Fancy self-portrait1840

by Maurice Felton

Although Maurice Felton arrived in Sydney in 1839 as a ship’s surgeon, he soon became much better known as a talented portrait painter. His death in 1842 cut short a flourishing career. Felton’s flair was attractive to leading colonial families who valued his sophisticated technique, which seemed to encapsulate their sense of their own social prominence.

This small self-portrait was very different to his usual work. Known as a ‘fancy portrait’, where an artist imagines themselves in some recreated past, Felton has presented himself as 17th-century swashbuckler, in the manner of some of Peter Paul Reubens self-portraits. Felton’s daughter treasured this painting and left it to the state when she died in 1920.