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Darwin Correspondence Project

1.5 Samuel Laurence drawing 2

This chalk sketch of Darwin by Samuel Laurence is (as Francis Darwin surmised) likely to have been done in 1853, at the same sitting as the portrait in three-quarter view which is now at Down House. It is inscribed on the back of the sheet: ’Sketch of Charles Darwin made by Samuel Laurence with a view to the large portrait in oil at Down. This was bought by me from Munns [i.e. Messrs F. Munns in Cambridge] after the sale of the contents of Samuel Laurence’s studio. T. McKenney Hughes.’ Frank Miles, in his typescript catalogue of Laurence’s works, noted that the catalogue of the Laurence studio sale by the London firm of Puttick and Simpson in 1884 ‘makes no mention of a Darwin portrait’. However, the lots included ‘Various large original Sketches of Portraits (un-named)’: it would not be surprising if the young beardless Darwin in this slight sketch was unrecognised. The reference to an oil portrait of Darwin by Laurence is again unexplained. What is certain is that Thomas McKenny Hughes, Woodwardian Professor of Geology at Cambridge, lent this drawing to the Darwin Centenary exhibition at Christ’s College in 1909. He subsequently gave or bequeathed it to the Sedgwick Museum of Geology (now the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences), which he had helped to found, and which opened in its new building in 1904. 

  • physical location Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, Cambridge 

  • accession or collection number unknown 

  • copyright holder Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge 

  • originator of image Samuel Laurence 

  • date of creation probably 1853 

  • computer-readable date probably 1853-01-01 to 1853-12-31 

  • medium and material black chalk heightened with white and touches of red, on buff paper 

  • references and bibliography Messrs Puttick and Simpson, Catalogue of the Contents of the Studio of Samuel Laurence, Esq., Painter, deceased (12 June 1884), p. 10, nos. 221–8. Francis Darwin (ed.), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin 3 vols, vol. 3 (London: John Murray, 1887), p. 371. Darwin Centenary: The Portraits, Prints and Writings of Charles Robert Darwin, exhibited at Christ’s College, Cambridge, 1909 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1909), p. 4, no. 9. J.W. Goodison, Catalogue of Cambridge Portraits I: The University Collection (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1955), p. 148, no. 269. Frank Miles, Samuel Laurence, unpublished and unpaginated typescript catalogue of Laurence’s works, in the National Portrait Gallery library, M5 1950. 


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