Profile portrait relief, plaster

Canvas size:
9.5 inches (24 cm) diameter

Framed size:
15.5 inches (39 cm) diameter

Frame info:

Original turned wood frame


Samuel Laurence, portrait painter (1812-1884)

Horace N. Pym

With Maas Gallery

Roy Davids

Bonhams 3 October 2005

With Campbell Wilson


F. Kaplan, Thomas Carlyle, 1993

R. Ormonde, Early Victorian Portraits,1973 and Thomas Carlyle, 1981

A. Woolner, Thomas Woolner, R.A.. His Life and Letters, 1917

Woolner is recorded as working on two medallion portraits of Carlyle, the first in 1851, the second in 1855. The sittings were arranged for Woolner by the poet Coventry Patmore and in May 1851 Carlyle wrote to Woolner to tell him that “The Medallion is favourably hung up; and excites the approbation of a discerning public - as it deserves to do”. The second medallion of 1855 appears to be a re-working of the first and not taken from a second sitting from Carlyle, who by that time had grown a beard. In a letter to W Bell Scott in 1855 Woolner wrote : “I have made a new one of him (Tennyson), much better than the last; also a new Carlyle, better than the old one”. This present example, dated 1855, will be from this re-working. Woolner exhibited a “Medallion of Thomas Carlyle Esq.” at the Royal Academy in 1852, which can be assumed to be the 1851 work. In 1856 he again exhibited “Thomas Carlyle Esq.” , which can be assumed to be an example of his 1855 medallion. In 1857 at the RA he exhibits “Thomas Carlyle Esq. bronze medallion”, exhibiting a bronze medallion of Tennyson that same year.

The re-workings of Carlyle and Tennyson can be ascribed in part to Woolner’s trip to Australia. He left in 1852 to try his luck in the gold fields. This proving unsuccessful he reverted to sculpting, producing in Melbourne a series of portrait medallions. But he returned to England in 1854, determined to continue sculpting and very keen to resuscitate his earlier reputation. To that end re-issuing his medallions of famous men would seem shrewd. He made medallions of other literary figures including Wordsworth and Browning, but Tennyson and Carlyle seem to have been his most popular and it is they that interestingly were most often seen as a pair. It is not known how many of either the 1851 or the 1855 castings were produced. An educated guess would perhaps arrive at about 10 in each case. The following are known to exist:

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