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Darwin Correspondence Project

2.21 Montford, relief at Christ's College

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An oval bronze plaque with a relief portrait of Darwin by Horace Montford is at Christ’s College, Cambridge, the college where Darwin had been an undergraduate. It is likely to have been based on one of the many photographs of him in his later years, which Montford must have used as study material when planning the statue at Shrewsbury. The three-quarter view of Darwin’s head is especially reminiscent of photographs taken by Elliott and Fry in the 1870s, which were, indeed, often reproduced in an oval format. However, Montford seems to have slightly refined the shape of Darwin’s nose, and to have imparted flowing curls to his beard. The work is undated, but must be earlier than 1909, when it was lent by Montford himself to the Darwin exhibition at Christ’s College. The circumstances of its subsequent acquisition by the College are unknown, but it was found in a storeroom there in 2009 and is now mounted on the wall inside the College gate. It is positioned on the left side of the archway leading to the First Court, and the sunlight falling on it from the right brings out the subtlety of Montford’s modelling of Darwin’s features. 

  • physical location Christ’s College, Cambridge 

  • accession or collection number CC00286 

  • copyright holder Christ’s College, Cambridge 

  • originator of image Horace Montford 

  • date of creation unknown; before June 1909 

  • computer-readable date unknown; before 1909-05-31. 

  • medium and material bronze, unframed, but mounted on a wooden panel 

  • references and bibliography Darwin Centenary: The Portraits, Prints and Writings of Charles Robert Darwin, exhibited at Christ’s College, Cambridge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1909), p. 33, no. 182. J.W. Goodison, Catalogue of the Portraits in Christ’s, Clare and Sidney Sussex Colleges, Cambridge Antiquarian Records Society, vol. 7, 1985, p. 11, no. 18. John van Wyhe, Charles Darwin in Cambridge: The Most Joyful Years (New Jersey: World Scientific, 2014), p. 128. J. van Wyhe, ‘Iconography’, p. 117. 


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