Rare lifetime miniature portrait of Keats?

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Rare lifetime miniature portrait of Keats?

Postby Cath » Tue Apr 09, 2013 4:32 pm

It was reported in The Telegraph yesterday that Bonhams in America has acquired a rare lifetime lifetime miniature portrait of the poet John Keats pictured here:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/artsales/9980130/Market-news-rare-portrait-of-Keats-found-by-Bonhams.html

It seems to have been reproduced on the frontispiece of a Keats biography published in 1933 - Autobiography of John Keats by William Wilke (Stanford University Press, USA) who claimed it was by Charles Hayter (1761-1835). On the reverse of the miniature portrait there is a lock of hair (supposedly Keats's). Bonhams says that the painting technique and framing are contemporary with the final years of Keats’s life.

I'm always a little skeptical about rarities turning up centuries later although I acknowledge not all are inauthentic. I also don't think it looks very much like the Keats we know from other paintings or the life and death masks, though it *could* simply be a poor likeness and of course he is shown in boyhood here.

What do you all think?

---------
The article:
A rare lifetime miniature portrait of John Keats and a group of five drawings by John Constable have been found by Bonhams in America, and are to be sold in London this summer. The history of the miniature is still being unravelled, but the portrait was known because it was reproduced on the frontispiece of a biography of Keats published by Stanford University Press, California, in 1933. As most portraits of Keats, who died in 1821 aged 25, are posthumous and based on a painting of him seated, this painting of the poet against a sky background is unique. The painting technique and framing are contemporary with the final years of Keats’s life, says Bonhams. In the back of the frame is a lock of dark blond hair.

The painting is thought to have been acquired by the recently deceased owner in San Francisco in the Fifties, but how it got to America is not known. The artist is not known either, but authorship has been attributed to the circle of the miniatures painter Charles Hayter, with an estimate of £10,000 to £15,000.
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Re: Rare lifetime miniature portrait of Keats?

Postby Malia » Tue Apr 09, 2013 6:03 pm

I like to think it's Keats and it is very like--if you were to firm up the jaw and thin the lips a bit. He does look awfully young (like teenage) in this representation, though. I'm going to create my own story and believe it was done in life and taken with George to America until we learn more about its provenance. I *hope* it was done in life. The article said there was a lock of hair encased with it. Could it be Keats'? Probably faded if they say it was blonde.
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Re: Rare lifetime miniature portrait of Keats?

Postby Cath » Wed Apr 10, 2013 4:00 pm

Here's the portrait:
Image

The Guardian also published an article on the story today:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/apr/10/john-keats-portrait-auction

I wonder whether Keats House Hampstead or the Keats-Shelley-House in Rome are looking into acquiring it?

More info about Charles Hayter here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Hayter. Hayter painted a portrait of Byron's wife, Anne Isabella Milbanke, in 1812 which is shown via the link.

@Malia: Probably more likely that it was sold to an American collector, but I prefer your story! William Wilke who originally used the portrait in his book wrote that it was Keats's hair, but Bonhams are saying that it's "probably" his hair since it hasn't been formally verified...
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Re: Rare lifetime miniature portrait of Keats?

Postby Saturn » Wed Apr 10, 2013 5:23 pm

Have to say I'm convinced, it does look very like many descriptions of him, and other portraits.
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Re: Rare lifetime miniature portrait of Keats?

Postby Malia » Wed Apr 10, 2013 5:36 pm

Yes, it must be him. The latest article says it was probably done when he was a teenager, which accounts for the somewhat "baby-faced" look. I love how it is the one portrait we have where he's looking the artist in the eye. Interesting that his eyes are blue (or appear to be). Wasn't there some disagreement by friends and acquaintances as to his eye color? The men seemed to think his eyes were hazel or brown; the women, blue.
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Re: Rare lifetime miniature portrait of Keats?

Postby Cybele » Wed Apr 10, 2013 6:47 pm

I saw this on a Tweet from the Keats Shelley House. I agree that if it's a portrait of our guy, it's a teenage Keats. (There's still some sweet, child-like chubbiness in the cheeks.) But what's with the lazy eye? I don't recall anyone mentioning poor eyesight in one eye. (The eyes do not appear to be looking at the same thing. Is this due to a lack of skill on the part of the miniaturist or amblyopia?)

And hair color? His was often described as auburn or non-carrot red. And, the other portrait of him known to have been done while he was still alive is the close-to-life-size head in "Christ's Entry. . ." by B.R. Haydon. (This, BTW, is my avatar.) This shows Keats with dark-ish red hair, not brown. (That there's a blond lock of hair with the miniature doesn't tell us much, since light hair color often darkens as a person matures.)

These things said, Keats mentioned in a letter to George that he and Georgiana should show their soon-to-be born baby his picture every day, so it seems to me likely that the Georges took miniatures of their siblings with them to America.

Could this be that portrait? Maybe someday we'll find out for certain.
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Re: Rare lifetime miniature portrait of Keats?

Postby Malia » Wed Apr 10, 2013 7:13 pm

Cybele, there is an unfaded lock of Keats's hair on the Keats House website (in their collections page). To me, his hair was a kind of reddish golden brown and could--depending on the light and how thickly gathered the hair is--be seen as either golden russet or a light reddish brown.

