A lost portrait of Charles Dickens will be exhibited in the writer’s former home | Charles Dickens


The lost portrait of Charles Dickens, recently rediscovered after 130 years, is due to go on display at his home in April.

Margaret Gillies’ painting will be on display from April 2-7 at the Charles Dickens Museum in west London, where the novelist wrote Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby, completed The Pickwick Papers and started Barnaby Rudge.

Dickens moved into the Bloomsbury townhouse with his young family in 1837. The museum now has the world’s most comprehensive collection of material relating to his life and work.

The museum is trying to raise funds to buy the painting and bring it permanently to Doughty Street. His campaign has so far raised £65,000 of the £180,000 needed.

In 2017, a miniature portrait covered in mold was sold at a household goods auction in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, as part of a trinket box.

The painting arrived at the Philip Mold & Co gallery in London last year and after conservation and provenance research was confirmed to be Gillies’ portrait of Dickens.

The painting took six sittings in 1843 when Dickens was 31 and writing A Christmas Carol.

After publication, the portrait was exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition of 1844.

Upon seeing the portrait, poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning said it “had the dust and mud of humanity around it, despite those eagle eyes”. Dickens, born in Portsmouth, died in 1870 aged 58.

In 1886 Gillies said she had “lost sight of the portrait itself” and it remained lost until the auction in South Africa.

Cindy Sughrue, Director of the Charles Dickens Museum, said: ‘We are delighted to bring the magnificent lost portrait to the museum. When Philip Mold contacted us last year and we were able to see an image of the painting, it was an exciting moment.

“The discovery would have been remarkable anyway, but it is all the more so because the portrait itself is exquisite.

“The talent of the artist is evident in the finesse of each brushstroke, in each strand of hair, and in the sparkling eyes that stare straight into yours. And in those eyes you see the complexity of the man – the confidence of success, urgency, warmth and compassion, but also a hint of vulnerability.

“This exhibition is only temporary, but we are confident to raise the remaining funds needed to bring the portrait to the museum permanently.

“We are so grateful to everyone who has donated to the cause so far and urge those who love Dickens to help us reach our fundraising goal.”


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