegrini, 1877’;
label on bottle inscr. in pencil: ‘POISON’.

This portraitback to top

This large oil sketch is presently attributed to Pellegrini but with reservations, as the drawing seems laboured in comparison with the caricatures. It came with no early history when it was offered, and acquired by the National Portrait Gallery, as a Pellegrini self-portrait in 1938.

In 1876 Pellegrini took up portrait painting, intending ‘to outshine Millais’, but without much success. [1] Seven portraits were exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery between 1878 and 1883; they were accepted ‘out of sheer devotion to him rather than respect for his work’. [2] Without the necessary talent or training, and finding himself less able to fund his extravagant lifestyle, after a year he returned to producing the weekly cartoon for Vanity Fair. His friend the artist Louise Jopling wrote:

His gift for caricature made him believe that he could be a famous portrait painter, au grand sérieux, and he gave up his work on ‘Vanity Fair’ to devote himself to this branch of art. But to be a good portrait painter requires more than simply a talent for catching a likeness, and this essential ‘more’ Pellegrini did not possess. [3]

Poor drawing is therefore not reason enough to doubt the authorship of NPG 2933. The profile figure – neither full-blown caricature nor straight portrait – more or less matches other images of Pellegrini in the iconography. Furthermore, the unidiomatic inscription, which refers not to the Pre-Raphaelite Hogarth Club (founded 1858, dissolved 1861) but to the new Hogarth Club, founded in 1870, is surely autograph. [4]

Carol Blackett-Ord

Footnotesback to top

1) Ward 1915, p.113.
2) Harris & Ormond 1976, p.8. For examples, see ‘Portrait of a man’, Sotheby’s, 15 Dec. 1976 (152, ill.), and other non-caricature works, NPG AB (Pellegrini).
3) Jopling 1925, p.252.
4) ‘At No. 84 in this street is the “Hogarth Club,” founded in 1870, and strictly limited in its members to artists, architects, and sculptors. Here conversazioni are held during the season, and the pictures and drawings of members are shown previous to being exhibited publicly at the Royal Academy, the Dudley Gallery, or the Gallery of British Artists.’ Old and New London, vol.4, 1878, p.467, ‘Tottenham Court Road’. For an image of a gathering of the Hogarth Club in 1873 see ‘All known portraits’.

Physical descriptionback to top

Three-quarter-length, standing, in a smock, profile to left, stooping over a drawing board, pen in right hand.

Provenanceback to top

Purchased from A. Yakovleff, 1938.

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