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

Sarah Siddons (née Kemble)

Sarah Siddons (née Kemble), by Thomas Campbell, 1843 -NPG 642 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Sarah Siddons (née Kemble)

by Thomas Campbell
46 in. x 37 1/2 in. (1168 mm x 953 mm)
NPG 642

This portraitback to top

Campbell’s first proposal for the monument to Mrs Siddons in Westminster Abbey, for which the actor William Macready had long campaigned. [1] This first design of a ‘half length figure. In alto-relievo, in a niche’ was ready in 1843, and in 1844 it was confirmed that it would be placed in Westminster Abbey, although it could not be ‘considered as sufficiently important; but the sum subscribed was singularly small’. [2] But on 28 June 1845 Campbell promised to send Macready a drawing of a grander design, evidently the full-length version of NPG 642. On 27 February 1846 Macready advised Campbell of ‘a defect in the proportion; he admitted it, and promised to add length to the form below the bust’. By December 1846 Campbell had completed the model, ‘seven feet in height, ideally draped, and holding in the hand a scroll’, and the statue was installed in the Abbey in October 1849. [3]
On 9 April 1881 Gibson-Craig, the former owner of NPG 642, wrote that ‘All who have seen the statue & what I now offer, much prefer the alto relievo’:

'When I used to pass through London, I generally called at Campbell’s Studio & I several times tried to purchase the Alto relievo, but he never would part with it. After his decease, there was a sale of his works, [4] when I sent an order, and secured it.' [5]

Footnotesback to top

1) See The Diaries of William Charles Macready 1833-51, 1912, II, pp 95, 117, 123, 217, 298, 325.
2) Art Union, 1843, p 247, and 1844, p 8.
3) Atheneum, 1846, p 1273; ILN, 6 October 1849, p 229.
4) Not listed in Lugt.
5) Letter to Scharf (NPG archive).

Physical descriptionback to top

Holding a scroll in her left hand, and wearing a coronet.

Provenanceback to top

Bought from the studio sale of Thomas Campbell (d. 1858) by James Thomson Gibson-Craig, by whom presented 1881.

Exhibitionsback to top

RA 1856 (1295, 'Mrs Siddons; alto relievo in marble').

This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, National Portrait Gallery, 2004, 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 Sarah Siddons (née Kemble)

Do, draw and make!

Do, draw and make!

From building dens to food faces – enjoy our Playful Portraits activities and find out about some brilliant people!

Get Creative

Healthcare Heroes

Activities for children and families inspired by three healthcare heroes from our Collection.

Learn together

Learning resources

Downloadable and web based resources to support learning at home linked to art, history, citizenship and literacy.

Get learning