August 1857-June 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 33


TC TO W. W. VERNON ; 22 April 1858; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18580422-TC-WWV-01; CL 33: 209-212


Chelsea, 22 April, 1858

Dear Sir,

I have now delivered the Picture into the light of day; and a very interesting Picture it is. First, however, let me say that there is intrinsically no harm done by the carriage; a small appendage of the Frame, the little crown-royal at the top (whh had been glued on, not nailed on, about 80 years ago, and but carelessly then) has disengaged itself in the shaking of the railway, and gone dancing a little over the canvas, injuring the varnish, varnish and nothing more, to a quite insignificant extent in one or two places: that is all; and already the touch of a wet finger has rendered it imperceptible. But indeed I think the Picture, before going home again, ought to be a little refreshed by new-varnishing etc:—and the label, whh is “Frederick 3d” (a common English and French error in those days) ought to be made “Fredc II,” and the Painter's name given.1

There is no doubt but this Picture is by Francke:2 I know two brothers of it in Berlin; one of them personally since about five years; the other by report of good witnesses who have examined it for me since I saw former. They are all three from Francke's hand,—quite uncertain which of them he did first; and indeed quite immaterial,—inasmuch as Fredc never “sat” to him, or to anybody, after his Accession (1740), tho' there are excellent deliberate Portraits of him before that event, that is, in his 28th year and earlier.

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Frederick II, King of Prussia by Heinrich Francke

Courtesy of the Athenaeum Club, London


This of Francke's I consider,—and better judges than I consider it,—the best likeness there is of the elderly Frederic (“in 1775,” he was 63): an obliging Berlin Artist (one Magnus,3 their chief Portrait-Painter at present), seeing me pretty desperate of finding any credible likeness of Fredc in Berlin (where the incredible are plentiful enough) mentioned at last that the Portrait whh of all others he, an unhistorical man and manpainter, liked best, was at a certain Banking House (Daun und Splittgerber's, whose grandfathers had been Fredc's Bankers);4 and leading me thither, I thereupon, with great satisfaction, and warmly assenting to Magnus,—found the brother of your Picture; whh was an important discovery to me at that time Autumn, (1853).5 Lord Ashburton, on my return home, was clear for having a copy of the Picture;6 and considerable correspondence ensued with that Magnus and others; in the course of which a second brother-Portrait in the Mason-Lodge at Berlin, of whh Fredc in his young time was nominal member)7 came to light, facsimile of the first, as the first is of yours; but, for some reason or other, no Copy cd ever be had. And now, happily, we are quite beyond the need of coveting any! That is the history of your Picture, so far as known to me; and that is the relation I am in to it. The Berlin people sent me a Photograph of their “Daun & Splittgerber” Painting;8 which might be a ditto of yours. Francke must have picked up his likeness, as others did, by watching Fredc,—or it is perhaps conceivable the King may have helped him a little (allowed him to stand nearer, at some parade or so) for the Masons' or Daun & S's sake, more likely the Masons9 if either;—but it is impossible to say which Picture was the first painted: and possibly enough Francke (not much of an Artist, tho' eminently successful this time) may have painted more than these 3 that we know of; and indeed may have been ready to supply any Tourist passing that way who liked to go to the expense.

The First Half of my poor Book on Fredc is coming out in a couple of months. If I can ever do the latter Half, I had decided long ago that this was to be a frontispiece to one of the volumes;—the Photograph to be engraved if we cd do no better. Of course your Picture will do much better than a Photograph: but it will not be needed for perhaps two years; or alas perhaps never at all, if matters go too hard with me!10

In these circumstances, I think I will ask you to let me keep the Picture for a few weeks, till I satiate myself with seeing it:11 once satiated, it will be safer that I return it to your own keeping till once the question of engraving rises,—a very glad question for me, but a fearful way off as yet!

If you chanced to be riding this way, I could with pleasure shew you the Berlin Photograph. How pleasantly obliged I am by your kindness in sending me the Picture. I will not trouble you further by saying; but for several reasons I ought to keep the fact well in remembrance.

Believe me Yours With many thanks & regards

T. Carlyle

Hon. — Warren Vernon
&c &c