Collection online

oil painting

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Portrait of Sir Anthony Panizzi (1797-1879). H.L., seated, body turned half-r., eyes looking full.

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 19thC
  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 37.5 inches
    • Width: 29.5 inches
    • Height: 912 millimetres
    • Width: 716 millimetres
  • Curator's comments

    Antonio Panizzi (later Sir Anthony Panizzi) arrived in England as a refugee from Italy in 1823. Through talent and good connections he was appointed to the Museum in 1831, becoming Keeper of Printed Books in 1837 and Principal Librarian in 1856. An outstanding librarian, he immensely improved the Museum’s holdings and cataloguing methods and was the driving force behind the construction of the Round Reading Room which opened in 1857. (A plan of the room as used on invitations to the opening can be seen in the top right corner of the painting.) A forceful individual, he inspired both hatred and devotion. He did improve working conditions for the staff and the portrait was thus commissioned to mark his retirement in 1866 It was one of a number of portraits not transferred to the National Portrait Gallery in 1879 but, by agreement, retained by the British Museum because of its considerable historical importance for that institution.

    The Museum owns another portrait, by Spiridione Gambardella, presented by Edward Rushton. This is currently on loan to the British Library.

    Published in British Museum Quarterly News, June 1966, 'Panizzi and his Portraits' by J.R.F.T. pp. 7-9.


  • Location

    Not on display (Boardroom)

  • Exhibition history

    Old Board Room.
    New Wing Board Room (to 2003).
    Trustees strongroom (in storage)

  • Condition

    Exhibited at the R.A. 1868, No. 685. Etched by J. Outrim, 1872. Examined 2.iv.63. Cleaning and re-varnishing. For most recent condition report see Lynne Harrison, DCDS 2.8.05.

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    Trusstees Standing Committee Minutes, 14 Nov 1868 (c. 11,548) - Read a joint letter dated 12 Nov. from Mr Vaux, Mr Major and Dr Rieu, offering to the Trustees as a present, on behalf of the subscribers, the Portrait of Mr Panizzi painted in 1867 by Mr G F Watts R.A. Resolved that the portrait be accepted and placed with the portraits of the other Principal Librarians'. Original Papers, 12 Nov 1868 (f. 11,404)' ... On the occasion of Mr Panizzi's retiring from office in the year 1866, the assistants and former assistants of the British Museum felt desirous of giving a fit and lasting expression to their feelings of regard for him and especially to their gratitude for his warm and effective advocacy of their interests. The result was a subscription in which the officers and some of the attendants also joined, and the intended testimonial took the shape of a portrait painted in 1867 by Mr G F Watts. This portrait we the undersigned acting on behalf of the subscribers beg most respectfully to offer for your acceptance, with the request that you will be pleased to give it an appropriate place in the Museum. (signed) Vaux, Major, Rieu. Resolved that the portrait be accepted, and placed with the portraits of the other Principal Librarians.

  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number



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Object reference number: PIC134698

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