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So – what did Collingwood look like? 10 February, 2010

Posted by Molly Joyful in Art, Books, Cuthbert Collingwood, Family, Lady Sarah, Letters, Trivia.
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It’s not unrealistic to assume that some of the artists in the 18th century were flattering their customers. The absence of a smile, a clenched jaw and determined glare on a painting can be expressions of determination and a firm character or the artist’s attempt at hiding loss of teeth due to scurvy. Caveat visor.

But really, who could blame artist or customer; the wish to leave a positive image of oneself to future generations is timeless. If you’ve ever seen a picture of Madonna before and after photoshop-treatment, you know that photography can’t be trusted, either.

So, what about Admiral Lord Collingwood? Are we seeing his real face on the portraits?

I think it’s safe to say that the portraits of Admiral Lord Collingwood are more accurate than many others. While not without vanity (and really, who is!), he certainly wasn’t the man to insist on the “big hair” treatment. We know that he sent a portrait painted by Giuseppe Sorcevani to his wife Sarah, who hadn’t seen him for five years and was not pleased with the sight, to say the least. (Had she lived today, she’d probably posted a “OMGWTF” lolcat macro to her blog…)

Collingwood, who thought the artist was pretty much spot on with his portrayal, sent a snarky note to his dearly beloved:

I am sorry to find my picture was not an agreeable surprise (…) you expected to find me a smooth-skinned, clear-complexioned gentleman, such as I was when I left home, dressed in the newest taste, and like the fine people who live gay lives ashore. Alas! it is far otherwise with me (…) The painter represented me as I am, not as I once was. It is time and toil that have worked the change, and not his want of skill.
(ibid pp. 204-205)

We have to thank Captain Abraham Crawford for the following description of Collingwood. His memoirs are available for online reading here.

(…) At the time I write of, Lord Collingwood was between fifty and sixty, thin and spare in person, which was then slightly bent, and in height about five feet ten inches. His head was small, with a pale, smooth round face, the features of which would pass without notice, were it not for the eyes, which were blue, clear, and penetrating; and the mouth, the lips of which were thin and compressed, indicating firmness and decision of character. He wore his hair powdered, and tied in a queue, in the style of officers of his age at that time ; and his clothes were squared and fashioned after the strictest rules of the good old sea school, To his very ample coat, which had a stiff, standup collar, were appended broad and very long skirts—the deep flaps of his single-breasted white waistcoat, descending far below his middle, covered a portion of his thighs; and blue knee-breeches, with white stockings, and buckles to his shoes, completed his attire.

“Reminiscences of a Naval Officer, during the Late War” (1851) by Captain Abraham Crawford.
(Very special thanks to ShipRat for sending in this quote)

As this blog here is Very Serious Business, we went about the question of Collingwood’s looks with a strictly scientific approach. Means: we ran his portrait through the Facial Beauty Analyser. You’ll be pleased to hear that Admiral Lord Collingwood scored a stunning 8.94 points out of 10. That’s 0.01 point MORE than Orlando Bloom, and 0.29 points more than James D’Arcy.

Which proves – nothing. But it’s more fun than shovelling snow.

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Comments»

1. kseverny - 10 February, 2010

that really is quite interesting.
Definately more fun than shovelling snow

Molly Joyful - 11 February, 2010

Having finished yet another round of shovelling, I can honestly say that ANYTHING is more fun.

2. Jen - 11 February, 2010

I’d love to know what she said – although maybe I wouldn’t really, because he sounds quite hurt by it.

Molly Joyful - 11 February, 2010

I can understand that she was shocked, but I agree, her comments were probably not very tactful.

3. ShipRat - 12 February, 2010

In the portrait in question, he does look like hell – 10 to 20 years older than his actual age. A sharp contrast to the good-looking man he once was. Sarah must have been genuinely alarmed for his well-being – tact can evade you when you’re frightened…

As for the print you analyzed in the fabulous beauty machine – that’s one I never much cared for as it’s a little malformed and remote from life.
Still, miraculously, he scored pretty high! What a guy! Smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back for breakfast

Jen - 14 February, 2010

I don’t think I’ve seen it – is there a copy online somewhere?

ShipRat - 15 February, 2010

I’ve made a “before and after” image and I’m going to send it to Molly – maybe she can put it in a post.

4. ShipRat - 12 February, 2010

Whoops I didn’t think the video would embed. Can’t edit that, can I? Oh well…


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