A portrait of the “charismatic” young Charles Dickens has been unearthed in South Africa after 174 years.
The lost likeness was painted during the same period the author was working on A Christmas Carol, and was last seen in public when it went on display in 1844.
It shows the emerging novelist, aged 31, when he was beginning to make a name for himself and on the cusp of the broad fame that his Christmas fable would provide.
The portrait will finally be back on display, after it turned up in a box of trinkets in South Africa, in time for the 175th anniversary of A Christmas Carol’s publication.
It was painted by female artist Margaret Gillies, who tried to search for it during her lifetime. It has now been identified by art dealers Philip Mould And Company.
Mould said: “This portrait adds greatly to our perception of the charismatic young blade that Dickens was at the time and is so different to the avuncular, bearded man we know from photographs.
“Unlike other literary portraits of the period, that can be formulaic, the subject fixes you with an arresting gaze, boring into you with the same eyes that recorded a wealth of material about his life and times.”
The miniature portrait’s permanent home is intended to be the Charles Dickens Museum. Funding will need to be raised to secure the future of the likeness.