Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of George Gordon Byron, Lord Byron (1788-1824), 1816 

James Holmes 

Portrait of George Gordon Byron, Lord Byron (1788-1824), 1816, James Holmes
Watercolour on ivory
19th Century
110 x 80 mm
Collection of the artist; F. Evans Esq.
B. Long British Miniaturists 1929 pp. 216 - 217 Daphne Foskett Miniatures Dictionary and Guide Antique Collectors Club 1987 p.568 Annette Peach Portraits of Byron in Walpole Society LXII 2000 p. 72
National Portrait Exhibition South Kensington Museum (now Victoria and Albert Museum) 1865
Signed and dated JH 1816 (left of shoulder)

Inscribed verso: The Right Honble/ George Gordon Byron/ painted by Jas. Holmes 12 Apl. 1816

James Holmes's portraiture of Byron is less publicly familiar than that of Thomas Phillips, and as a result, does not suffer so much from the air of inauthenticity and bragadoccio that imbues the better known likenesses. Byron was so much a victim of his own popular image, and of his own conception of that image, that the famous portraits seem now - as they did then - to be paintings rather of the phenomenon of Byron or of Byron as one of his own characters. It is telling, perhaps, that Byron himself always preferred the miniature portraiture of James Holmes, both for likeness and style, to the work of the other painters.

The present miniature is, therefore, the image of Byron as he truly saw himself, and the likeness that he specified be used in providing gifts for his closest friends. In 1815, the previous year to this portrait, Byron gave a miniature by Holmes to his then-lover Lady Caroline Lamb as a token, indicating how highly he rated Holmes's work. The present miniature is Holmes's second type of the poet, painted in 1816. The first type was painted in 1813 for the poet's mistress Lady Caroline Lamb, and though of similar format, shows Byron in Vandyke costume.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.