Well versed on Coleridge's last portrait
He is arguably the Westcountry's most famous son – people around the world know and love the poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge – now the last known portrait of him is about to go under the hammer for an estimated at £15,000 to £20,000.
Not only is the work remarkable for being the final portrait of the Romantic poet – it is known that Coleridge took such a shine to the Belgian artist he wrote a poem for him which ends:
"Well hast thou given the
thoughtful Poet's face!
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Yet hast thou on the tablet
of his mind
A more delightful portrait
left behind –
Even thy own youthful
beauty, and artless grace,
Thy natural gladness and
eyes bright with glee!
Be wise! be happy! and
forget not me."
However, despite the enthusiasm outlined in the poem, Coleridge was apparently less effusive about the portrait itself which he did not really like – partly because it made him look old, and partly because his friends persuaded him it lacked finesse.
Writing to the engraver E F Finden, Coleridge wrote: "A likeness, certainly, but with such unhappy Density of the Nose & idiotic Drooping of the Lip, with a certain pervading Woodenness of the whole Countenance, that it has not been thought Guilty of any great Flattery by Mr Coleridge's Friends."
The portrait – which is a pencil drawing sketched at a live sitting in London in 1833 by the young Belgian artist, J Kayser – is to be sold at Bonhams sale of books, maps, manuscripts and historical photographs in London on November 12.
Although another drawing of the famous poet was made before his death in July 1834 for a published engraving, the original has never been traced – making this the final surviving portrait. It is only one of three known Coleridge portraits to remain in private hands.
In all, there are 28 lots associated with Coleridge and his family in the sale which Bonhams say is likely to be the last opportunity admirers will have to acquire major pieces associated with the poet.