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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. It 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.

We also have a couple of descriptions by his sister Mary Newton; one of which she related to W. H.Ireland and the other by letter to Sir Herbert Croft, both are a joy. 

The question is, do any of the descriptions point to an image that matches the description?

Definitely not Chatterton!

There are a lot 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! 

chatterton dix b.jpg
chatterton statue (2).jpg
Chatterton Model b.jpg

This is a life size model in Wax

A simple representation of Chatterton

chatterton c e russell_edited.jpg
NPG Unknown boy supposed Chatterton National Pot Gal.jpg

By the way, the Colston Boy is probably a fraud, a copy - is nothing sacred! 

This page is in the making. Much more to do as time allows.

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