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'Portraits' of Chatterton

Engravings - Paintings - Sketches - Descriptions


Thomas Chatterton? 1837


Thomas Chatterton?

Christie's 2005


Thomas Chatterton? 1797

Although there are no known authentic paintings or engravings of Chatterton, we do have a handy description of him, which was written by William Seward on to the end papers of an edition of Gregory's The Life of Chatterton (1789).  The book was bought at auction by  J. T. Rutt and published by him in a letter to The Monthly Repository for 1809, it then went missing until rediscovered at another auction in 2018.


Click here to see the original manuscript and the first printed copy.

The question is, does Seward's description point to an image that matches the description?

There are lots of Fanciful Images I show just six of them in this panel: The infamous & horrible 'Goggle Eyes' image in the oval from The Monthly Visitor in 1797 is it picking up on the claim that Chatterton had eyes that blazed?

The most infamous image of them all is the one used in the Dix edition of 1837, note the similarities with the 'Goggle-Eyes' image.   


Thomas Chatterton? 1837


Thomas Chatterton?


Thomas Chatterton?

Putting a face to a name makes Chatterton less abstract, for this reason I go with the standard image used since 1837, even though it was proven to be a forgery, perpetrated by Dix himself.  This is Chatterton's Shakespeare bust. It has also been chosen because it "Persists as a Popular Representation of the Poet."  The words in 'hooks' are the words of Mr Hake, a past Keeper of the National Portrait Gallery.

If you choose to investigate this subject do keep us informed of your discoveries! 

The following is for further research, a bit jumbled but for my own use at present : 

The frontispiece to Ingram's 'The True Chatterton.'  Ingram adds a note on the picture "from an engraving after N. C. Branwhite."

Facing page 94 of C. E. Russell's 'Thomas Chatterton, The Marvelous Boy'  published 1909.         Stated on the image as 'from a photograph in the possession of Mr Edward Bell.'

The painting above is of Rev. John Eagles by Nathan Cooper Branwhite.

John Eagles was the son of Thomas Eagles who was the editor of the Execution of Charles Bawdin, 1772.

Nathan Cooper Branwhite a Bristol artist, painted John Eagles, and Richard Smith surgeon, he also painted the spurious image of Chatterton which fronted Dix’s life of Chatterton (Ingram has Branwhite as the  engraver but he is clearly shown as Delin on the plate, instead R. Woodman was the engraver), see links in Chatterton bookmark.  Note the similarities between the two images above – including the brown background. The boy could easily be the man, and the hair is too similar for words.

Apparently Eagles  also had his portrait painted by James Curnock:

R Woodman was also the engraver of........

chatterton dix b.jpg
chatterton c e russell_edited.jpg
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