Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Spencer Perceval (1762-1812), c1812 

George Francis Joseph (1764-1846)

Portrait of Spencer Perceval (1762-1812), c1812, George Francis Joseph
Oil on canvas
19th Century
24 x 21 inches 61 x 53.3 cm
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Unusually for a man of his time, let alone a person as prominent as a Prime Minister of Great Britain, there are no known life portraits of Spencer Percival. After his assassination in 1812, however, the sculptor Nollekens fashioned a death mask, and this served as the model for a number of posthumous portraits by Joseph. These images do not refer to the statesman's murder, but instead suggest an engaging and perceptive personality, quite as one suspects that Perceval's manner and intellect may well have been depicted had he enjoyed the good fortune to sit to his portrait.

George Francis Joseph was born in Dublin in 1764 although he recognised that to succeed as a painter he would have to be trained in London. At the age of twenty he entered the Royal Academy Schools, and in 1788 began to exhibit at the Royal Academy, which he would continue to do until his death at Cambridge in 1846. In 1813 he was made an Associate of the Royal Academy in recognition of his talents. Although best known for his portraiture he won a Gold Medal in 1792 for a Shakespearean subject, a genre then much in vogue under the influence of painters such a Henry Fuseli.
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