Also, thanks for mentioning the letter to the Georges. I *knew* they had his portrait with them--and it couldn't have been the Severn miniature, it was done in 1819, right? So, who knows?? Though, you'd think George's family would keep this miniature *in* the family as an heirloom. . . the mystery deepens!
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Re: Rare lifetime miniature portrait of Keats?

Postby Cybele » Wed Apr 10, 2013 11:42 pm

Malia, I'd always assumed that it was a miniature by Severn that George and Georgiana took with them to Kentucky. I also understood that Joseph Severn was more a friend of George's than John's. Georgiana's second husband greatly admired George, so I would think that he would have kept the miniature of George's beloved big brother.
I saw no mention of the miniature when I went to the Filson Club in Louisville, I've never run into a reference to it in any of the George biographies or articles. But then, well, it was a *miniature* after all, and those I've seen would easily get lost if not lovingly preserved by the family.
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Re: Rare lifetime miniature portrait of Keats?

Postby Cybele » Wed Apr 10, 2013 11:45 pm

Malia, I'd always assumed that it was a miniature by Severn that George and Georgiana took with them to Kentucky. I also understood that Joseph Severn was more a friend of George's than John's. Georgiana's second husband greatly admired George, so I would think that he would have kept the miniature of George's beloved big brother.

But then, well, it was a *miniature* after all, and those I've seen would easily get lost if not lovingly preserved by the family.
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Re: Rare lifetime miniature portrait of Keats?

Postby Malia » Thu Apr 11, 2013 12:02 am

I wonder if there was more than one copy of the Severn miniature? As I thought Keats had left a copy with Fanny Brawne when he went to Italy.

Yes, I think Severn was originally George's friend. Severn kind of skirted the Keats circle for most of his acquaintance with Keats and was more an admirer than a friend, I think. Both George and Keats could become exasperated with Severn at times (George showing it more openly than John--there's a letter in the Gigante bio that illustrates this relationship very well).
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Re: Rare lifetime miniature portrait of Keats?

Postby Raphael » Sat Apr 20, 2013 10:23 pm

And hair color? His was often described as auburn or non-carrot red. And, the other portrait of him known to have been done while he was still alive is the close-to-life-size head in "Christ's Entry. . ." by B.R. Haydon. (This, BTW, is my avatar.) This shows Keats with dark-ish red hair, not brown. (That there's a blond lock of hair with the miniature doesn't tell us much, since light hair color often darkens as a person matures.)



Hair colour can vary according to the light one is in, and also it can change during the summer months due to the sun- lighten or even get redder. I think he had that sort of inbetween colour that was a sort of golden brown with red highlights, hence some people describing it is auburn, and some describing it as golden brown or even dark blonde.

On the contrary this lock of hair could tell us LOADS- take a piece of it, and take a piece of the lock in Hampstead and DNA test them- if the DNA are the same we know this one with the portrait is his, and the portrait is meant to be him. The lock of hair can also tell us much about his health as hair can give indications of diet and toxins in the body e.g lead- look at what they did with Beethoven's hair:

http://www.sjsu.edu/beethoven/collectio ... estpc.html


Here is the lock of Beethoven's hair:

http://www.sjsu.edu/beethoven/collectio ... /hair.html

The Master freely gave his hair to doctors as he believed that scientists in the future might be able to discover more of what his illnesses were.

The portrait looks slightly like John Keats in the hair and the colouring. The eyes are large but to me look a greyish brown not blue. It has a Severn style to it as well.
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Re: Rare lifetime miniature portrait of Keats?

Postby Cybele » Sun Apr 21, 2013 4:15 am

I wonder how those double posts above happened. (Back when I posted them, it looked to me as if the first one didn't "take" so I tried again.) Apologies to everybody.

I know Severn made several copies of the one miniature, but thought they had all been done after Keats died. I don't know if Severn had met John as early as the older Keats boys were both still in their teens.

I remember reading in some science magazine 20-some years ago that a sample of Keats's hair was tested for opiates. All it confirmed was yes, he had used opium. (Shelley, interestingly, tested "clean.")
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Re: Rare lifetime miniature portrait of Keats?

Postby Raphael » Sun Apr 21, 2013 2:36 pm

Cybele wrote:I wonder how those double posts above happened. (Back when I posted them, it looked to me as if the first one didn't "take" so I tried again.) Apologies to everybody.

I know Severn made several copies of the one miniature, but thought they had all been done after Keats died. I don't know if Severn had met John as early as the older Keats boys were both still in their teens.

I remember reading in some science magazine 20-some years ago that a sample of Keats's hair was tested for opiates. All it confirmed was yes, he had used opium. (Shelley, interestingly, tested "clean.")


If I remember rightly the first likeness of John Keats was done in 1816- the Severn charcoal drawing. Although this newly discovered picture is said to show clothing from 1810-15, doesn't mean it wasn't done at a later date..after all the Keats family were not rich and people those days wore their clothes til they wore out.

Regarding the opium- well was given by the doctors wasn't it. No surprise there.
John....you did not live to see-
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Re: Rare lifetime miniature portrait of Keats?

Postby Ravenwing » Sun Apr 21, 2013 3:09 pm

Adieu.
Last edited by Ravenwing on Mon Jun 24, 2013 9:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Rare lifetime miniature portrait of Keats?

Postby Saturn » Sun Apr 21, 2013 7:48 pm

Cybele wrote:(Shelley, interestingly, tested "clean.")


Shelley was legendarily abstemious, a vegetarian before such a word was even coined, didn't drink or anything.
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