DICKENS (CHARLES) MAYALL (JOHN JABEZ EDWIN) Profile portrait of Charles Dickens, 1853-1855

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Lot 40
DICKENS (CHARLES) MAYALL (JOHN JABEZ EDWIN)
Profile portrait of Charles Dickens, 1853-1855

£ 50,000 - 70,000
US$ 69,000 - 97,000
DICKENS (CHARLES)
MAYALL (JOHN JABEZ EDWIN) Profile portrait of Charles Dickens, quarter-plate daguerreotype, mounted as oval within gilt mount, photographer's studio credit stamp 'Mayall 224 Regent St. & 433 West Strand London' in gilt on the reverse of the morocco case, image 95 x 70mm., 1853-1855

Footnotes

  • "WE HAVE BEEN HAUNTING THE DARK CHAMBERS OF PHOTOGRAPHERS" (Household Words) - a fine daguerreotype portrait of Dickens from the years of Bleak House and Hard Times.

    John Edwin Mayall began his photographic career in the United States, and on his return to England in 1846, worked briefly with Antoine Claudet. Mayall's reputation was secured by his success at the 1851 Great Exhibition, and he operated studios at both the West Strand and Regent Street addresses between 1852 and 1855 - providing a broad date range for the present portrait.

    Dickens records sitting for him in a letter to Angela Burdett-Coutts of 23 December 1852: "I am happy to say that the little piece of business between the Sun and myself, came off with the greatest success... I am disposed to think the portrait, by far the best specimen of anything that way, I have ever seen." An earlier half-figure portrait attributed to Claudet, from around 1850, shows the writer clean-shaven. Dickens seems to have consistently worn a moustache from 1853 or 1854 (see online resource, 'Portraits of Charles Dickens' on Sussex PhotoHistory, compiled by David Simkin). In January 1855 Mayall exhibited a stereoscopic daguerreotype of Dickens at the Photographic Society's exhibition in London, and on 1 December 1855, the Illustrated Times published an engraving "from a recent daguerreotype" by him (perhaps the stereoscopic one) where Dickens' appearance is very similar to the present portrait.

    In October 1856, Dickens declined Mayall's invitation for another sitting, on the grounds of having "so much to do and such a disinclination to multiply my 'counterfeit presentments'." From that time, he began to sport a goatee, and soon after a fuller chin beard. Frederick Kitton, in 1888, would refer to "the many daguerreotypes by Mayall [of Dickens]", implying several sittings between 1852 and 1856 ('Charles Dickens and his less familiar portraits', The Magazine of Art, vol. 2) - although few, if any, of these others survive.

    Dickens' Household Words published in 1853 an article on the inner workings of a daguerreotype studio, drawing on a visit to Mayall's Regent Street premises (vol. vii, no. 156, 19 March 1853). The article mentions "Mr Mayall's very neat method of producing what are called crayon portraits in daguerreotype", by shading down the edges of the image with a moving mask. Mayall has used this technique in the present portrait. A copy of the relevant volume of Household Words is included in the lot.

    Provenance: Charles Cloney, reclusive photography collector; sold as part of his estate, Christie's, 11 May 2001, lot 82; thence by descent from the purchaser.
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DICKENS (CHARLES) MAYALL (JOHN JABEZ EDWIN) Profile portrait of Charles Dickens, 1853-1855
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