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'Lost' Charles Dickens portrait to go on permanent display

Charles Dickens portrait Image copyright Philip Mould & Company
Image caption The Charles Dickens Museum raised £180,000 to purchase the portrait

A lost portrait of Charles Dickens which had not been seen in public for 174 years is to go on permanent display after £180,000 was raised to secure it.

The watercolour of the famous writer was found covered in mould inside a box of trinkets which were sold at auction in South Africa in 2017.

It was painted over six sittings by Margaret Gillies in 1843 while Dickens was working on A Christmas Carol.

The Charles Dickens Museum, in London, has raised £180,000 to purchase it.

Image copyright Philip Mould & Company
Image caption The painting was found covered in mould in a box with an old recorder and a metal toy lobster

The miniature was exhibited at the 1844 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition after the publication of the novelist's iconic festive book and became a defining image of him at the time.

However, it was not seen again with Gillies noting in 1886 she had "lost sight of the portrait itself".

Two years ago it appeared at an auction in Pietermaritzburg in a box alongside an old recorder and a metal toy lobster.

It then arrived in London at the Philip Mould & Co Gallery where, following conservation work, it was confirmed to be the missing portrait.

The firm described "Dickens's astonishing re-emergence, not least from beneath an obscuring wall of fungus" as an "epic tale with a supremely happy ending".

Image copyright Charles Dickens Museum
Image caption The Charles Dickens Museum is in a house which the writer and his wife moved into in 1837

Having purchased it following a funding appeal, the painting will form part of the Charles Dickens Museum's permanent collection.

Museum director Cindy Sughrue said it had been a "heart-in-mouth moment" when she first found out about the miniature.

"We are so excited to be bringing the 'lost' portrait home," she said.

It is set to go on display on 24 October.

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