You must recollect however – that I know nothing of painting – & that I detest it – unless it reminds me of something I have seen or think it possible to see – for which I spit upon & abhor all the saints & subjects of one half the impostures I see in the churches & palaces…
A copy of a portrait of Byron by the fashionable Regency painter Thomas Phillips now hangs in the Hallway on the Piano Nobile of 13 Piccadilly Terrace.
Despite Byron’s opinion of a painting as “the most artificial & unnatural – & that by which the nonsense of mankind is the most imposed upon.” this particular painting entitled ‘Portrait of a Nobleman’ commissioned by Byron in 1813 as a gift for his ‘Dearest Augusta’ remains one of the most iconic images of the poet.
It was in the spirit of family unity that I also created a copy of the portrait of Byron’s ‘Amiable Mamma’ Catherine Gordon Byron that can be seen in Byron’s ancestral home of Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire.
In the hagiography that often passes for the writing of Byron’s life, Catherine Gordon Byron is somewhat of a Marmite figure for you either love her or you hate her!
My hatred of Marmite is equal to the fondness that I have for the story of Byron’s most ‘Amiable Mamma’ who was described by her only son as a “tender and peremptory parent who indulged me sometimes with holidays and now and then with a box on the ear.”
I was rather surprised to discover that not all of my fellow Byronians share my pleasure at the reunion of mother and son portraiture upon the walls of 13 Piccadilly Terrace; however, given that they share their final resting place side by side in the Byron ancestral vault in the Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene in Hucknall Nottingham, it made perfect sense to me that their likenesses hang side by side, albeit in a small world!
‘The Trouble of an Index’ Byron’s Letters and Journals Volume 12 Ed: Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1982)