LANDOR, WALTER SAVAGE (1775-1864)
PORTRAIT BY ALFRED COUNT D'ORSAY (1801-1852), SIGNED BY THE ARTIST AND THE SITTER ('A d'Orsay fecit Gore House 14 July 1845' and 'Walter Savage Landor'), pencil and wash, half length in profile seated, also inscribed by d'Orsay in ink in his engrossing hand 'offered by Comte d'Orsay to Walter Dickens', framed and glazed, size of image 11 ½ x 8 ½ inches (29 cx 21 cm) overall size 8 ½ x 14 ½ inches (47 x 37 cm), Gore House, 14 July 1845
THIS IS AN UNRECORDED PORTRAIT OF LANDOR BY HIS GREAT FRIEND D'ORSAY. An earlier portrait of Landor by d'Orsay, dated 1839, was lithographed, a copy of which was purchased by the National Portrait Gallery in 1966; that was also 'signed' by Landor, but, of course, in the stone. That portrait was, like the present one, and most of D'Orsay's portraits, taken in profile.
Gore House in Kensington, was home to Lady Blessington's salons, where she and her lover [whether agape or romantic is not entirely clear] d'Orsay were the leaders of 'The Gore House Set'. Landor visited the house frequently, and having overcome his initial dislike for society, it became the house 'in which his happiest London life was passed' (Forster). He came to say: 'The moment I leave the gates of this house, I feel as a badger would turned out of a bag in Cheapside.' Landor and d'Orsay, the Beau Brummell of his day and a renowned society artist, became firm friends. Landor entertained him and Lady Blessington at his home in Florence and made a third with Lady Blessington and d'Orsay in a picture that she had ordered apparently from Valentini. When d'Orsay died, Landor wrote: 'The death of poor, dear D'Orsay fell heavily tho' not unexpectedly upon me...With many foibles and great faults, he was generous and sincere. Neither spirits nor wit ever failed him, and he was ready at all times to lay down his life for a friend. I felt a consolation in the loss of Lady Blessington, in the thought how unhappy she would have been had see survived him. The world will never see united so much genius and pleasantry, as I have met, year after year, under her roof.'
D'Orsay married the daughter of Lord Blessington by his former wife, pressed into it by the unsuspicious Blessington himself. The daughter served to hide 'the indiscretions of her step-mother' and they all lived together in harmony. In 1829, when Lord Blessington died, Lady Blessington returned to England with D'Orsay and when he left England in 1849, she followed him to Paris.
Walter Landor Dickens (1841-1863), to whom d'Orsay so appropriately inscribed this portrait, was the fourth son of Charles Dickens and the godson of Walter Savage Landor.
REFERENCES: National Portrait Gallery collections online; Letters of Walter Savage Landor Private and Public, edited by Stephen Wheeler, 1899; Malcolm Elwin, Landor: A Replevin, 1958; Landor: A Biographical Anthology, compiled and edited by Herbert van Thal, 1973; R.H. Super, Walter Savage Landor: A Biography, 1957.