DARWIN, CHARLES (<i>1809-1882, naturalist</i>)
Lot 277
DARWIN, CHARLES (1809-1882, naturalist) PORTRAIT BY ALPHONSE LEGROS R.E. (1837-1911),
Sold for £744 (US$ 1,215) inc. premium

Lot Details
DARWIN, CHARLES (1809-1882, naturalist)
PORTRAIT BY ALPHONSE LEGROS R.E. (1837-1911),
cast bronze medallion, head in profile facing right, lettered 'Charles Darwin' and dated 1881 on an incuse border around, signed A.L., 4½ in (11.4 cm) diameter, good dark colour and patination.

Footnotes

  • REFERENCE: Laurence Brown, British Historical Medals, iii. no. 3093.

    'Inspired by what he regarded as the great naturalist's "powerful and noble head", Legros sketched his portrait on an envelope at a meeting of the Royal Society. The Magazine of Art noted the influence of the medallists of the Italian Renaissance and reacted enthusiastically to the portrait: "There never was such a head for a medal as Darwin's, and the artist has made the most of it."' (Philip Attwood, Artistic Circles, The Medal in Britain 1880-1918, 1992).

    Legros (see lot 196), born in Dijon and a close friend of Fantin-Latour and Rodin, settled in London in 1863 on Whistler's suggestion and quickly became one of the Chelsea circle of artists. He appeared as a prostitute's client in Whistler's low-life painting Wapping. In better company he appeared in Latour's Hommage a Delacroix. He was much admired by Ricketts and Shannon, and in turn he greatly admired Shannon's work, especially the portrait of Sturge Moore in this sale. He was appointed Slade Professor in 1876, is recognised as one of the greatest art teachers of the time and was important in the etching revival, particularly in portraiture. Although he lived in England for fifty years he refused to learn the language and understood only as much as he chose.

    'The modern revival of the cast portrait medal...was due to Legros.' (Timothy Wilson, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004). Always in large format, uniface, in small editions and cast in bronze (in Paris) his medals were in complete contrast to the struck medals turned out in their thousands by the manufacturers of Birmingham and London. He rightly became President of the Society of Medallists.
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