This portrait of Lord Byron by Thomas Phillips depicts the renowned poet and society figure dressed in traditional Albanian costume. He wears an oriental-style, red velvet jacket and headdress, with a velvet cloak draped across his left arm. Byron bought the costume in the region of Epirus (part of modern Greece and Albania) in 1809, while on a Grand Tour across southern Europe with his great friend, the politician John Cam Hobhouse (1786–1869).
Byron sat for this painting in 1813, at the age of 25, and evidently had some influence over its appearance. He was particularly sensitive to full-length representations of himself as he had suffered from a lame foot since childhood and had a noticeable limp. He also asked Phillips to repaint his nose in a more flattering fashion. In the portrait, the translucent paleness of his skin contrasts with the dark velvet of his costume, inspiring Sir Walter Scott to liken the portrait to a beautiful alabaster lamp, lit from within. The portrait was exhibited to great acclaim at the Royal Academy in 1814. It was later bought by Lady Judith Noel, Byron's mother-in-law, and hung at Kirkby Hall, her residence in Kirkby Mallory, Leicestershire.
Where to see this painting?
Government Art Collection
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