Portraits and Other Likenesses

Marlene OliveiraPublished on 12 July, 2022 · Last updated on 29 June, 2023
 Cover photo by Marlene Oliveira

Portraits and other likenesses of Anne Lister, family, and friends

In Anne Lister's time, photography was not yet available which meant that anyone who wanted or needed a picture done would need to find themselves an artist to paint them. Sometimes this went fairly well and the likeness was admirable and sometimes it produced funny results. 

Readers of Anne's journals are occasionally rewarded with mentions of portraits and other likenesses of Anne and her family, friends, and acquaintances. Some of these are accompanied by commentary regarding its quality, which could range from "beautifully done" to "vilely done". Sometimes, such as with a portrait of Mariana, the end result was so different from the subject that not even people who had known them for years could identify them.

"M-[Mariana] had given me her picture on Saturday night done the last time she was in London not at all like - shewed it to Charlotte Norcliffe and Isabella Norcliffe as the picture of Madame de Rosny, and they never dreampt that it was otherwise "

13 October 1828 - SH:7/ML/E/11/0081

In some cases, such as that of Anne's two watercolours from the early 1820s, we can trace their origins using her journals.

A watercolour sketch of Anne Lister, attributed to Mrs. Taylor of Horton Street, Halifax. Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale (SH:2/M/19/1/1).

A second watercolour sketch of Anne Lister, also attributed to Mrs. Taylor of Horton Street, Halifax. Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale (SH:2/M/19/1/59).

The two watercolours above were likely the ones created by Mrs. Alice Taylor of Horton Street, Halifax. When Anne was 7 years old, Mrs. Taylor (née Askwith) had been one of Anne's schoolmates at Mrs. Haigue's and Mrs. Chettle's school in Ripon.  However, when Anne decided to commission a portrait of herself, she didn't immediately recognize Mrs. Taylor as an old schoolmate. Regardless, after a short conversation, the two got reacquainted and Mrs. Taylor started to work on Anne's likeness.

"sat about 1 1/2 hour - tho' I believe the general time of sitting is an hour - saw her [s]ketch - it promises well so far - pointed out 2 or 3 little alterations particularly about the upper lip -"

19 November 1822 - SH:7/ML/E/6/0069

The day after sitting to get sketched by Mrs. Taylor, Anne returns to Horton Street to retrieve the likeness:

"at 12 40/60, took George in the gig and drove to Mrs. Taylor's - sat for my likeness perhaps 1 1/4 hour - very well satisfied with the sketch - there is something very characteristic in the figure - paid for it 2 guineas -"

20 November 1822 - SH:7/ML/E/6/0070

However, though Anne is seemingly well satisfied with her likeness, the opinions of her friends, family, and acquaintances differ. The Stansfeld Rawsons thought it was a "good likeness" but "found great fault with the mouth, and at 1st with almost every part of the whole thing" (SH:7/ML/E/6/0070 ).  Mr. Stansfeld Rawson points out that this is "a very strong but very unpleasing disagreeable likeness" (SH:7/ML/E/6/0070 ).  The Saltmarshes had an even stronger reaction:

"they did not like it at all - thought it very silly-looking - the mouth a little open was frightful - not at all like me - what was meant to be teeth seemed like the tongue hanging out -"

22 November 1822 - SH:7/ML/E/6/0070

Thus, Anne requested that Mrs. Taylor make some improvements. These included closing the mouth, among other changes, which Anne thought "made it an admirable likeness". Later, at Shibden Hall, Anne showed the portrait to her uncle and aunt. The portrait amuses the three Listers.

"the likeness struck me as so strong, I could not help laughing - my aunt came up, and laughed too, agreeing that the likeness was capital Ditto my uncle - we are all satisfied let others say what they may -"

21 November 1822 - SH:7/ML/E/6/0070

In 1823, Mrs. Taylor's likeness of Anne Lister receives another unfavourable review, this time from Miss Pickford.

"3/4 hour at dinner and upstairs getting M– [Mariana]’s I[sabella] N[orcliffe]’s and my own pictures which I shewed her – She thought M– [Mariana] (tho’ a vilely done sketch) very like a cousin of hers, Mrs. William Lumley – I[sabella] N[orcliffe]’s miniature by Millet beautifully done – Mrs. Taylor’s sketch of me, like a person afraid of speaking – Too foolish looking could not bear it – Not at all characteristic"

30 August 1823 - SH:7/ML/E/7/0061

In 1839, Anne decided to get her and Ann Walker's portraits created by Joshua Horner, who was the son of Ann Walker's drawing master. She mentions this idea and discusses it with John Horner, but there is no evidence that she sat to get her portrait done by the younger Horner. There is, however, a portrait of Anne Lister attributed to Joshua Horner. Per Calderdale Museums, it isn't known if Anne lived long enough to see this portrait finished. Visitors to Shibden Hall can currently see this painting on display in the housebody at Shibden Hall. No painting of Ann Walker has emerged thus far.

"I want A-[Ann] to have Horner’s son to take her picture in oils, and mine too, if he has talent enough to do us tolerably"

7 February 1839 - SH:7/ML/E/22/0120

"Till A-[Ann] came at 11 for me to speak to Mr. Horner - Told him to settle about his son’s coming to take A-’s[Ann's] likeness and mine - and begged Mr. H-[Horner] to get A-[Ann] as fast forward in colouring as he possibly could -"

14 March 1839 - SH:7/ML/E/22/0138

Anne Lister's portrait, attributed to Joshua Horner. Image courtesy of Calderdale Museums.

A record of the known likenesses

There is no list of the references to portraits and other likenesses mentioned in Anne's journals and papers over the years, therefore we've decided to compile these references here. This is a collaborative effort, allowing anyone doing research into Anne Lister or those in her orbit to assist in adding new entries to this list. This spreadsheet includes references in archival material (journals, letters, accounts, etc) and other known pictures of Lister and other notable figures mentioned in her journals.

Reference tracker: Portraits and Likenesses


This project is made possible through ongoing contributions from the following people:

How to contribute to this project

Tip: Don't worry about redundancy; enter any information you have and we'll reconcile duplicates later.

All information in this spreadsheet is in English, but please preserve the spellings from journals or other materials, as written by Anne Lister and others.

Anyone can help research and add additional information for each references in this spreadsheet.

If you want to help research information about these references, please follow the steps above and note you would like to contribute.