What the Dickens? Oliver Twist author’s newly-uncovered ‘glorious moustache’ period gets a mixed response as it goes on show for the first time
- Rare portrait of Charles Dickens with moustache has gone on show for first time
- Portrait was made in 1852-55 and has been in a private collection for 20 years
- It was donated to the Charles Dickens Museum and will be on show until March
- The Oliver Twist author is recognised for his trademark beard, not a moustache
- One of Dickens’ friends described his moustache as a ‘hideous disfigurement’
An ‘extremely rare’ portrait of Charles Dickens donning a ‘glorious’ moustache has gone on show for the first time ever, but the bold look has received mixed reviews.
The Oliver Twist author was known for his trademark beard, but the daguerreotype profile portrait shows his handlebar-style moustache, which he only sported for a few years.
The portrait was made in around 1852-55, when he was writing Bleak House and Hard Times, but has been in a private collection for 20 years. It was rediscovered in the collection of an Irish photography enthusiast Charles Cloney.
An ‘extremely rare’ portrait of Charles Dickens donning a ‘glorious’ moustache has gone on show for the first time ever, but the bold look has received mixed reviews
But the author’s unique facial hair has received mixed reviews, with British Library curator Andrea Lloyd claiming that Dickens’s friend John Forster described the moustache as a ‘hideous disfigurement’ and delayed his portrait because of it.
Meanwhile, the Charles Dickens Museum’s curator Emily Smith said a portrait of ‘a moustachioed Dickens is hard to find’, saying he is ‘instantly recognisable’ with his signature beard.
She added: ‘Dickens’s early experiments with face furniture are far less well recorded and evidence is scarce.
‘Dickens was image-conscious, definitely a dandy; his public image was carefully crafted and presented and portrait sittings, though not always enjoyed, were not taken lightly.’
The portrait (pictured) has been donated to the Charles Dickens Museum in London, where it has been put on display for the first time and will be on show until March 31
By 1858, Dickens’ moustache had grown into the full beard (pictured) that he is well-recognised for today, with the author saying it ‘saved him the trouble of shaving’
Dickens is believed to have first experimented with a moustache in 1844 and told his friend, artist Daniel Maclise, that they were ‘charming’.
He said: ‘The moustaches are glorious, glorious. I have cut them shorter, and trimmed them a little at the ends to improve their shape.’
By 1858, the Victorian author’s moustache had grown into the full beard that he is well-recognised for today, with Dickens saying it ‘saved him the trouble of shaving’.
The rare daguerreotype portrait of the Great Expectations writer, which was the first commercially successful photographic process, was made by John Jabez Edwin Mayall.
Speaking of the portait, the Charles Dickens Museum said: ‘In the Mayall portrait, Dickens’s tousled hair, broad moustache and the individual lines around his eyes and mouth and on his forehead are vividly reproduced.’