This drawing is taken from a series of 125 profile portraits by Count Alfred d’Orsay, made between about 1828 and 1850 and published by J. Mitchell of Bond Street. 61 similar drawings for the series and several engraved versions are now in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London. The sitters were all well-known artists, writers and socialites and this example shows archaeologist Edward Dodwell.
Edward Dodwell came from West Molesey in Surrey and was educated at Parson’s Green School in Somerset and Trinity College, Cambridge. He came from a wealthy family and felt no necessity to work. Dodwell travelled widely, visiting Greece three times with fellow archaeologist William Gell in 1801, 1805 and 1806. In 1805 he visited Athens with the intention of making drawings and notes on the Acropolis. To gain entry to the building, Dodwell was required to make a payment to the Turkish governor (or disdar). He paid only part of this fee and, as a result, was not granted permission to enter. Unperturbed, he found an alternative method of entry by bribing the men who guarded the Acropolis.
Dodwell spent his last years living between Naples and Rome. He died in Rome in 1832.
Alfred, Count d’Orsay, dandy and amateur artist, was born in Paris, the son of one of Napoleon’s generals. He met Lord and Lady Blessington in 1822 and was romantically interested in Lady Blessington. Perhaps to divert D’Orsay’s attention from his wife, Lord Blessington wrote a will leaving his Irish property to one of his daughters, should either marry Count D’Orsay. D’Orsay chose 15 year old Lady Harriet Anne Gardiner and the couple married in Naples in 1827. It was not a happy union. Following the death of Lord Blessington and the breakdown of the Count’s marriage, D’Orsay and Lady Blessington became a prominent couple in fashionable society. D’Orsay died in Paris in 1852, having fled there with Lady Blessington to escape his debts.
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