Now showing at NPG London

I had a happy morning in London today (not something I can often claim…), on a visit to the National Portrait Gallery to see a very special painting.

You might remember that William Dobson’s earliest self-portrait, which had been in private hands since it was painted, reappeared last year at auction and was sold for nearly £1m. I had been concerned that it would go abroad and into another private collection, never to be seen again, but thankfully that didn’t happen, and the owner has now generously lent it to the NPG so that everyone can go and see it.

WD at NPG2

It really is a remarkable portrait when seen in person, and easily grabs your attention thanks to the intricate gold frame and those expressive Dobson eyes that follow you around the room. What I find most fascinating, and I’ve never seen this before, is that if you look closely at the left side of his face (the viewer’s left, Dobson’s right), you can see the slight distortion that appears when you look at a face in a mirror. You know how the symmetry is always slightly ‘off’ when you view someone’s reflection? Dobson seems to have added this to his portrait, so that one side – particularly the nose – is ever so slightly tilted, giving an intriguing little hint into how he worked. I can just see him, sitting at his easel with paint brushes and a mirror…

Maybe I’m imagining things? If you have the chance to visit the gallery,  let me know if you see it too!

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  1. Don’t I wish I could go to the NPG! ::gnashes teeth::

    So glad the painting hasn’t left England. Is it on permanent loan, or temporary?


    • Sorry! 😛 It doesn’t say how long it will be there, which is why I rushed down there today! It looks like it’ll be a while though, given how it’s been hung and labelled. There’s no end-date given, just the usual label all the permanent works have.


      • I’d be speeding down to any gallery that had an equivalent painting, too!

        That sounds promising. Fingers crossed!


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