Since the early nineteenth century, Byron, the man and his image, have captured the hearts and minds of untold legions of people of all political and social stripes in Britain, Europe, America, and around the world. This book focuses on the history and cultural significance for Federal America of the only portrait of Byron known to have been painted by a major artist. In private hands from 1826 until this day, Thomas Sully's Byron has never before been the subject of scholarly study. Beginning with his discovery of the portrait in 1999 and a 200-year narrative of the portrait's provenance and its relation to other well-known Byron portraits, the author discusses the work within the broad context of British and American portraiture of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Receiving most attention are Thomas Lawrence and Sully, his American counterpart. The author gives the fullest account to date of Sully's career and his relation to English influences and to figures prominent in the early-nineteenth-century American imagination, among them, Washington, Fanny Kemble, Lafayette, Joseph Bonaparte, and Nicholas Biddle. Byron is discussed as an icon of the young American Republic whose Jubilee year coincided with Sully's initial work on the poet's portrait. Later chapters offer a close reading of the portrait, arguing that Sully has given a visual interpretation truly worthy of his celebrated, controversial, and famously handsome subject.

chapter |9 pages


The Importance of Portraiture

chapter One|21 pages

Provenance of a Painting

chapter Two|18 pages

Portraits of Byron

chapter Three|25 pages

First Portraitist of Philadelphia

chapter Four|29 pages

Dramatic and Historic Portraiture

George Frederick Cooke and George Washington’s Passage of the Delaware

chapter Five|29 pages

Dramatic and Historic Portraiture

Fanny Kemble and Queen Victoria

chapter Six|23 pages

Byronic Biddle

chapter Seven|21 pages

The Heroic Decade

Lafayette to Byron

chapter Eight|22 pages

A Portrait for Americans

Sully’s Byron

chapter Nine|21 pages

Lavater’s Physiognomy and Sully’s Byron

chapter Ten|21 pages

Sully’s Byron

The Quest for Verisimilitude in Portraiture