Charles Dickens

Margaret Gillies painted a portrait of Charles Dickens in 1843, it was lost for 174 years and found in a tray of trinkets at an auction here in South Africa.


The painting was found in 2017 at a general sale in Pietermaritzburg. A man paid the equivalent for a cardboard tray containing a metal lobster, an old recorder, a brass plate and the small painting which was so covered with mould that the face could barely be made out.

He removed it from the frame, sold the frame and then went to throw the painting away but something caught his eye and he stopped to look a little closer. He noticed the face and stopped to investigate it.

“He was moments away from basically throwing away this fungus-covered picture and then he started looking at it and realised that the face was very compelling,”

He took to the internet to research the painting and realised it looked similar to Charles Dickens. That was when the man contacted Philip Mould & Company in London.

“I’ve spent a career specialising in British art and this ranks among the most exciting things we have ever discovered. It is the lost portrait.” – Philip Mould

When they got the painting, they were able to confirm that it was in fact, the original painting. It is said that a brother-in-law of Gillies’ adopted daughter was given the painting before moving to South Africa in the 1860s. It is an important piece according to Mould as it was painted during a time when Charles Dickens was having a tough time in his career.

The painting is currently on display at Mould’s gallery but is being transferred to the Charles Dickens museum once the six-figure amount, which is undisclosed at the moment, has been raised.

“The lost portrait of Charles Dickens (1812-70) was painted over the course of 6 or 7 sittings in late 1843, during the same weeks Dickens was writing A Christmas Carol.”

Sources: The Guardian / Philip Mould & Company
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About the Author

Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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