Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait Bust of Benjamin Disraeli PM Earl of Beaconsfield (1804-81) 1880c

Count Victor Gleichen 

Portrait Bust of Benjamin Disraeli PM Earl of Beaconsfield (1804-81), Count Victor Gleichen
19th Century
17 3/4 inches high 45.1 cm
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The most successful sculpted portrait of Disraeli, the first version of this bust (signed and dated 1880) is in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle. Following his two terms in office as Prime Minister, Disraeli became an intimate friend of Queen Victoria and this led her to commission the portrait from the society sculptor Count Gleichen, who was also her cousin. The popularity of the bust, which was one of the last images produced within Disraeliís lifetime, resulted in a demand for a number of replicas which Gleichen executed in terracotta, marble and bronze. It was also much copied in parian ware and other media making it the most circulated image of the politician.

The sculptor, a cousin of Queen Victoria, had a distinguished naval career (that included a recommendation for the Victoria Cross) before he was compelled to retire on half-pay in 1866. Prince Victor was subsequently appointed Governor and Constable of Windsor Castle. On his marriage in 1861 assumed the title of Count Gleichen. After his retirement from the navy, he devoted himself to artistic pursuits studying sculpture under William Theed.

Rendered impecunious following the collapse of a bank caused Gleichen to take up sculpting professionally and he established a studio in his apartments at St.James's Palace. He built up an extremely successful practice and executed both statues and portrait busts as well as being a regular contributor at the Royal Academy. Amongst the best known are those of the Earl of Beaconsfield, the Marquis of Salisbury and Sir Henry Keppel. His most important civic commission was a statue of Alfred the Great, executed for the town of Wantage. His success as a sculptor enabled him to build a house at Ascot and in 1885 Count and Countess Gleichen were permitted by the queen to revert to the tiles of Prince and Princess Victor of Hohenlohe-Langenburg.
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