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Henry Fuseli

Henry Fuseli, by James Northcote, 1778 -NPG 5469 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Regency Portraits Catalogue

Henry Fuseli

by James Northcote
1778
30 5/8 in. x 25 3/8 in. (778 mm x 645 mm)
NPG 5469

Inscriptionback to top

Signed and dated lower right: 1778/James Northcote pin …

This portraitback to top

Northcote arrived in Rome on 23 May 1777 and very soon became friends with Fuseli who had been working in Rome since 1770. The Northcote MS Register of Paintings is missing for his years abroad 1777-9 (if he ever kept one) but the picture is clearly signed and dated 1778 and was finished before his return home in October. A profile sketch is mentioned by Stephen Gwynn (Stephen Gwynn, Memorials of an Eighteenth Century Painter, 1898, p 147) and an 1823 copy of the finished portrait is recorded.
In spite of their friendship Northcote's rather sour comment on his victim was 'Fuseli, whom I know so well, has a manner with him that never appears to me like that of a gentleman, but more like that of a Swiss valet' (Ernest Fletcher, Conversations with James Northcote RA, 1901, p 125). Leigh Hunt probably hit the nail on the head: 'conscious of not having all the strength he wished, he endeavoured to make up for it by violence and pretension. He carried this so far as to look fiercer than usual when he sat for his picture' (Autobiography, I, p 214).

Physical descriptionback to top

Half-length head turned to right in purplish-brown coat and waistcoat, white neckcloth and shirt; thick fair hair, blue eyes, fresh complexion, resolute expression; stormy sky background above, brown painted oval below.

Provenanceback to top

Given by Fuseli to Harriet, wife of his friend James Carrick Moore, in 1822; E. Parsons & Sons 1926; Agnew 1930; Lord Mackintosh of Halifax and on loan to the NPG anonymously 1979-81; Sotheby's 21 March 1979 (77 - lot withdrawn); bought Hugh Leggatt 1981 and the loan continued until its purchase by the Gallery in 1982.

Exhibitionsback to top

'Painting and Drawings of Henry Fuseli', R. E. A. Wilson Gallery, London 1935 (16a); 'Henry Fuseli', Arts Council, 1950 (1).


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.

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