Richard Dadd

Portrait of a Young Man


Not on display
Richard Dadd 1817–1886
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 606 x 500 mm
frame: 800 x 695 x 75 mm
Bequeathed by Ian L. Phillips 1984, accessioned 1992

Display caption

This portrait was painted at Bethlem Royal Hospital in London, although the sitter is unknown. He could be one of the attendants in charge of the inmates at the hospital. The sunflower is possibly an allusion to the god Osiris (with whom Dadd was obsessed) who was traditionally identified with the sun. The bright red fez (a type of oriental cap) may be the one Dadd himself wore on his travels in the Middle East.

Gallery label, May 2007

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Technique and condition

The painting is in drying oil on a light coloured ground. Glue lining has damaged the original surface texture and removed evidence of the original attachment and stretcher. In many areas, e.g. the tree roots (bottom left), detailed pencil drawing is visible through quite thin layers of paint which follow it closely. There appear to be no major alterations or changes in composition during painting.

In general the paint was applied painstakingly with a fine brush having minimum covering power except in the darks which are applied a little more thickly and in the lights which have significant impasto.

Compressed cracks in the lighter areas and cissing in the darks suggest an oil medium with added resin. No analysis has been carried out.

The varnish is a slightly discoloured glossy soft resin which was thinned and revarnished with a modern synthetic varnish in 1973.


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