Percy Bysshe Shelley
2 of 8 portraits of Percy Bysshe Shelley
- Extended catalogue entry
Regency Portraits Catalogue
Percy Bysshe Shelley
by Alfred Clint, after Amelia Curran, and Edward Ellerker Williams
circa 1829, based on a work of 1819
23 1/2 in. x 19 1/2 in. (597 mm x 495 mm)
This portraitback to top
Soon after its arrival in England Mary Shelley began to realise the inadequacy of the Curran portrait and cast about for ways of improvement. Wedgwood's engraving had been made for the Posthumous Poems of 1824. A new edition was projected also by Galignani to appear in 1829 as The Poetical Works of Coleridge, Shelley and Keats. Cyrus Redding, approached for editorial help, asked Mary Shelley for permission to use the Curran portrait of Shelley but was warned by her of its unfinished state and unprofessional quality; according to Redding she proposed an 'improved' copy to replace an idealised image suggested by Galignani - 'at any rate it will be better than a likeness after the imagination of a Frenchman - that is the drollest, stupidest idea ever man, intent on selling an edition, hit upon'. A drawing was made by P. R. Davis and from this an engraving, also by Wedgwood, used as an illustration in the new edition. Probably at this time the so-called Clint copy was made, NPG 1271.
According to the legator, Mrs Lonsdale, writing to the NPG in 1887 the new portrait was based on Miss Curran's portrait and an ad vivum drawing by Edward Williams and as having been painted by Alfred Clint (letter in NPG archive). No certain drawing by Edwards is known (see All Known Portraits) but in any case the new portrait appears to be a straightforward copy, without perceptible difference beyond a mild sfumato, of Amelia Curran's well-known portrait of 1819. Alfred Clint, son of the better-known George Clint, was born in 1807 and in his early 20s possibly working in Lonsdale's studio - hence the provenance through the Lonsdale family.
Miss Curran's portrait was also copied in oils by Malcolm Stewart in 1900 and in crayon by a German artist, both in the Bodleian Library (R. L. Poole, Catalogue of Oxford Portraits, I, p 115); a crude copy in oil was offered to the NPG in 1933 by Messrs Browne & Browne, booksellers of Newcastle, and became the subject of a brief correspondence in The Times, 4 April 1934, p 13; a miniature copy by Reginald Easton was exhibited SKM 1865 (1050) lent by Sir Percy Shelley; this or another, in Lord Abinger's collection, was reproduced in the Keats-Shelley Memorial Bulletin, 1971. A variant by Alfred Soord, drawn especially for H. Buxton Forman, was based partly on the Curran Shelley and partly on Leonardo's Christ in Milan, reproduced in Medwin's Shelley, 1913 edition.
Physical descriptionback to top
Half-length seated as in NPG 1234, but with the paint applied with a more skilful hand.
Provenanceback to top
Jane Williams, widow of Edward Williams and later wife of Thomas Jefferson Hogg; their daughter Prudentia Lonsdale (widow of J. J. Lonsdale), bequeathed by her to the NPG 1897 but owing to the estate's insolvency bought by the NPG from her executors in 1900.
Exhibitionsback to top
'Le Livre Anglais', Bibliothèque National, Paris, 1951-2 (506); 'Byron', V&A Museum, 1974 (K9).
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.