George Romney (British, Beckside, Lancashire 1734–1802 Kendal, Cumbria)
Oil on canvas
30 x 25 in. (76.2 x 63.5 cm)
Bequest of Maria DeWitt Jesup, from the collection of her husband, Morris K. Jesup, 1914
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 629
This must be the self-portrait described by the artist's son John in 1830.
In the winter of 1795 he painted a head of himself, which, though slight, and not entirely finished, being painted at once, shows uncommon power of execution; the likeness also is strong, but there is a certain expression of languor that indicates the approach of disease. . . . It is remarkable that it is painted without spectacles, though he had been in the habit of using glasses for many years.
The last of several self-portraits by Romney, this work was described by his son, the Reverend John Romney, in the following terms (1830):
"In the winter of 1795 he painted a head of himself, which, though slight, and not entirely finished, being painted at once, shews uncommon power of execution; the likeness also, is strong, but there is a certain expression of languor that indicates the approach of disease, which had in fact already begun to assail his constitution. It is remarkable that it is painted without spectacles, though he had been in the habit of using glasses for many years."
The picture, painted when Romney was sixty, seems to betray the depression and distress to which he had from time to time been subject throughout his life and which blighted his last years. When John Romney described it as “painted at once,” he must have meant that the face was painted in a single session, leaving the balance to be worked up at a later date.
[2010; adapted from Baetjer 2009]
the artist, George Romney, Kendal (until d. 1802); Reverend John Romney, Whitestock Hall, Ulverston (1802–d. 1832); Elizabeth Romney, Whitestock Hall (1832–d. 1893; her estate sale, Christie's, London, May 24–25, 1894, no. 182, for £220.10.0 to Agnew); [Agnew, London, 1894; sold to S. Philips]; S. Philips (from 1894); Morris K. Jesup, New York (by 1904–d. 1908); Maria DeWitt (Mrs. Morris K.) Jesup, New York (1908–d. 1914)
New York. American Federation of the Arts. "English Portraits and Landscapes (circulating exhibition)," 1951–52.
Washington. Folger Shakespeare Library. "'Designs from Fancy': George Romney's Shakespearean Drawings," November 10, 1998–March 20, 1999, not in catalogue.
John Romney. Memoirs of the Life and Works of George Romney. London, 1830, p. 239, describes a 1795 self-portrait, almost certainly this painting.
Herbert Maxwell. George Romney. London, 1902, p. 188, no. 332, mentions that it was engraved by Caroline Watson.
Humphry Ward and W[illiam]. Roberts. Romney: A Biographical and Critical Essay with a Catalogue Raisonné of his Works. London, 1904, vol. 2, p. 134, no. 5, as in the Morris K. Jesup collection.
Ronald Sutherland Gower. George Romney. London, 1904, p. 124.
Arthur B. Chamberlain. George Romney. New York, 1910, pp. 205, 229.
B[ryson]. B[urroughs]. "European Paintings in the Jesup Collection." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 10 (May 1915), pp. 88–89, 94, ill.
"Bequest of Mrs. Morris K. Jesup." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 10 (February 1915), p. 22.
C. H. Collins Baker. British Painting. London, 1933, p. 286.
Barry Maclean-Eltham. George Romney: Paintings in Public Collections. Kendal, England, 1996, p. 50.
Transactions of the Romney Society 1 (1996), frontispiece, ill.
Katharine Baetjer. "British Portraits in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 57 (Summer 1999), pp. 48–49, ill. (color).
David Cross. "Romney's Cumbrian Sitters." Cumbrian Miscellany. [Barrow-in-Furness], , p. 140.
Jean Wallis. "'Everything is Flux': George Romney - By Himself." Transactions of the Romney Society 6 (2001), pp. 35, 40 n. 17.
John Ingamells. National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits, 1760–1790. London, 2004, p. 410, ill., mentions "a version, in which he looks much younger, with Spink 1921".
Katharine Baetjer. British Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575–1875. New York, 2009, pp. 134–35, no. 60, ill. (color).
Alex Kidson. George Romney: A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings. New Haven, 2015, vol. 2, p. 503, no. 1120, ill. (color); vol. 3, p. 895, ill. frontispiece (color).
Herbert Maxwell (1902) states that this work was engraved by Caroline Watson, but the engraving has not been traced and Maxwell was probably referring to one of the three engravings Watson made after earlier Romney self-portraits for William Hayley's "Life of George Romney, Esq.," London, 1809, ill. opp. title page.