24 July 2014

The Real Face of William Pitt

In June 1865, Philip Henry, the 5th Lord Stanhope, wrote in his notes that the cast of Mr. Pitt's head after death was presented to him on behalf of the late Francis Turner, Esq. [1]
Turner had died the previous year, and his son wrote to Stanhope in 1865 requesting his acceptance of the death mask. Although Stanhope accepted the gift, it took two attempts to transport the fragile item to the Chevening Estate, near Sevenoaks in Kent. On the first occasion, Stanhope simply wasn't at home at the time, and the carrier was reluctant to leave it with anyone else. Fortunately, on the second try, the mask made its journey to the estate. It remains there to this day - nearly 150 years later. Recently, I commissioned more photography of Mr. Pitt's death mask. Several months ago, I was kindly granted permission from the Trustees of the Chevening Estate to reproduce a front view of Pitt's death mask, which can be seen here. I am pleased to publish these side profile images to be seen by a wide audience for the first time!

All images below remain the Property of the Trustees of the Chevening Estate:

As photography was not available in Pitt's lifetime, his death mask is the closest a modern viewer can ever get to seeing the 'real' face of this great man.


1. Philip Henry Stanhope's notes on Mr. Pitt's death mask. Pitt MSS, Kent History & Library Centre. U1590/S5/C60/2.


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